Prof Philip Thomas
University of Huddersfield, UK
Philip Thomas (b.1972, North Devon) is a Reader in Music, having joined the University of Huddersfield in 2005. He specialises in performing and writing about new and experimental music, including both notated and improvised music. He places much emphasis on each concert being a unique event, designing imaginative programmes that provoke and suggest connections.
He is particularly drawn to the experimental music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff, and composers who broadly work within a post-Cageian aesthetic. In recent years he has been particularly associated with the music of Christian Wolff, performing and recording the solo piano music, and co-editing a book about his music. He has commissioned new works from a number of British composers whose ideas, language and aesthetic have been informed in some ways by the aforementioned American composers, such as Stephen Chase, Laurence Crane, Richard Emsley, Michael Finnissy, Christopher Fox, Bryn Harrison, John Lely, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, James Saunders, Howard Skempton and Markus Trunk. Solo recordings include releases on ‘another timbre’, ‘HatHut’, Bruce’s Fingers’, ‘Edition Wandelweiser’ and ‘sub rosa’, featuring music by Bryn Harrison, Michael Pisaro, Bryn Harrison, Christopher Fox, Laurence Crane, Richard Glover, Tim Parkinson, James Saunders and Christian Wolff.
In recent years Philip has pursued a passion for freely improvised music, after significant encounters with the music of AMM and Sheffield-based musicians Martin Archer, Mick Beck and John Jasnoch. He has worked with improvisers in a variety of contexts and recently devised a programme of composed music by musicians more normally known as improvisers as well as others who have been influenced by improvisation in some form. This led to a CD release, ‘Comprovisation’, which featured newly commissioned works by Mick Beck, Chris Burn and Simon H Fell.
Philip is a regular pianist with leading experimental music group Apartment House, with whom he has performed in festivals across the UK and Europe. In 2012 they were awarded the prestigous Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber Music and Song. "Their performances are always revelatory, and the concert of John Cage's music at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in September 2011 was an epiphany, confirming the status of Apartment House as one of the most innovative and exciting chamber ensembles in Europe."
He has also performed with Quatour Bozzini, Toronto-based ‘Continuum’, and in duos with Mark Knoop and Ian Pace (piano duet and two pianos) and James Saunders (electronics).
In 1998 Philip was awarded a PhD from Sheffield University in the performance practice of contemporary piano music. Between 2000 and 2005, he was Head of the Sheffield Music School whilst pursuing an active performing and teaching career. He was appointed Lecturer in Performance at the University of Huddersfield in 2005, Senior Lecturer in 2007, Reader in Music in 2011 and Professor in 2015.