Seán Clancy on discovering Howard Skempton
The Irish composer Seán Clancy is undertaking to write about the pieces of music that have had a significant impact on him — and he’s publishing his thoughts in a fortnightly series on his website. In the latest instalment, he talks about discovering Howard Skempton’s work for orchestra, Lento.
Hearing Lento radically changed my conception of what contemporary music was. Heretofore, what I considered contemporary music to be was essentially a who’s who of European music (Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, Xenakis et al), with a few exceptions (notably Cage and Feldman). (My seventeen-year-old self was yet to discover any composers born after the 1950s!) However, here was a piece that was roughly ten years old at the time and was radically different to what I had previously known. It wasn’t dissonant, it wasn’t serial, it wasn’t disconnected; it was simply just beautiful. It opened a door of new music to me that up till this point had been closed and as my musical mind developed I began to realise that there was more to contemporary composition than the strand of European avant-gardism to which I had become accustomed.