James Clarke

James Clarke was born in London on the 15th October 1957. After studying at Southampton University and City University (London) he was awarded a Finnish Government Scholarship to study composition with Usko Meriläinen in Helsinki. In 1979 he co-founded the influential London-based new music group, Suoraan, but for much of his career his work has attracted most attention beyond the British Isles, including significant performances at the International Gaudeamus Music Week and the ISCM World Music Days. At the 1992 Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik he was awarded the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis for composition.

From 1994 to 1997 he was Composer-in-Residence at Queen's University, Belfast, where, as artistic director of the Sonorities Festival of new music, his programmes were notable for their advocacy of recent music from the rest of Europe. Clarke's own aesthetic is far closer to this music than to prevailing fashions in metropolitan English new music. He argues that ‘it is not the role of new art gently to massage the ears’ and his work is indeed often aurally abrasive, pushing instruments to timbral extremes. Dualities abound: ensembles split apart to form opposing factions; forms often divide, the second part sometimes – as in La violenza delle idee (1991) – a fractured attempt to recreate the first, sometimes – as in Independence (1988) – a distillation of the first. Early works evolve from silence by a process of accretion in which the music assembles its history before our ears; in Broken (1988) and subsequent works the fundamental metaphor is that of decomposition, the creative process leaving its trace on a body of possible material like acid biting into an etching plate.

from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Christopher Fox