Born in 1949, a graduate in social anthropology at Cambridge, co-founder of the politically and musically radical group Henry Cow in 1968, Tim Hodgkinson has followed a restless and critical creative path. To composition he brings a long and unique experience in musical improvisation and ethnomusicology. Whilst his scores do not incorporate improvisation as such, he has found a way of writing that draws not only on models of instability and timbre transformation, but also a sense of resistance against the hardening of technical and stylistic habits. In resonance with the dialogues between Francis Bacon and David Sylvester, he feels that composition is, above all, an artistic practice, a searching, cutting away, sculpting process of ongoing work, dealing and re-dealing with impulsion and doubt, vertigo, dirt, error and nerve. In 1995 he presented his 50 minute long ‘expressionist’ work Stop Mortal at the QEH, inspired by the work of Tadeusz Kantor, with Nicholas Hodges, Dagmar Krause, Zoe Martlew and Charles Mutter. Following this, his composing underwent a marked change from a combinatorial and procedural emphasis to an acoustic and phenomenological one. This change catalysed the liberation-from-the-inside of a long experience in sound work which until then had been a hidden dimension in his scores. He started to collaborate with the Romanian composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Anna-Maria Avram and with the Hyperion Ensemble, founded by Dumitrescu.
In the same period he made a series of study trips to Siberia which brought him into close and ongoing contact with musicians and ritual specialists from non-western cultures. This, as he wrote in New Notes magazine, ‘re-focussed my approach to sound and my efforts to ground music in being.’ He has recently published an article on Tuvan musical and sculptural aesthetics in Cambridge Anthropology Journal. His compositions have been interpreted in such international festivals as: Craiova and Ploiesti Festivals (Romania), Guarda Festival (Portugal), Cantiere Internazionale d¹Arte di Montepulciano (Italy), Konfrontationen Festival (Austria), Nordlyd Festival (Norway), Musique Action (France) and the European Symposium of Experimental Music at Barcelona.
He has published articles on improvised music, musique concrète, the ethnomusicology of shamanism, and on the aesthetic problems arising from the impact of new technology on contemporary music making – in Contemporary Music Review, Musicworks, The Wire, etc. He has given lectures and workshops at Cagliari and Lyon Conservatoires, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and at art schools in several European countries. Tim Hodgkinson is currently completing ‘Amhas/Nirriti’ for ensemble and tape, a commission for this November’s Spectrum XXI festival in Paris.