Richard Causton is University Lecturer in Musical Composition. He studied at the University of York, the Royal College of Music and the Scuola Civica in Milan, where his teachers included Franco Donatoni.
He first came to prominence with the première by the London Sinfonietta of The Persistence of Memory (1995), whose delicate sound-world is coloured by the combined sonorities of a prepared piano, harp, vibraphone and a microtonally tuned set of bells that Causton built especially for the piece. In the wake of this came commissions from the Nash Ensemble (Notturno, Rituals of Hunting and Blooding) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Millennium Scenes). This latter work has an avowedly political dimension which is apparent not least in the music’s use of instruments commonly associated with street demonstrations, such as car horns and whistles. Reviewing this piece in The Guardian, Tim Ashley described Causton as “one of the finest of the new generation of British composers.”
A second orchestral piece, Between Two Waves of the Sea (commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2004) uses effects of spatialisation and distancing through the interplay of live with pre-recorded orchestral music which are often in unrelated tempi.
An on-going preoccupation with the work of the Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo led to the composition of La Terra Impareggiabile, a cycle comprising ten songs for baritone and piano, which became the central focus of Causton’s writing in the years 1996-2007. This work traces a poetic trajectory from birth to death lasting almost forty minutes and in various ways lends its material to some of Causton’s other pieces from the same period.
Causton returned to the combination of live with pre-recorded sound in his Chamber Symphony (2009, rev. 2010) for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. This work draws poetic inspiration from the work of William Blake, whose epicJerusalem, Emanation of the Giant Albion also provided the starting point for Causton’s most recent work Twenty-Seven Heavens (commissioned by the European Union Youth Orchestra as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad).
In addition to composition, Causton writes and lectures on Italian contemporary music and regularly broadcasts for Italian radio (RAI Radio 3).