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Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is an important figure in the history of experimental music, both in terms of his own diverse output as well as his co-founding of the hugely influential Scratch Orchestra with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton in 1969.

At times precisely notated, at others embracing indeterminacy, Parsons’ music avoids any easy categorisation yet always displays a great sensitivity for line and texture. His pieces move from an early interest in precise pitch relationships to an involvement (following the Scratch Orchestra) with spontaneity, performer-engagement and post-Cagean indeterminacy. Later pieces also draw on his long-standing relationship with the work of painters such as David Saunders and Jeffrey Steele, taking a highly systematic approach to the organisation of musical materials. Nevertheless, an engagement with both the precise organisation of pitch and rhythm and aspects of indeterminacy exists in much of his music throughout his career. In his own words:

"Recent compositions aim to find ways of arranging and distributing pitch material in which both systems and indeterminacy play a role in avoiding stereotyped patterns and contributing to the discovery of new expressive resources"

It is this kind of openness to experimentation—of embracing aspects of composition that seem superficially opposed—combined with an ear for clarity, as well as a sense of earnest dedication to finding new approaches to making music that have been, and continue to be, an inspiration to a whole generation of musicians.