Vale Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Prof. Jonathan Harvey, one of Britain’s greatest composers. His compositions, his books on the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen and In Quest of Spirit: Thoughts on Music, and teaching, over a career spanning five decades, have been an inspiration to generations of composers and music lovers. He had a close association with the University of Huddersfield over a number of years. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University and was featured composer-in-residence at the 2009 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival during which he also conducted a masterclass for postgraduate composers. CeReNeM’s ‘Jonathan Harvey Scholarship in Composition’ (2009-12) was held by Dr Einar Einarsson who recently graduated with a PhD, winning a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence. Prof. Michael Clarke was a close colleague and friend, who developed interactive aural analysis software (Sybil) to analyse Harvey’s seminal tape work from 1980, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco.

Taking its name from an engraving on the side of the largest bell in Winchester Cathedral, the tape piece (presented at HCMF 2009 as an audiovisual installation by Visual Kitchen) used spectral analysis and digital synthesis to create a haunting fusion of the bell’s sound and the voice of Harvey’s son, also a chorister. Interviewed on that occasion, Harvey said: ‘From these two very familiar and, for me, sacred and beloved sounds I made a fantasy, a poem, with the aid of computer manipulation. I see the bell and boy as connected by electronics. Two completely different things: the great dead black thing, the Mortuos, and the lovely little boy who’s very much alive – and now is a charming man – to take these very different entities and unite them through numbers in the computer. Integration of the opposites is very important, to show how, in some deep sense, everything is connected. And everything is fluid.’

Please see obituaries on the website of Faber Music and from The Guardian.

The video clip below contains an excerpt from an interview in which Harvey discusses his composition Speakings (2006-07):