Seeking Substance over Style – Jonathan Cole

Jonathan Cole

My profile of Jonathan Cole is in this month’s INTO:

As recently as 2005, Jonathan Cole was in a position any young composer would envy. His pieces were  regularly performed by leading groups like the London Sinfonietta and Asko Ensemble, he had a major commission from George Benjamin and the London Symphony Orchestra (Penumbra, 2003) under his belt, and he had just taken up a teaching position at the Royal College of Music. His future as one of the leading lights of the British new musical establishment looked secure.

But in truth, Cole was uneasy. He was finding composition an increasingly difficult task.

Cole’s recent story – from rising star of the mainstream to committed avant-gardist – is one of the most intriguing in recent British composition. Continue reading the article by clicking here and flicking through to page 22.

You can also hear some of Cole’s recent music – the ‘wordless opera’ buburbabbar za and the quite wonderful Ash Relics – via his newly-revamped website.


10 thoughts on “Seeking Substance over Style – Jonathan Cole

  1. Unfortunately I can’t read your interview, I gave up trying to find it in the ridiculous unusable flash app that they insist on using for “INTO” – and the usual marginally more accessible PDF version doesn’t seem to be on their server 😦

    Anyway, I was going to say: a very minor piece of trivia that you might be interested to know – I was at school Christ’s Hospital with “Jono” Cole many moons ago. I hope he won’t mind me saying that he was a few years ahead of me, and that he was quite a prodigy at the time, particularly on the organ. I’m glad that he put his considerable musical talents into composition!

    Tim can you email me a readable copy of the interview please?

  2. Hi Tim,

    This issue of INTO seems to have been particularly plagued with gremlins – the whole SandM website was down over the weekend just as the new issue was announced, and I’ve had one other people mention broken links as well. All rather frustrating. One hopes that the move to a webzine-style format as announced in this issue (the last to be produced this way) will improve matters.

    I have a pdf of the article, which I will email you. It’s an uncorrected proof but it’s essentially the same as the published version except for a few cosmetic details.

    If anyone else would like a copy of this, please get in touch via comments or email.

  3. Thanks for the PDF, it was very interesting (more than can be said for the average issue of INTO)

    I wonder about this “no presentation” idea though. Given the lack of reference points in the music, perhaps it actually has to rely on presentational associations – “oh, it’s a Sumerian title! it makes more sense now”, etc. Perhaps the most non-presentational music is in Bach – complete mastery of an established (more or less) grammar and the opening up of new possibilities from there. Do you need a strong referential anchor to become truly independent of “presentation”? How can the listener “meaningfully explore the work’s expressive possibilities” in such an alien environment, except to take the perspective a total innocent, to be consciously and conscientiously naïve? or is that, in fact, the point?

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