Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons (born 1938) has been active as a composer, performer, writer, and teacher since the 1960s. His early compositions were influenced by Schoenberg, Webern and the European avant-garde, but during the 1960s he became more involved with indeterminacy and experimental music. In 1969, he was co-founder with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton of the Scratch Orchestra, a large collective group of musicians, artists, and improvisers dedicated to subverting and redefining attitudes to musical performance. While teaching in art schools in the 1970s he was associated with the Systems group of visual artists and wrote participatory pieces for untrained performers and environmental works, such as Echo Piece (performed on a frozen lake in Finland in 1976). In 1996-97, he was composer-in-residence at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. Previously a classical scholar, he has also written a number of settings of early Greek lyrics, inspired by and dedicated to the Finnish vocal ensemble Fiori, with whom he works regularly. Recent works include versions of choral odes from Sophocles’ Antigone, Three Sappho Lyrics, settings of Alkman and Ibycus, Paraphrase for orchestra (Basel Sinfonietta commission, 2011), Nevrazumitelny (2013) for the Vocal Constructivists, and Concertante, for Tania Chen (Spitalfields Festival commission, 2014), and Saitenspiel (BBC SSO commission, 2020), which premiered at Tectonics 2021.

The Vocal Constructivists virtually celebrated Michael Parson’s birthday.