Biographical Bits:   

Born: Dover. Family rat-poor, father invalid.

At age nine lived in Sheffield (when it still was Sheffield: smoke, steel & trams) and, from ten to seventeen, in politer Maidstone. Pleasurable (formative) memories include making found-sound tape montages with my father via the sound-on-sound button of a Grundig TK25. Collided with music around ten or eleven (Bach, Mozart, folk-fiddle, skiffle) and started composing. Learned to race small sailing dinghies and occasionally won things (otherwise notably non-sporty). Unimpressed by Maidstone Grammar School’s attempts (such as they were) at education, left to study music at Colchester. Played violin, viola, piano, flute and voice; composed a lot. Regarded instruments simply as ways to access the music, not particularly as ends in their own right  –  not an ideal position from which to achieve virtuosity.

Towards end of college, wrote for increasingly complex setups (for instance, a piece for two chamber orchestras, four tape recorders and specially built LF sine generators constructed by conscripted students at Essex University; the music need not detain us but the ambition was notable). Became slightly paranoid over continental avant garde tradition, then not well-known in England (“they’ve been doing this for twenty years over there! How do I know how far they've got?”) Through Eric Crozier met Tristram Cary (of VCS3 fame), who kindly helped make a piece in his Fressingfield studio and put me in touch with the Institute of Sonology at Utrecht, where I subsequently studied. At Utrecht met Phillipa Cullen (the dancer and theremin exponent) and through her Stockhausen, with whom she was at the time connected. Went to a number of rehearsals and meetings in Cologne, culminating in turning down the possibility of being S's assistant (decided that if I was going to be anything I was going to be me, not “that bloke who used work for...”, of which by then there were several). This was just before “Inori”.

Came home from Utrecht thinking 1). that was wonderful, no more paranoia! and 2). just caught it in time   –   because it’s over, isn’t it? That trajectory’s finished, and England’s only just catching on to it. Applied for a University post perfectly tailored to this experience, but interview panel was a semicircle of fifteen people not up to speed on subject and fixated instead on my (bad) school reports. Good Lord, I thought, I’ve been hanging out with the grownups and now I’m supposed to discuss school reports? Welcome home.

Could see what moves were required for a “career” as a composer and found them unattractive. Temporarily out of sympathy with formal musical worlds, concentrated on free improvisation and live electronics. Took up electric guitar, precisely because I couldn't play it and therefore knew no clichés   -   which helped my viola-playing no end (this approach later found favour with the Punks). Amongst other things, formed a sort of “chamber rock” improvising band, Ghost of a Flea, and then a drums and electric viola+guitar duo Sharp Holes in Dark Places [cf Cummings] which collaborated on some interesting performance-art work.

Joined IOU shortly after its formation. They were making a sort of toytown music using scales and keys, wholly acoustic, which was very refreshing after the previous few years. Spent a long time exploring this territory; after a while, the game became to see how complex something could be made without disturbing its apparently simple surface. Ivor Cutler approved and co-dedicated a book to us and Robert Wyatt. Other projects during this time included various BBC & Ch4 work and a couple of satisfying films with Joanna Woodward (the animator not the film-star). Also started "Irregulus", an occasional group with floating personnel, intended for whatever projects took my fancy and which didn't fit into IOU.

IOU had a useful international fan-base and was satisfying to work in for about twenty years, but towards the milennium the all-pervasive rot of the ’90s Age of Management made things creatively impossible. It’s no good some manager saying “we intend to be the leading this-kind-of company”; you either do amazing work and become “the leading” by default, or you don’t. You can’t “intend” to, it’s like “intending” to have an idea of genius. So I left.

The management infestation being still in full swing across the arts, I decided I no longer wished to function as an excuse for overpaid arts managers to jet around to conferences and be important. Arranging for funding by a more honest means, I settled down to write, only interrupted by several major wars.

Converted a small church in Lincolnshire, in the village of Toft-next-Newton. This adjoins the village of Newton-by-Toft; locked in a wholly self-referential relativistic system, the two have been going “After you!” “No, after you!” for over a thousand years. I find this absurdly pleasing. Co-designed / built the mildly unusual Hex House next to my studio.

My son Oliver is currently to be found in Bristol doing interesting things with computers at the Watershed. My nephew Juri is building himself a musical reputation in Canada. I’m sailing boats again after forty years (in 2013 I took a twenty-footer around roughly a quarter of the UK, mostly single-handed. I’ll try a full circumnav at some point).

In many ways, I feel as if I've only just got going, only just acquired enough of the basics to do what I want. There won't be enough time to fit everything in. I'll be wanting a word with that Intelligent Designer at the other end.

But of course, no-one gets asked in advance whether they want to be a beta-tester for this utterly, utterly, utterly peculiar place....


"I didn't ask to be born, you know."
"Just so, just so." sang the Carrion Crow.
"Like Job didn't ask to be covered in boils.
Now batten your hatch or I'll shuffle your coils."

•••••  Lou Glandfield