B i o g r a p h y
My musical education began around the age of fourteen, studying piano and music theory to diploma level with Lina Collins of the Royal Academy of Music London and later with Frank Stafford for arranging and orchestration.
In 1973/4 I studied electronic music and composition at the Royal College of Music in London with Tristram Cary and Lawrence Casserley where I became very much involved in the electronic treatment of the human voice and of percussion. My interest in percussion led me at this time to extensive research into Eastern musics - including Balinese and Javanese gamelan, Indian classical music, Japanese traditional music gagaku etc. as well as modern Western ideas in percussion, e.g. Messiaen, Cage Steve Reich, Stockhausen etc. During this time I also made detailed studies of the music of Messiaen and Stockhausen in the form of special projects.
From then I became increasingly involved in percussion as a performer and have developed an extensive background, having played and worked within jazz, classical (Western orchestral), rock and contemporary music.I worked regularly over a period of 8 years as a member of an 'improvisation' trio with two close musical friends where as a group we achieved a high level of intuitive playing. We rehearsed many aspects of structured and unstructured improvisations, from the text pieces of Stockhausen and pieces written by ourselves to free improvisations.In late 1975 I met Trevor Taylor a fellow percussionist who shared the same musical interests as myself. We formed a percussion ensemble of 6 players with the view of performing works in the UK. written for Les Percussions de Strasboug, as well as little known percussion music by Cage, Haubenstuck-Ramati, Benguerel, Hashagen, Takemitsu etc.Later, Trevor and I decided to re-structure our approach and perform as a duo. This enabled both of us to explore musical ideas and works that previously were not possible, and as a result a strong musical and spiritual rapport seemed to evolve in our work. A short tour in 1977 took in St Andrews and Edinburgh festivals. This project also explored and made use of electronic modulation of percussion as well as alpha wave and G.S.R modulation (Galvanic Skin Resistance).Trevor and I continued working for a while including projects with the London Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and with composer Barry Anderson (Mask).
In 1978/9 I toured the West Indies and Mexico working on a cruise ship with a cabaret showband. My interest in contemporary jazz led to work with Graham Collier and Geoff Warren whose quartet toured the UK., Hungary and former Yugoslavia as well as broadcasting and recording several Jazz radio programmes for the BBC.
After attaining an LRAM. in percussion and timpani I became interested in specialist teaching on a part time basis giving many lecture-recitals in all aspects of percussion both occidental and oriental including a recital/demonstration with Evelyn Glennie at the Redbridge Music School where I was appointed head of percussion, ethnic and contemporary music in 1985. I was involved in preparing students for both GCSE and A level music exams for both Edexel and OCR examining boards and also responsible for the peripatetic percussion team and all percussion teaching within the schools. My work at Redbridge involved World Music (including Gamelan workshops), preparation and production of Tutor books, ICT in music (including the recording of pupil GCSE and A level work for exam submission) and the presentation of recitals in the borough’s schools. I also taught for the Inner London Education Authority at Holland Park School and Newington Green School.
In 1986 I was appointed percussion examiner for the Guildhall School of Music London and later Principal Percussion Examiner and generalist examiner for Trinity Guildhall (now Trinity College London) where, from 2007 I have contributed to and compiled several past percussion and drum kit syllabuses presenting many seminars around the UK and the Far East. I was able to engage the services of drummers such as Dave Weckl, Mark Schulman, Peter Erskine, Ralph Salmins, Paul Clavis and more, all of whom contributed to the original syllabus. My examining work for Trinity College London has taken me to many overseas centres including Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Middle East, South Africa, Thailand and Singapore.
Working at the Nordorff Robbins Music Therapy Centre and holding workshops for students and staff was also a very rewarding part of my job.
I have continued to work in all areas of percussion performing in many theatre productions and concerts with such names as Simon Callow, Kate O Mara, Don Maclean, etc. and the Scarborough Spa Orchestra who featured on BBC TV and Radio.
In 1994 I took part in the western world premiere of Moscow Cheryomushki a musical by Shostakovitch at the Lyric Theatre London.
My work extended into music technology, running a computer based recording studio producing music for film, TV. and video of which one of our pieces was broadcast throughout the UK. by Independent Television News for their coverage of the 'Gulf War" in 1990.
Ollie Blanchflower, Geoff Warren, Malcolm Ball, Ed Speight
Evelyn Glennie, Malcolm Ball
The Scarborough Spa Orchestra
Together with the late Yvonne Forbes I have published 'Percussive Perspectives' a book containing original graded compositions for snare drum, timpani and tuned percussion some of which were used nationally as part of the Guildhall School of Music percussion syllabus.
Works include many short 'library music' pieces, O-taiko-Do a piece embracing many eastern styles including Japanese drumming, TerRor Nova for African & Sth American percussion, samplers and keyboards, ‘Close your eyes and see...' for orchestra, (FMR records) written for youth orchestras and commemorates 50 years of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.
My piece Star Song for choir and small ensemble was performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a Christmas Celebrity Concert in 1995. In 1994 I wrote incidental music for the Bronte play 'Wuthering Heights' and the same year together with Andrew Parmley wrote original music for 'The Fair Maid of the West' a play with music performed at Lullington Castle, Kent, UK.
As well as writing and arranging, I continue to be very active as a freelance musician in many different areas of creative music making, including concert and theatre work. My provincial theatre work has expanded to the role of musical director for such shows as Crazy for You, Sweet Charity, Good News, Hello Dolly, Me and My Girl, The Slipper and the Rose, Promises Promises, The Music Man, Brundibar (Hans Krasa), Kinneret (Opera for All Productions), Mack & Mabel, West Side Story, Carousel, Guys and Dolls and various compilation concerts.
I was a former member of the Klezmer Swingers a group who trace the roots of traditional Jewish music through to jazz, and regularly appeared at the South Bank Centre, 100 Club and Ronnie Scotts Club in London.
I wrote regularly for the contemporary music magazine AVANT where passed articles and reviews have been on Harry Partch, Steve Reich, Early electronic Instruments, Pierre Boulez, Newband and Karlheinz Stockhausen whom I interviewed at his home in December 1997.
I am also included in Francois Baschet’s book Les Sculptures Sonores, an historical account of the Baschet Brother’s sound sculptures, as one of only two British percussionists who have used them.
I am webmaster for The Olivier Messiaen website, the only dedicated web site to the 20th century French composer.
It was my interest in the music of Messiaen that resulted in me studying and performing on the Ondes Martenot.
Playing the Crystal Baschet sound sculpture invented by
François and Bernard Baschet.