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Brian Ferneyhough 1

Brian Ferneyhough
Brian John Peter Ferneyhough (pronounced /ˈfɜrnihoʊ/,[1] [2] born 16 January 1943 in Coventry) is an English
composer of contemporary classical music. His complex, multi-layered music is distinctive and his output spans
many genres of contemporary music, from chamber works to orchestral pieces.

He received formal musical training at the Birmingham School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music from
1966–67 where his teachers included Lennox Berkeley, a respected teacher though a conservative figure who
preferred the works of French impressionism to the internationalist avant garde.[3] Ferneyhough was awarded the
Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1968 and moved to mainland Europe to study with Ton de Leeuw in Amsterdam, and
later with Klaus Huber in Basel. Between 1973 and 1986 he taught composition at the Staatliche Musikhochschule in
Freiburg, Germany.
His profile rose in the middle of the 1970s, as the Royan Festival of 1974 saw the premiere of Cassandra's Dream
Song, the first of several pieces for solo flute, as well as Missa Brevis, written for 12 singers. In 1975, performances
of his opera Transit and Time and Motion Study III were given; the former piece being awarded a Koussevitzky
prize, the latter performed at the prestigious Donaueschingen festival. In many of these events he was twinned with
fellow British composer, Michael Finnissy, whom he became friends with during his student days.[4] In 1984 he was
given the title Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.[5]
Between 1987 and 1999 he was Professor of Music at the University of California at San Diego. As of 1999, he is
William H. Bonsall Professor in Music at Stanford University. For the 2007–08 academic year, he was appointed
Visiting Professor at the Harvard University Department of Music. Between 1978 and 1994 Ferneyhough was a
composition lecturer at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse and, since 1990, has directed an annual mastercourse at the
Fondation Royaumont in France.
In 2007, Ferneyhough received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for lifetime achievement.
Coincidentally, he was born on the same day as another prominent English composer, Gavin Bryars.

Ferneyhough's initial forays into composition were met with little sympathy in England. His submission of
Coloratura to the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) in 1966 was returned, with a suggestion that the
oboe part should be scored for clarinet. However, whilst Ferneyhough did find it hard, one source of support came
from Hans Swarsenski who saw the same thing happen to Cornelius Cardew; Cardew enjoyed a prestigious
continental reputation, but a poor one in his homeland. Swarsenski said of Ferneyhough: 'I've taken on an English
composer who is I think is enormously talented. If this doesn't work, this is the last time'. Ferneyhough continued to
struggle, but the aforementioned Royan festival marked a breakthrough for Ferneyhough's career.[6]
From here, Ferneyhough became closely associated with the so-called New Complexity school of composition
(indeed, he is often referred to as the "Father of New Complexity"), characterized by its extension of the modernist
tendency towards formalization (particularly as in integral serialism). Ferneyhough's actual compositional approach,
however, rejects serialism and other "generative" methods of composing; he prefers instead to use systems only to
create material and formal constraints, while their realisation appears to be more spontaneous.[7] Unlike many more
formally-inclined composers, Ferneyhough often speaks of his music as being about creating energy and excitement
rather than embodying an abstract schema. His pieces rarely use 12-note rows, but do include microtones and
frequent use of glissando.
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His scores make huge technical demands on performers; sometimes, as in the case of Unity Capsule for solo flute,
creating parts that are so detailed they are likely impossible to realize completely. As he acknowledges, numerous
performers have refused to take his works into their repertoire because of the great commitment required to learn
them and a perception that similar effects can be achieved through improvisation. The compositions have, however,
attracted a number of advocates, among them the Arditti Quartet, ELISION Ensemble, the members of the Nieuw
Ensemble, Ensemble Contrechamps, Ensemble Exposé, Armand Angster, James Avery, Massimiliano Damerini,
Arne DeForce, Friedrich Gauwerky, Nicolas Hodges, Mark Knoop, Geoffrey Morris, Ian Pace, Carl Rosman, Harry
Spaarnay, and EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble.
Recently, he has started writing works which allude to past composers; his Dum transisset are based on Elizabethan
composer Christopher Tye's works for viol. In addition, the fourth string quartet references Schönberg. One of his
latest works, an opera, Shadowtime, with a libretto by Charles Bernstein, and based on the life of the German
philosopher Walter Benjamin, was premiered in Munich on 25 May 2004, and recorded in 2005 for CD release in

Selected works (some with score samples)

Some works at BMIC include score samples [8]
• Carceri d'Invenzione I for fl,ob,2cl,bn, hn,tpt,trb,euphonium, 1perc, pf, 2vn,va,vc,db [1121, 1111.2111] (1982)
(score sample [9])
(inspired by the "Carceri d'Invenzione by Giambattista Piranesi).
• Kurze Schatten II for solo guitar (1989) (essay [10], analysis [11], score sample [12])
• Bone Alphabet for solo percussion (1991) (score sample [13])
• Allgebrah for oboe and 9 solo strings (1996) (score sample [14])
• Incipits for solo viola, obbligato percussion and six instruments (1996)
• Unsichtbare Farben for violin (1999) (score sample [15])
• The Doctrine of Similarity for Chorus (SATB), 3 Clarinets, Violin, Piano and Percussion (2000) (score sample
• Etudes Transcendantales (1985)
• "Shadowtime" (1999–2004) (web site with synopsis/ [17])
• "5th String Quartet" (2006)
• "Plötzlichkeit" for large orchestra (2006)
• "Chronos-Aion" for large ensemble (2007–8)
• "Dum transisset I–IV" for string quartet (2007)
• "Exordium" for string quartet (2008)
• "Renvoi/Shards" for quarter-tone guitar and vibraphone (2008)

• Boros, James, and Richard Toop (eds.). The Collected Writings of Brian Ferneyhough [18]. Amsterdam: Harwood
Academic Publishers, 1995.
• Ferneyhough, Brian. Brian Ferneyhough by Brian Ferneyhough. Paris: L'Age d'homme OCLC 21274317
• Tadday, Ulrich (ed.). "Brian Ferneyhough". Munich: Edition Text+Kritik in Richard Boorberg Verlag, 2008.
• Williams, Alastair. "Adorno and the Semantics of Modernism". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 2 (Summer
1999): 1–22.
• Bortz, Graziela. Rhythm in the music of Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnissy, and Arthur Kampela : a guide for
performers [19]. Ph.D. Thesis, City University of New York, 2003. [20]
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• Developing an interpretive context: learning Brian Ferneyhough's 'Bone Alphabet.' (Complexity Forum) [21] (alt.
) by Steven Schick (published in Perspectives of New Music [23])

External links
• Info at Brian Ferneyhough's publisher, Edition Peters [24] — includes biography, works and selected discography
• Brian Ferneyhough [25] at the Open Directory Project
• Info at Stanford University Department of Music [26]
• Living Composers Project [27]
• Brian Ferneyhough wins 2007 Siemens Prize for Music [28]
• Interview [29] (SOSPESO)
• Open questions for Brian Ferneyhough (also applicable to other composers of our day) — turned into an
interview, since Ferneyhough replied (Stanford IP address...)
• NewMusicBox cover: Brian Ferneyhough in conversation with Molly Sheridan, July 22, 2005 [30]
[ht (video
excerpts from NewMusicBox)]
• Excerpts from sound archives [31] of Ferneyhough's works.
• (French) A biography [32] of Brian Ferneyhough, from IRCAM's website.

[1] The New York Times (http:/ / www. nytimes. com/ 2002/ 12/ 08/ arts/ music-a-music-so-demanding-that-it-sets-you-free.
html?pagewanted=1) "Ferneyhough (pronounced FUR-nee-ho)"
[2] Pronouncing Dictionary of Music and Musicians (http:/ / iowapublicradio. org/ dictionary/ F. PDF) "FUR-nih-ho"
[3] Toop, Richard, Music of the Twentieth-century Avant-Garde, p. 138. Ed. by Larry Sitsky (2002)
[4] Finnissy, Michael "Biography". Official Michael Finnissy website. Retrieved on 17 February 2009.
[5] "Acadia New Music Festival: Shattering the Silence" (http:/ / music. acadiau. ca/ shatteringthesilence/ nmf2009bio1. htm). Acadia University
School of Music. 2009. . Retrieved 20 March 2009.
[6] Toop, p. 139
[7] Toop, Richard: `Ferneyhough, Brian', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 21 April 2008)
[8] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ searchresults. asp?more=c& n=Brian%20Ferneyhough
[9] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 6620w. pdf
[10] http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=TyquPRg7f34C& printsec=frontcover#PPA139,M1
[11] http:/ / www. musica. ufmg. br/ permusi/ port/ numeros/ 19/ Num19_cap_03. pdf
[12] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 6634w. pdf
[13] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 27246w. pdf
[14] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 28724w. pdf
[15] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 32789w. pdf
[16] http:/ / www. bmic. co. uk/ collection/ pdfs/ 33841w. pdf
[17] http:/ / epc. buffalo. edu/ authors/ bernstein/ shadowtime
[18] http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=TyquPRg7f34C& printsec=frontcover
[19] http:/ / disexpress. umi. com/ dxweb#results?author=Graziela%20Bortz
[20] http:/ / apps. appl. cuny. edu:83/ F/ ?func=find-e& adjacent=N& find_scan_code=FIND_WRD& request=Bortz%2C+ Braziela. & Search=+
Search+ & local_base=U-CUN01
[21] http:/ / www. jstor. org/ stable/ 833159
[22] http:/ / www. highbeam. com/ doc/ 1G1-15526494. html
[23] http:/ / www. perspectivesofnewmusic. org/
[24] http:/ / www. editionpeters. com/ london/ modern. php?composer=FERNEYHOUGH& modern=1
[25] http:/ / www. dmoz. org/ / Arts/ Music/ Composition/ Composers/ F/ Ferneyhough,_Brian/ /
[26] http:/ / music. stanford. edu/ People/ faculty. html#bferneyhough
[27] http:/ / composers21. com/ compdocs/ ferneyhb. htm
[28] https:/ / www. evs-musikstiftung. ch/ en/ 01_stiftung/ pressem. html
[29] http:/ / www. sospeso. com/ contents/ articles/ ferneyhough_p1. html
[30] http:/ / www. newmusicbox. org/ article. nmbx?id=4344
[31] http:/ / www. musiquecontemporaine. fr/ en/ search?disp=all& query=Ferneyhough& exp_inl=on& exp_aud=on& so=ta
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[32] http:/ / brahms. ircam. fr/ composers/ composer/ 1286/

Article Sources and Contributors 5

Article Sources and Contributors

Brian Ferneyhough  Source:  Contributors: A4, Alpha Ursae Minoris, Angela, Annandale, Aryder779, Axeman89, Barnet Fox,
Baudelaire2001, Betacommand, Bfinn, Bjones, Camembert, Cdpetersen, D6, David Gerard, Dekisugi, Dells, Economiques, Elision1986, Espadeiro, Espoo, Ex penumbrae, Gerzxdghr, Grafen,
Grégory Leclair, Hexlein1, Hrdinský, Hyacinth, Iridescent, JackofOz, Jakekirner, Jerome Kohl, JoJan, Johnpacklambert, Jubileeclipman, Katharineamy, Katsuya, Keith D, Knucmo2, Kokoliso,
Kwamikagami, LeMiklos, Marcus2, MarioColbert, Matve, Mazca, Michael Bednarek, Mscuthbert, Nlu, Nunquam Dormio, Parsifal1, PaulVIF, Pavel Vozenilek,, Queenceleste,
RAult, Rich Farmbrough, Rigadoun, Rjwilmsi, Rudjek, S.dedalus, SimonArlott, Ticktock paddler, Tobias Bergemann, Zencefil, 68 anonymous edits

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