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Wood, James (Peter)


(b Barton-on-Sea, 27 May 1953). English composer, choral conductor and percussionist. He studied composition with Boulanger in Paris before becoming organ scholar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. The New London Chamber Choir was founded by him in 1981 to perform medieval and Renaissance music alongside contemporary repertory. He was professor of percussion at the Darmstadt summer courses between 1982 and 1994, becoming increasingly involved in building percussion instruments, and established the London Centre for Microtonal Music, and its associated ensemble, Critical Band, in 1991. His awards number the Gemini Fellowship (1993), the Arts Foundation Fellowship for electro-acoustic composition (1994–6) and the Holst Foundation Award (1995).

Wood's major compositions reflect diverse interests. His song cycles for soprano and percussion are among several works stemming from oriental ideas, while Phaedrus, for voice and ensemble, belongs to a group of works inspired by ancient Greek subjects. In addition he has explored African traditions, and all his output has been influenced by rituals and ceremonies of various kinds. In the later 1980s, Wood moved away from a predominantly vocal output for two of his most ambitious scores: Stoicheia, for large percussion ensemble and electronics, and Oreion, for full orchestra. His preoccupation with microtonality has led to two further works for small orchestra: Two Men Meet, Each Presuming the Other to be from a Distant Planet, in which the percussion soloist mainly plays the microxyl, an especially constructed microtonal xylophone, and The Parliament of Angels.


WORKS

instrumental


Orch: Oreion (of Mountains…), 1988–9

Large ens: Venancio Mbande Talking with Trees, quarter-tone mar, 15 insts, 1993–4; Two Men Meet, Each Presuming the Other to be from a Distant Planet, perc, 24 insts, 1995; The Parliament of Angels, 18 insts, 1995

Perc: Rogosanti, 1986; Stoicheia, 15 perc, 4 kbds, elecs, 1987–8; Village Burial with Fire, 4 perc, 1989; Spirit Festival with Lamentations, quarter-tone mar, 4 perc, 1992; Elange N'Kake Singing to his Craft, perc + v, 1993

Chbr: Str Qt, 1984; Barong, 2 pf, 2 perc, 1985; Marsyapollonomachia, ob, perc, 1987; Cart-Wheels, b, cl, perc, 1993

Solo inst: Children at a Funeral, prep pf, 1996

vocal


With inst ens: Missa: in memoriam Lili Boulanger, S, double chorus, 4 tpt, 4 trbn, org, 1975–6; 2 Motets to Verses from the Prophet Isaiah, S, fl, ob, va, hp, 1981; Phaedrus (Plato [ancient Gk. text]), Bar, chorus, perc, wind ens, perc ens, 1985–6; Phainomena, 3 S, 3 Mez, 3 A, 3 T, 3 Bar, 3 B, 17 insts, tape, 1991–2

Unacc.: Drama (Aristophanes [ancient Gk. text]), 2 Ct, T, 2 Bar, B, 1983; Incantamenta (incantations), 24vv, 1991

With perc: Choroi jai Thaliai (revels and dances [ancient Gk. text]), S, perc, tape, 1982; Ho shang Yao (Songs by the River) (from Shijing [ancient Chin. text]), S, perc, 1983; T'ien chung Yao (Songs from the Fields) (from Shijing [ancient Chin. text]), S, cimb, 2 perc, 1985

With el-ac: Usas (Dawn) (Rig Veda [Sanskrit text]), S, Mez, T, B, tape, live elecs, 1986; Séance, S, midi, vib, perc, chorus, 1996

WRITINGS


‘Microtonality: Aesthetics and Practicality’, MT, cxxvii (1986), 328–30

‘A New System for Quarter-Tone Percussion’, Percussive Notes, xxv/3 (1987), 61–5


BIBLIOGRAPHY


D. Wright: ‘Double Début: James Wood and Rupert Bawden: New Works’, The Listener cxxii, 36–7

J. Warnaby: ‘James Wood's Stoicheia and Oreion’, Tempo, no.172 (1990), 20–25

JOHN WARNABY


Wood [Wodde, Wodds, Woods], John


(fl ? 1560s). English composer. There has been some confusion over his identity. Due to the absence of forenames from ascriptions in some sources of his music he has sometimes been identified with Michael Woods, who flourished from about 1568 to 1573 and was organist and later a vicar-choral at Chichester Cathedral. However, there is no evidence that Michael Woods composed music. A more likely identification is based on the ascription ‘Mr John Wood, Bachelor of Music’, in the earliest and most prolific source of his music copied about 1575. However, there seems to be no record of the award of the BMus in the 16th century to anyone of this name; nor has any relevant document, such as a will, been found. The name John Wood had been thought to refer to the Master of the Children at Christ Church, Canterbury in about 1530. However, re-examination of the relevant document at Canterbury has revealed that the name of the Master of the Children about this time was Thomas Wood, and that the forename John was a misreading.

Nine Latin sacred pieces for three, four and five voices by John Wood survive. (The anthem O Lord, the world’s saviour sometimes attributed to Wood is by William Mundy.) Wood’s choice of texts suggests parallels with the Latin output of composers such as William Mundy, Christopher Tye and Robert Whyte from the 1560s or slightly later. This concurs with the earliest known appearance of Wood’s music from about 1575. With the exception of Igitur O Jesu, the texts of all Wood’s extant settings come from an adaptation of Psalm lxvii (Vulgate numbering) published in 1546. It is possible that Wood’s settings from this psalm began their existence as a single long piece from which extracts were transcribed into different sources.


WORKS

sacred vocal


Edition: J. Wood: die sämtliche lateinische Kirchenkompositionen, ed. J. Blezzard, CW, cxxxv (1996)

Ecclesia tua, 5vv; Effunde queso, 4vv; Esto pater, 3vv; Exurge Domine, 3vv; Igitur O Jesu, 3vv; In domo tua, 5vv; O gloriosissime, 5vv; Perfice illud, 3vv; Verbi tui, 3vv

BIBLIOGRAPHY


W.D. Peckham: ‘The Vicars Choral of Chichester Cathedral’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, lxxviii (1937), 126–59

W.D. Peckham, ed.: The Acts of the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Chichester, 1545–1642 (Lewes, 1960)

T. Dart: ‘Music and Musicians at Chichester Cathedral, 1545–’, ML, xlii (1961), 221–6

R. Bowers: Choral Establishments within the English Church: their Constitution and Development 1340–1500 ( diss., U. of East Anglia, 1975)

H. Benham: Latin Church Music in England, c.1460–1575 (London, 1977)

JUDITH BLEZZARD




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