A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Roger Smalley

I met with Roger Smalley in Glebe, Sydney, 7 April, 2010. I interviewed him partly for his recollections as a participant at the WCSS and partly to find out more about his performance there in 1965. As a member of the Composers’ Ensemble he performed in one of the last concerts on the 1965 programme, which was a substantially different to the other concerts. It consisted of Cage, Feldman, Cardew, Messiaen, Stockhausen and one of Smalley’s compositions, Two Poems of D. H. Lawrence.

Keen to understand more of the setting for his musical tastes, I asked him about his studies with Fricker:

(LS100093, 3’28”)

We talked about who was there, and Smalley raised Holloway, with whom I am speaking soon:

(LS100093, 11’54”)
He moved swiftly to Birtwistle:

(LS100093, 12’07”)
Like so many with whom I have spoken, it’s the memorability of Tragoedia that’s worthy of comment.

Looking through the programme of concerts, we arrived at Monday, 17 August 1964:

(LS100093, 17’14”)

I asked Smalley about the pianist Margaret Kitchin:

(LS100093, 19’12”)
Her concert featured Wood, Birtwislte, Gilbert, Goehr and Tippett. By this time Smalley knew Wood’s music:

(LS100093, 22’35”)
And Gilbert from Morley College:

(LS100093, 23’14”)

Smalley didn’t recall the Melos Ensemble’s concert that followed Davies’s organ recital. Nevertheless, I have included his comments since they help to establish the extent of memories of these events. It is interesting that the repertoire of one of the concerts immediately suggested Leonard Stein as the pianist:

(LS100093, 23’53”)

Smalley was slightly less tentative about his memory of the following night’s concert of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time:

(LS100093, 25’50”)

I asked Smalley about Dartington:

(LS100093, 27’23”)
Smalley briefly described David Bedford’s music at the time:

(LS100093, 30’45”)
He is succinct about Lutyens and Dartington:

(LS100093, 31’29”)

Finally we reached ‘Opera Today’, which has been remembered by many with whom I have spoken:

(LS100093, 33’34”)
It’s noteworthy how close Smalley’s recollection of ‘steps to get across stage’ echoes Northcott, but the two versions are opposite, with Northcott claiming the comment for Tippet and Smalley for Davies.

He didn’t attend the McGaw piano recital:

(LS100093, 38’25”)
Nor did he attend Pruslin’s lecture, at least not all of it:

(LS100093, 39’12”)

Smalley then makes some general comments about the programme:

(LS100093, 42’41”)

Smalley remembered Pierrot Lunaire only slightly:

(LS100093, 48’42”)
though he did remember Davies talking about the piece:

(LS100093, 47’14”)

He knew Goehr’s Three Piano Pieces, but couldn’t recall Stein’s performance:

(LS100093, 48’24”)

We came to Eisler’s Fourteen Ways of Describing Rain:

(LS100093, 49’49”)

I asked Smalley about Tristram Fry, who played in the concert on 19 August 1965:

(LS100093, 50’15”)
The two often played together:

(LS100093, 52’14”)

I have been uncertain about which of Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke Smalley performed. I asked him about this, along with what he remembered from his concert:

(LS100093, 53’59”)

He connects the participants’ concert to Dartington:

(LS100093, 56’10”)

I asked Smalley whether any improvisation took place:

(LS100094, 0’56”)
Smalley continued, mentioning his Five Piano Pieces and the Two Poems of D. H. Lawrence:

(LS100094, 2’05”)
Returning to improvisation, I asked him about improvisation more generally:

(LS100094, 3’07”)
Lumsdaine’s music came up in connection with improvisation:

(LS100094, 3’07”)
I’m interested in the idea of pieces that might be ‘difficult to perform badly’. I have written about Flights, Kangaroo Hunt, Kelly Ground and improvisation here.
Smalley continues, talking about Cardew. (The article to which he refers is by Ed Venn (‘Cornelius Cardew’s ‘Autumn ’60 For Orchestra’’, Tempo 60/238, 2006)):

(LS100094, 3’07”)

In my interview with Gilbert, the first seminar on ‘rhythm’ had been an important topic. I asked Smalley about this seminar, and although he couldn’t remember the discussion, the topic was familiar:

(LS100094, 16’49”)

What of Michael Tippett?

(LS100094, 20’32”)

Did it feel like there was ‘movement’ of young people at the time towards new music?

(LS100094, 27’28”)

Smalley on Pulses:

(LS100094, 29’13”)

Permission, as always, was sought for my use of the audio from our discussion:

(LS100094, 39’01”)

Finally, his comment on the blog:

(LS100094, 42’58”)

Filed under: Commentary from Interviews, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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