John Alexander

for 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 and analysis.

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 2000.

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 is perfect."
- David Heyes, Recital Music

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