violin and piano
duration: 14 minutes
pinions is in one movement consisting
of nine interlocking sections of mostly differing tempi, character and
mood (A, B, A1, C, D, A2, E, F, A3), each like a cogwheel or spindle varying
in size and transiently engaging with another through a series of eight
gear changes. The overall duration is just under 15 minutes.
John Alexander was born on 12 October
1942 in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, and showed early musical promise
by the age of seven, but this was soon sidelined in the interest of football.
He left school at 15 without any qualifications and obtained an apprenticeship
in carpentry at Lancing Railway Carriage Works. By the age of 20, he obtained
his first job in an architect's office as a junior. At about the same
time, football gave up on him; so John returned to music and began to
study piano and, shortly after, to compose, very much the late, or more
correctly, delayed, starter. He also discovered around this time a fascination
for art, literature, dance, architecture and sculpture and these topics,
along with mathematics, have continued to have a bearing on his compositional
work. Most of his working life has been spent as a draughtsman in a variety
of architectural practices – including self-employment – earning
a living to support a family of three children.
For the last eight years (after a severe recession in the building industry)
John has been working in a local comprehensive school teaching composition
to GCSE and A-level students. He also works 3 hours a week in a local
primary school teaching music to 5–8 year olds including encouraging
them to compose.
John studied composition part-time for three and a half years during the
1970s with Edmund Rubbra at the Guildhall School of Music in London and
later, entered the University of Sussex as a mature, unqualified student
where he was awarded a BA(Hons) degree in music and an MA in composition
In 1980, whilst still studying at university, his piece fusion
(ww, pno, perc, voices), was among seven selected from 129 entries for
performance at the Concordia Composers’ Forum in Liverpool. In 1992,
his vernal equinox (mixed wind ensemble), was selected from
competition for performance at the annual BASBWE Congress in Warwick.
And his trombone trio, moving parts, was commissioned for
and performed in several towns in Germany as part of their national brass
competitions during 1994. In August 1999, John was awarded first prize
by the British and International Bass Forum for abalone,
"an inspired and virtuosic work for unaccompanied double bass"
(BIBF Jury). Following a 'call for pieces' from the British ensemble Camarada,
John Alexander's pencils for cor anglais and viola was selected
for and performed in a series of concerts in Oxford and London during
In recent years he has received important commissions from Wells Cathedral
School, Trinity College (Junior Dept.), Adur Festival and BIBF. Some of
his music has been performed throughout Europe, Scandinavia, America,
Japan and Australia. His works for double bass are published by Recital
Music. John was featured composer at the 7th BIBF International Double
Bass Workshop in April 2001. During the last five years, John Alexander
has worked with Michael Finnissy, organising composition workshops for
four local secondary schools/colleges for students across the social spectrum,
leading to an annual concert performance of their pieces.
"I am shamed to say that I didn't know John Alexander's music before
seeing one of his works at the 1st BIBF International Composition Contest
in 1999. It is always a pleasant surprise to find a very talented composer
who has, for unknown reasons, not yet been 'discovered', but certainly
should be. I have played abalone at concerts in Europe and America and
gave the world premiere as part of Bass-Fest '99. The response has never
been less than positive, enthusiastic and encouraging."
- Corrado Canonici (international double bass virtuoso)
"John Alexander writes in a fluent, independent and strongly personal
style with an intense desire to create music which communicates to both
performer and audience. He has a rare eye for detail and structure, each
piece beautifully crafted and reworked until every nuance and inflection
- David Heyes, Recital Music
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