(b Belfast, 26 Dec 1964). Northern Ireland composer. He studied at the University of Ulster (BMus 1986), where his composition tutor was David Morris; he received the university's first DPhil in composition in 1990. A series of awards, commissions and recordings rapidly established his reputation in both the UK and Europe. He is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.
An early interest in 12-note writing, reflected in Prime (1987), quickly gave way to freer methods of pitch organization. Wilson's music employs diatonic and symmetrical scales (including the octatonic), although a strong sense of tonal centricity is not generally present. Material is often derived from an opening motif, somewhat in the manner of Schoenbergian ‘developing variation’, while formal structures tend to be multi-sectional with clear contrasts of texture and timbre. Repetition of single durations and larger figures is common, as in the opening movement of The Capsizing Man and other stories (1994), which repeats its first idea with almost minimal insistence. Especially characteristic is the use of well-wrought modally inflected melodic lines moving in simple rhythms over slow-moving chords, echoing Messiaen.
Wilson's music often carries an air of poignant melancholy, while his Christian faith, together with an interest in the visual arts and the early history of Ireland, has been reflected in the work of the 1990s. Rich Harbour (1994–5) takes its title from Klee, but is a meditation on death and the afterlife, inspired by a cemetery in County Fermanagh. The Seven Last Words is the second of a series of three piano trios which form, together with three string quartets, the core output of the early–mid-1990s. In these works a detailed variety of bowing and fingering techniques is employed to distort the sound subtly.
Orch: Running, Thinking, Finding, 1989; Rise, 1993; Rich Harbour, conc., org, orch, 1994–5; In camera, 1996; Between the Moon and the Deep Blue Sea, 1997; Shining Forth, vc, chbr orch, 1998; Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue, 1998, sax, orch; Limena, pf, str, 1998
Vocal: from earth by clear shining (F. Pessoa), S, ob + eng hn, pf, perc, va, db, 1990; a shaking and a planting, SSA, SATB, 2 tpt, hn, 2 trbn, org, 1993; Hungry Ghosts (B. Okri), T, pf, 1995
Chbr and large ens: … and flowers fall …, cl, bn, hn, pf, vn, va, vc, 1990; Drive, s sax, pf, 1992; … so softly, a sax, 2 t sax, bar sax, 1992; Timelessly this, cl, vn, vc, pf, 1992; Winter's Edge, str qt no.1, 1992; Mais quand elle sourit …, pf trio no.1, 1993; The Capsizing Man and other stories, str qt no.2, 1994; I sleep at waking, a sax, 1995; The Harlequin's Carnival, vc, 1995; The Seven Last Words, pf trio no.2, 1995; Six Days at Jericho, vc, pf, 1995; Catalan Tales, pf trio no.3, 1996; from the Book of Longing, vn, pf, 1996; towards the Far Country, str qt no.3, 1996; Leaves and Navels, fl, gui, va, vc, 1996–7; Phosphorus, vn, vc, pf, 1997
Kbd: Prime, 2 pf, 1987; BIG, pf, 1991; In manus tuas (into your hands) …, org, 1991; For Eileen, After Rain, pf, 1995; A Haunted Heart, pf, 1996; Les degrés chromatiques, pf, 1998
El-ac: Bane, vn, digital delay, 1989; The Machine's Dream (ballet), tape, 1993
Principal publishers: Universal, Camden Music, Contemporary Music Centre (Dublin)
(b Detroit, 9 March 1934; d Mount Holly, NJ, 21 Jan 1984). American popular singer. He showed promise as a boxer but chose a singing career, joining the Dominoes vocal group (1951) and later acting as their lead singer (1954–7). His first solo success was the dynamic Reet Petite (The Finest Girl you ever Want to Meet), co-written by Berry Gordy, and Wilson developed a spectacular stage show in which his histrionics frequently brought audiences to a frenzy. His career was cut short in 1975 when he collapsed on stage with a heart attack and went into a coma from which he never fully recovered.
A spectacular singer with a wide vocal range that included a powerful falsetto, Wilson brought the intensity of gospel music to an eclectic collection of recorded material including popular standards (Danny Boy), adaptations of classical works (Night, from Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, and Alone at Last, from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, both 1960), blues (Doggin Around, 1960) and rock songs (I’ll be satisfied, 1959) as well as soul material such as Lonely Teardrops (1959) and the million-selling Higher and Higher (1967). He recorded with Count Basie and his orchestra (1968), and Van Morrison composed the tribute Jackie Wilson Said (1972). In 1986 Reet Petite became a posthumous hit for Wilson when it was re-issued in the UK.
(b London, 27 Sept 1922). Irish composer of English birth. Following wartime service in the Royal Navy, he studied composition, the piano and the harpsichord at Trinity College of Music, London. He moved to Ireland in 1948, settling in Dublin. In the early 1950s he travelled extensively in southern Europe, an experience which greatly influenced his later compositions. He was professor of composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music from 1969–80, and served as consulting director for the Irish Performing Right Society and the Irish Music Rights Organization. He was also a founding director of the Dublin Festival of 20th-Century Music, director of the Ennis/IMRO Composition Summer School, and active in the Music Association of Ireland and the Association of Irish Composers. He was elected to membership in Aosdána, Ireland's state-sponsored academy of creative artists, in 1982.
Wilson’s style cannot be ascribed to any particular school of composition. Central to his compositional approach is a desire to match his music as closely as possible to the individual characteristics of his performers and their instruments. Early works show a preoccupation with rhythmic development deriving from flamenco and Balkan music. Works from the 1960s and 70s are more concerned with serial techniques. In the 1980s and 90s his style became more relaxed, projecting an eclectic range of influences. At the core of his extensive instrumental and vocal output are his six operas, all of which incorporate a strong element of fantasy. Twelfth Night (1969), based on Shakespeare’s play, employs polytonality, while Grinning at the Devil (1986), on the life of Karen Blixen, is constructed around a number of tightly controlled melodic and harmonic motifs. A Passionate Man (1995), which takes Jonathan Swift as its subject, presents a synthesis of compositional techniques from earlier dramatic works.
Ops: The Hunting of the Snark, op.8 (children’s op, 1, after L. Carroll), 1963, Dublin, 1965; Twelfth Night, op.30 (3, H. Moulton, after W. Shakespeare), 1969, Wexford Festival, 1969; Letters to Theo, op.92 (1, Wilson, after V. van Gogh), 1982, Dublin, 1984; Grinning at the Devil (Aria to Ariel), op.101 (2, E. Grass), 1986, Copenhagen, 1989; The King of the Golden River, op.111 (2, Wilson, after J. Ruskin), 1987–92; A Passionate Man, op.139, 1995, Dublin, 1995
Other dramatic and incid music: The Pied Piper of Hamelin (R. Browning), op.25 (radio), 1967; The Táin, op.48 (monodrama, 1, Wilson), 1v, perc, pf, 1971; Fand, op.62 (monodrama), 1974; Ditto Daughter, op.66, 1976; The Revenge of Truth, op.91, 1982; The Little Mermaid, op.107, 1985; The Temptations of St Anthony, 1985
Orch: Sym. no.1, op.4, 1960, rev. 1967; Anna Liffey, op.11, pf, orch, 1965; Hn Conc., op.23, 1967; Double Conc., op.34, 2 accdn, orch, 1969; Dances for a Festival, op.57, 1973; Sym. no.2 (incl. text from Shakespeare: Sonnet LV), op.64, Mez, orch, 1975; Conc., op. 76, hpd, chbr orch, 1979; Sym. Variations, op.81, pf, orch, 1980; Vc Conc., op.102, 1984; Angel Two, op.95, 1988; Pearl and Unicorn, op.120, vn, orch, 1989; Menorah, op.123, va, orch, 1989; Concertino, op.137, 1993; Conc. ‘For Sarajevo’, vn, va, vc, orch, 1996, rev. 1998; Cl Conc.,1999