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Philip Thomas (b.1972, North Devon) is Professor in Performance, having joined the University of Huddersfield in 2005. He specialises in performing and writing about new and experimental music, including both notated and improvised music. He places much emphasis on each concert being a unique event, designing imaginative programmes that provoke and suggest connections.
He is particularly drawn to the experimental music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff, and composers who broadly work within a post-Cageian aesthetic. In recent years he has been particularly associated with the music of Christian Wolff, performing and recording the solo piano music, and co-editing a book about his music. He has commissioned new works from a number of British composers whose ideas, language and aesthetic have been informed in some ways by the aforementioned American composers, such as Stephen Chase, Laurence Crane, Richard Emsley, Michael Finnissy, Christopher Fox, Bryn Harrison, John Lely, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, James Saunders, Howard Skempton and Markus Trunk. Additionally, Philip’s work has focussed upon a number of Canadian composers, including Martin Arnold, Cassandra Miller and Linda Smith, and he has been associated with a number of composers from the Wandelweiser collective, most notably Jürg Frey. Solo recordings include releases on ‘another timbre’, ‘HatHut’, ‘Huddersfield Contemporary Records’, ‘Bruce’s Fingers’, ‘Edition Wandelweiser’ and ‘sub rosa’, featuring music by Laurence Crane, Michael Finnissy, Christopher Fox, Jürg Frey, Richard Glover, Bryn Harrison, Tim Parkinson, Michael Pisaro, James Saunders and Christian Wolff.
Alongside the music cited above, Philip pursues a passion for freely improvised music, after significant encounters with the music of AMM and Sheffield-based musicians Martin Archer, Mick Beck and John Jasnoch. He has worked with improvisers in a variety of contexts and recently devised a programme of composed music by musicians more normally known as improvisers as well as others who have been influenced by improvisation in some form. This led to a CD release, ‘Comprovisation’, which featured newly commissioned works by Mick Beck, Chris Burn and Simon H Fell.
Philip is a regular pianist with leading experimental music group Apartment House, with whom he has performed in festivals across the UK and Europe. In 2012 they were awarded the prestigous Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber Music and Song. "Their performances are always revelatory, and the concert of John Cage's music at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in September 2011 was an epiphany, confirming the status of Apartment House as one of the most innovative and exciting chamber ensembles in Europe."
He has also performed with Quatour Bozzini, Toronto-based ‘Continuum’, and in duos with Mark Knoop and Ian Pace (piano duet and two pianos) and James Saunders (electronics).
Philip is currently working on a major 3-year AHRC-funded project, ‘John Cage and the Concert for Piano and Orchestra’. This will lead to a major book publication, conference, recordings and interactive website. He has written about performance issues and about the music of John Cage, Laurence Crane, Christopher Fox, Jürg Frey and Christian Wolff.
In 1998 Philip was awarded a PhD from Sheffield University in the performance practice of contemporary piano music. Between 2000 and 2005, he was Head of the Sheffield Music School whilst pursuing an active performing and teaching career. He was appointed Lecturer in Performance at the University of Huddersfield in 2005, Senior Lecturer in 2007, Reader in Music in 2011 and Professor of Performance in 2015.
You can find out more about Philip’s work and forthcoming events at www.philip-thomas.co.uk
Current research interests as both performer and writer include:
the music associated with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company
recent Canadian experimental music
music by British composers, including Laurence Crane, Michael Finnissy, Christopher Fox, Bryn Harrison, Michael Parsons, James Saunders
the music of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman
recent experimental music from the USA and UK
music associated with the ‘Wandelweiser’ collective
Thomas, P (2016) ‘Fingers, Fragility and Freedom Christian Wolffs Pianist: Pieces’ Divergence Press , 5. ISSN 20523467
Thomas, P (2016) ‘Introduction to Issue #5’ Divergence Press , 5. ISSN 20523467
Thomas, P (2016) ‘Abstruse Bagatelles: Music for solo piano by Christopher Fox’. In: Perspectives on the Music of Christopher Fox: Straight lines in broken times. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp. 128-148. ISBN 9781472428240
Thomas, P (2016) Michael Finnissy - Beat Generation Ballads [Audio]
Thomas, P (2016) ‘The Music of Laurence Crane and a Post-Experimental Performance Practice’ Tempo , 70 (275), pp. 5-21. ISSN 0040-2982
Thomas, P (2015) Jürg Frey - Circles and Landscapes [Audio]
Thomas, P (2015) Grizzana [Audio]
Thomas, P (2014) Wolff at 80 and Finnissy's Beats [Performance] In: Wolff at 80 and Finnissy's Beats, 22nd November 2014, St.Paul's Hall, Huddersfield
Thomas, P (2014) Morton Feldman - Two Pianos and other pieces 1953-1969 [Audio]
Thomas, P (2014) Christopher Fox - Works for piano [Audio]
Thomas, P (2014) Christian Wolff - Pianist: Pieces [Audio]
Thomas, P (2014) Piano Piece No.23 - Ethiopian Distance Runners [Audio]
Thomas, P (2013) Overcoming form: reflections on immersive listening: CD and book launch concert [Performance] In: Bryn Harrison & Richard Glover CD and book launch concert, Tuesday 3rd December, St Paul's Hall, University of Huddersfield
Thomas, P. and Harrison, B. (2013) Bryn Harrison - Vessels [Audio]
Thomas, P (2013) Christian Wolff portrait concert, Angelica festival, Bologna, Italy [Performance] In: Apartment House + Christian Wolff, 25th May 2013, Santuario del Corpus Domini di Santa Caterina, Bologna, Italy
Thomas, P (2013) Canada Connections [Performance] In: Canada Connections, April 2013, Canadian tour
Thomas, P (2013) ‘Understanding indeterminate music through performance: Cages Solo for piano’ Twentieth Century Music , 10 (1), pp. 91-113. ISSN 1478-5722
Thomas, P (2012) Wandelweiser und so weiter [Audio]
Thomas, P (2011) Merce Cunningham Dance Company - 'Antic Meet' with John Cage 'Concert for piano and orchestra' [Performance] In: Merce Cunningham Dance Company Legacy Tour, 5th october, 2011, Barbican, London
Thomas, P (2011) John Cage night ('Every Day Is A Good Day', Hayward Touring Exhibition) [Performance] In: UNSPECIFIED,
Thomas, P (2011) IGNM Basel - 'Comprovisation' [Performance] In: Comprovisation, 23 January 2011, Gare du Nord, Basel, Switzerland
Thomas, P (2010) Fields Have Ears [Audio]
Thomas, P (2010) 'Every Day Is A Good Day' - musical events to accompany the Hayward Touring Exhibition of John Cage's visual art. Huddersfield 2010 [Performance] In: UNSPECIFIED,
Thomas, P (2010) Toy Pianos, Piano Toy [Performance] In: five40five 2010, 22nd September 2010, Sheffield
Chase, S. and Thomas, P. (2010) Changing the System: The Music of Christian Wolff . Farnham: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754666806
Thomas, P (2010) PART OF IT MAY ALSO BE PART OF SOMETHING ELSE [Performance] In: Sol LeWitt: Artists Books, 8th - 29th May 2010, Site Gallery, Sheffield
Thomas, P (2010) Performances to accompany 'Sol LeWitt: Artist's Books' exhibition, Site Gallery, Sheffield [Performance] In: Sol LeWitt: Artist's Books, 8-29 May, 2010, Site Gallery, Sheffield
Thomas, P (2010) ‘Ostrava New Music Days 2009 Report’. In: Ostrava Days Report. Ostrava, Czech Republic: Ostrava Center for New Music. .
Thomas, P (2010) Tim Parkinson 'piano piece piano piece' [Audio]
Thomas, P (2009) Small Preludes, aytoods and other new music from America [Performance] In: Small Preludes, aytoods and other new music from America, 24/11/2009, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Thomas, P (2009) Michael Pisaro's 'pi (1-2954)' [Performance] In: Michael Pisaro 'pi (1-2954)', 23-27 November 2009, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Thomas, P (2009) ‘A Prescription for Action’. In: The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music. Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 77-98. ISBN 978-0-7546-6282-2
Thomas, P (2009) ‘Abstruse Indeterminacy: Christian Wolffs For Pianist as extreme performance practice’. In: Sixth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900, 2-5 July 2009, Keele University
Thomas, P (2009) Something New, Something Old, Something Else (2) [Performance] In: five40five series, 6 May and 15 July 2009, Sheffield City Hall
Thomas, P (2009) ‘Playing the Game? Approaches to Performing the Piano Music of Christian Wolff' lecture-recital’. In: Getty Research Institute: 'Works in Progress' series, Getty Research Institute Lecture Hall, The Getty Center, Los Angeles, 14 April 2009
Thomas, P., Burn, C. and Fell, S. (2009) The middle distance [Audio]
Thomas, P (2008) Concert: Reclaimed [Audio]
Thomas, P (2008) For Pianist: the piano music of Christian Wolff [Performance] In: For Pianist: the piano music of Christian Wolff, 24-26 January 2008, Persistence Works, Sheffield
Thomas, P (2007) Long Piano(Peace March 11) [Performance] In: Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, 16-25 November 2007, Huddersfield
Thomas, P (2007) ‘Berio's Sequenza IV: Approaches to performance and interpretation’ Contemporary Music Review , 26 (2), pp. 189-205. ISSN 0749-4467
Thomas, P (2007) ‘Determining the indeterminate’ Contemporary Music Review , 26 (2), pp. 129-140. ISSN 0749-4467
Thomas, P (2007) Comprovisation [Audio]
Thomas, P (2005) Comprovisation [Performance] In: Comprovisation, 9-10 December 2005, Persistence Works, Sheffield
Clarke, E., Cook, N., Harrison, B. and Thomas, P. (2005) ‘Interpretation and performance in Bryn Harrisons être-temps’ Musicae Scientiae: the journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music , 9 (1), pp. 31-74. ISSN 1029-8649
Thomas, P (2003) Something New, Something Old, Something Else [Performance] In: Something new something old something else, 20034, Firth Hall, Sheffield
Thomas, P (2002) The Art of Touch the piano music of Morton Feldman [Performance] In: The Art of Touch the piano music of Morton Feldman, 25-27 October 2002, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield (Submitted)
2012 Apartment House recipients of the Royal Philharmonic Society Chamber Music and Song Prize
Regular performances solo, and with Apartment House and other musicians, in London (SouthBank, Wigmore Hall, King’s Place and elsewhere), Europe and North America.
Regular broadcasts of performances, including interviews, on BBC Radio 3 ‘Hear and Now’, as soloist and member of Apartment House
Acted as external examiner for PhDs at the Royal College of Music (2), Royal Academy of Music, University of Surrey, City University, Brunel University (2). Acted as external examiner for MA programmes at University of Newcastle, University of Southampton and University of Sheffield. Acted as external examiner for undergraduate provision at University of Southampton, MMU Cheshire and London School of Theology (Music and worship programmes).
Grants: John Cage Collection grant (2016); AHRC grant (£500,000) for ‘John Cage and the Concert for Piano and Orchestra’ (2015); Library Scholarship, Getty Institute, Los Angeles and invited to give public lecture-recital as part of the Getty’s ‘Work-in-progress’ series
Regular recipient of grants for performances (2001-2015), including from Arts Council England, Canada Council for the Arts, The Hinrichsen Foundation, The Holst Foundation, The RVW Trust, Britten-Pears Foundation
Have regularly contributed to research fora at Universities including University of Edinburgh, University of Keele, Birmingham Conservatoire, Royal Northern College of Music.
Panel member for British Composer Awards
I am keen to see research being developed in two areas which feel increasingly of significance: 1. performance practices of twentieth century music, and 2. experimental music studies. Performance practice and related studies is a burgeoning field but little is written about these in relation to twentieth century music. I am keen to work with PhD students in any field that relates to performance, and in relation to any instrument. My particular interests, however, are:
Students may wish to combine studies in these or other areas with actual performance and can choose to do so by negotiating a performance/thesis option that is tailored to the student’s particular area of study.
Additionally, I am happy to supervise students wishing to undertake a musicology-based PhD programme in many areas of twentieth and twenty-first century music. My particular interests are:
Students currently studying for a PhD with me include:
Recently graduated PhD students have included:
Admissions Tutor (All undergraduate courses, Music and Music Technology)
Directorate (Performance), Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM)
Philip teaches primarily on performance modules and the module ‘Experimental Music’, for second and third year undergraduates.
Philip directs the edges ensemble, an innovative, experimental ensemble which meets weekly. The edges ensemble gives performances each year at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and has also recently given concerts in Sheffield (Site Gallery, Bloc Space) and London (as part of the London Contemporary Music Festival and the ‘Music We’d Like To Hear’ series). The edges ensemble is open to anyone on any course, playing any instrument or sound-producing activity.