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Peter Dickinson (born November 15, 1934) is an English composer, musicologist, and pianist. He was born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, and studied organ at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he was a student of Philip Radcliffe. In 1958 he became a student at the Juilliard School in New York City, and studied with Bernard Wagenaar, and encountered the works of experimental composers such as Cowell, Cage, and Edgard Varèse. Returning to England in 1962, he established courses in improvisation and experimental music at the College of St. Mark and St. John, Chelsea. After a lectureship at Birmingham (1966-1970), he became the first professor of music at Keele University in 1974, where he created an important center for the study of American music. He served as chair of music at Goldsmiths College, University of London from 1991 to 1997, and in 1996 became a Fellow and head of music at the Institute of United States Studies in London.

His musical compositions include experimental and aleatoric elements, and are compared to works by Stravinsky, Ives and Satie. His frequent performances of works by Ives with his sister, mezzo-soprano Meriel Dickinson reflect his affinity for that composer, and he has also accompanied several acclaimed instrumentalists, such as violinist Ralph Holmes and oboist Sarah Francis, in addition to his several international lecture-recital tours.

As a prolific writer, he has often shown his varied interests in American music. He wrote a series of articles on improvisation in 1964, and more recently has discussed postmodernism, coining the term ‘style modulation’ to describe the weaving together of serious and popular or past and present music. The term can be applied to his own music, which adds a mix of ragtime, jazz, serial music, and even electronic playback to more traditional types of instrumental musical forms.

Musical compositions

Vocal music

  • Stage works
  • The Judas Tree (music theatre, T. Blackburn), actors, 2 T, chorus, brass, perc, str, 1965
  • Choral works
  • Jesus Christ is Risen Today, SATB, 1955
  • Mag and Nunc, unison chorus, org, 1963
  • 2 Motets (Blackburn): John, Mark, ATB, 1963, rev. SATB, 1990
  • Christmas is Coming, SATB, 1964
  • 4 Poems (G. Manly Hopkins), Bar soloists, chorus, org, 1964
  • Mass, SATB, 1965; When I was a Sailor, chorus, 2 insts, perc, 1965
  • For the Nativity, SATB, 1966; Martin of Tours (Blackburn), T, Bar, chorus 2vv, chbr org, pf duet, 1966
  • 3 Complaints, unison chorus, insts, perc, 1966
  • The Dry Heart (A. Porter), SATB, 1967
  • Communion Service, 2 pt chorus, org, 1968
  • Outcry (W. Blake, J. Clare, T. Hardy), A, SATB, orch, 1968
  • Late Afternoon in November (Dickinson), 16 solo vv, 1975
  • A Mass of the Apocalypse, SATB, spkr, perc, pf, 1984
  • Tiananmen 1989, double SATB, tubular bells, 1990
  • Solo vocal
  • 4 Songs( W.H. Auden), S, pf, 1956;
  • A Dylan Thomas Cycle, Bar, pf, 1959;
  • Let the Florid Music, T, pf, 1960;
  • 3 Comic Songs (Auden), T, pf, 1960, rev. 1972;
  • An e.e. cummings cycle, Mez, pf, 1965;
  • Elegy, Ct, vc, hpd, 1966;
  • A Red, Red Rose, Mez, pf, 1967 [from Songs in Blue];
  • 4 Poems (A. Porter), Ct, hpd, 1967; Extravaganzas (G. Corso), Mez, pf, 1970;
  • So We’ll go no more A-Roving, Mez, pf, 1971 [from Songs in Blue];
  • Winter Afternoons (E. Dickinson), 6 solo vv, db, 1971;
  • Surrealist Landscape (Lord Berners), Ct/Mez, pf, tape;
  • Lust (St Augustine, Dickinson), 6 solo vv, 1974;
  • A Memory of David Munrow, 2 Ct, 2 rec, va da gamba, hpd, 1977;
  • Schubert in Blue (W. Shakespeare), Mez, pf, 1977 [after F. Schubert; from Songs in Blue];
  • Songs in Blue, med v, pf, 1977;
  • Reminiscences, Mez, sax, pf, 1978;
  • The Unicorns (J. Heath-Stubbs), S, brass band, 1982;
  • Stevie’s Tunes (S. Smith), Mez, pf, 1984;
  • Larkin’s Jazz, spkr/Bar, fl + a fl, cl + b cl + E cl, s sax, tpt, vc, pf, perc, 1989;
  • Summoned by Mother (J. Betjeman), Mez, hp, 1991

Instrumental works

  • Orchestral works
  • Monologue, str, 1959;
  • 5 Diversions, 1969;
  • Transformations, 1970;
  • Conc., str, perc, elec org, 1971;
  • Org Conc., 1971;
  • A Birthday Surprise, 1979;
  • Pf Conc., 1984;
  • The Unicorns, brass band, 1984 [arr. of vocal work];
  • Vn Conc., 1986;
  • Jigsaws, chbr orch, 1988;
  • Merseyside Echoes, 1988
  • Chbr and solo inst
  • Fantasy, cl, pf, 1956; Threnody, vc, pf, 1956;
  • Str Qt no.1, 1958;
  • Air, fl, 1959;
  • Fantasia, vn, 1959;
  • 3 Juilliard Dances, fl, cl, bn, tpt, trbn, perc, pf, vc, 1959;
  • Sonata, vn, pf, 1961;
  • Baroque Trio, fl, ob, hpd, 1962;
  • 4 Duos, fl/ob, vc, 1962;
  • Music for Ob and Chbr Org, 1962;
  • Sonatina, bn, 1966;
  • Fanfares and Elegies, 3 tpt, 3 trbn, org, 1967;
  • Metamorphosis, fl, 1971;
  • Translations, rec, b viol, hpd, 1971;
  • Rec Music, rec, tape, 1973;
  • Str Qt no.2, with tape/pf, 1975;
  • Solo, baryton, tape/b viol/baryton, 1976;
  • Aria, ob, cl, bn, hn, 1977;
  • Lullaby, ob/cl, pf, 1982;
  • American Trio (Hymns, Rags and Blues), vn, cl, pf, 1985;
  • London Rags, 2 tpt, hn, trbn, tuba, 1986;
  • Auden Studies, ob, pf, 1988;
  • Cellars Clough Duo, 2 gui, 1988;
  • 5 Explorations, gui, 1989;
  • Suffolk Variations, gui, 1992;
  • Swansongs, vc, pf, 1993
  • Keyboard
  • Vitalitas Variations, pf, 1957, orchd for ballet, 1959;
  • Paraphrase 1, org, 1967;
  • Paraphrase 2, pf, 1967;
  • Satie Transformations, pf, 1970;
  • Suite for the Centenary of Lord Berners, clvd, 1972;
  • Conc. Rag, pf, 1973, rev. 1984;
  • Pf Blues, 1973;
  • Quartet Rag, pf, 1975;
  • Blue Rose, pf, 1979;
  • Hymn-Tune Rag, pf, 1985;
  • Wild Rose Rag, pf, 1985;
  • Blue Rose Variations, org, 1985;
  • Patriotic Rag, pf, 1986;
  • Sonatas for Pf, pf, tape, 1987
  • Principal publisher: Novello

Writings

  • ‘Charles Ives 1874–1954’, MT, cv (1964), 347–9
  • ‘Improvisation’, MT, cv (1964), 294–5, 377–8, 538–9, 612–13, 688–9, 766–7
  • ‘John Cage’, Music and Musicians, xiv/3 (1965–6), 32–4, 54 only, 56 only
  • ‘Erik Satie (1866–1925)’, MR, xxviii (1967), 139–46
  • ‘A New Perspective for Ives’, MT, cxv (1974), 836–8
  • ed.: American Music: Keele 1975
  • ed.: Twenty British Composers (London, 1975) [incl. ‘Transformations of Erik Satie’, p.47]
  • ‘A Note on Some Recent Works’, MT, cxviii (1977), 559 only [on Dickinson’s works]
  • ‘Recent Research on American Musical Traditions’, IMSCR XII: Berkeley 1977, 353–82
  • ‘The Achievement of Ragtime: an Introductory Study with some Implications for British Research in Popular Music’, PRMA, cv (1978–9), 63–76
  • ‘Lord Berners, 1883–1950’, MT, cxxiv (1983), 669–72
  • ‘William Schumann: an American Symphonist at 75’, MT, cxxvi (1985), 457–8
  • ‘Stein, Satie, Cummings, Thomson, Berners, Cage: Toward a Context for the Music of Virgil Thomson’, MQ, lxxii (1986), 394–409
  • ‘Directors of a Decade’, MT, cxxviii (1987), 15–17
  • The Music of Lennox Berkeley (London, 1988)
  • ‘The American Concerto’, A Companion to the Concerto, ed. R. Layton (New York, 1989), 305–25
  • ‘Style-Modulation: an Approach to Stylistic Pluralism’, MT, cxxx (1989), 208–11
  • ‘Virgil Thomson (1896–1989)’, MT, cxxxi (1990), 31 only
  • ‘Nationalism is Not Enough: a Composer's Perspective’, Music and Nationalism in 20th-Century Great Britain and Finland, ed. T. Mäkelä (Hamburg, 1997), 27–34
  • Marigold: the Music of Billy Mayerl (Oxford, 1999)

References

  • Cole, Hugo and Malcolm Miller. "Dickinson, Peter", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 6 April 2008), grovemusic.com (subscription access).
  • Peter Dickinson's Webpage
  • Slonimsky, Peter (1997), "Dickinson, Peter", in Kuhn, Laura, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians, New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 317, ISBN 0-02-871271-4  .
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