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I am really a classical composer in outlook, taste and thought, and after leading a multiple musical life, which has included writing and giving concerts of various non-classical as well as classical music, I finally learnt to go with whatever the intuition and my background produced: a music inspired by early Italian baroque (Monteverdi, Gabrielli, Gesualdo) as well as Bach, and popular music (especially jazz, soul and gospel).

Millenium Magnam
Andrew Sterling pic


Biographical Notes

Andrew Sterling and his music
Put simply I am a former pupil of Edmund Rubbra and Olivier Messiaen, a triple scholarship and music college degree holder. However, the real story is of a deeply intuitive ability (emanating from a similarly intuitively-natured family) and of the serious difficulties experienced in an academically-orientated classical music environment.

I began piano lessons (somewhat late - I was 12 ) after an upright happened to be housed in the family home and I simply began improvising on it. This intuition enabled me to go through the classical music system, by producing the sort of outstanding musical results (including writing a series of symphonies, songs and chamber music) which gains attention and wins various accolades, but which also made working within established terms of reference of that time impossible. Studying in the usual linear fashion was an alien approach to learning for anyone like me, and so my compositional and harmony exams and the like, were always taken totally 'spontaneously', by ear.

I found that these 'instant' abilities were better tapped and developed as a pianist in improvising, and were first used as a teenage church organist (hardly a note was left un-busked or not improvised) and latterly in various forms of popular music, including jazz, pop and blues, and even in various classical styles. Being highly useful in many situations, this has led virtually by default to a life as a freelance musician.


As a child of my time, and as a classical composer, it is natural for me to feel the pulse, harmonies and melodic turn of phrase of contemporary song and dance in the same way as the court dances of the past has long underpinned classical music. So, this is not classical music trying to be pop or pop trying to be classical, nor a fusion founded on an ideal to break down barriers and bring popular and classical together. It is a tautly-composed and vibrant music of its own that particularly grabs people of a non-traditional classical bent - from early music to pop and even techno - and so has a wide and exciting 'market application'.

Despite such potential marketability, I write mainly for a 23 member instrumental and vocal ensemble 'SterlingWork', either for the whole ensemble or for the various combinations possible, as well as for my concert jazz trio, because as a social animal it is far more satisfying for me to write in the initial instance for people I know than to primarily develop a career as a disembodied composer. It makes more sense creatively too; the ensemble's performances set my music amongst examples of the music that inspire me - Italian baroque and popular - and uses any technology to hand to variously stage performances, and such ideas can develop more organically with an on-going group than separately writing for unrelated performances and ensembles.


List of Works

This background of spontaneity has resulted in work that has 'collected', like leaves off a tree, which makes it difficult to list and specify into types and categories which were never meant, especially as instrumentation and which pieces are used to make up a whole work are also often left to the occasion.

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