Q&A with composer/musician Andrew Keeling, whose contemporary classical works have been internationally acclaimed.

"The elimination of the sacred has affected everything. Music has suffered accordingly. The State has become the new god with technology as the tool for achieving its aims. The result of this is the relativisation of all music. Music has been ripped from its traditional functional roots."

Andrew Keeling: English Music Landscape

Andrew Keeling is a multi-faceted composer and musician. He was a cathedral chorister during the 1960s, played rock music in the 1970s and turned to composition in the 1990s. His composition teachers were John Casken and Anthony Gilbert. He also studied part-time with Nicola Lefanu and was mentored by Howard Skempton and John Tavener. Keeling's music has been performed, broadcast and recorded throughout the world by many leading ensembles and musicians, with music appearing on the Delphian, Metier, Riverrun, Burning Shed, Spaceward and DGM/Panegyric labels. It has been published by Faber. He is also a musicologist/writer on the music of King Crimson and Robert Fripp. As an arranger and flautist/guitarist, Keeling has worked alongside Robert Fripp to produce The Wine of Silence which received worldwide acclaim. He has also played on and arranged music for releases by Tim Bowness, The Gong Farmers and his alt-rock recording unit, Andrew Keeling and Otherworld.                     (Photo: Andrew Keeling)

“October is Marigold” is the second album from David Cross (electric violin) and Andrew Keeling (flute) and it is the third to appear on Noisy Records’ ‘Electric Chamber Music’ label. Perhaps more strikingly than its predecessors, this recording epitomises the aims of that label to present music designed for an intimate setting which makes use of musical and electronic techniques used in rock. Cross and Keeling’s “English Sun” was released in 2009 (followed by a handful of gigs) and the duo recorded much of “October is Marigold” in the same year.

Interview by Michael Limnios              Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon)

How has the Classical and Progressive Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Initially, The Beatles, then as a cathedral chorister and later playing in amateur and semi-professional rock bands during the 1970s and '80s. Those were catalysts for the future. Afterwards I studied the flute at music college and then did Bmus, Mmus degrees and a PhD in Composition at three British universities.

Subsequently, I wrote many classical music commissions alongside Musical Guides on the music of King Crimson and also arranged music for Robert Fripp, Tim Bowness and others. I then worked with former Comsats Angels' guitarist Stephen Fellows in my Otherworld alt-rock unit, and Alex Che and Cliff Hewitt from Modern Eon in my most recent project with musical partner Mark Graham, The Gong Farmers. This also includes contributions from former-Van der Graaf Generator's David Jackson and several other fine musicians. These two musical areas - classical and rock - have always been present, combining and intertwining. Another facet is improvisation with David Cross who played violin in King Crimson, '72-'74.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

Diverse in all aspects. I'm a Jungian-Christian, so my view is the 'unconscious' (God) lies at the core of one's musical activities. The emphasis on one aspect of music-making can transform constantly and often does.

"Tradition and strong, meaningful harmony. The recent new music I'm currently hearing often lacks these dimensions. I tend not to fear but hope - and pray - tradition is restored to contemporary culture. Music is an essential part of a healthy culture. Presently, I'm unsure that contemporary culture is healthy, and its music reflects this." (Andrew Keeling & David Cross / Photo by Chiemi Cross)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

Meeting the composer W. H. Harris in the 1960s was formative, as too was meeting John Tavener in the 1980s. Also, meeting Robert Fripp in 1971 was equally important. For me, the music of King Crimson has always been significant. Again, this underlines the combination of classical and rock. The King Crimson connection opened the door for working with David Cross, Mark Graham and David Jackson.

Also meeting Keith Cross and Peter Dunton of T2 and playing on a T2 album. The key to a life well lived in music is discipline, vision, listening to the 'voice within' and allowing the future to unfold.

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your career so far?

Hearing King Crimson's first album in 1969. Equally, hearing John Tavener's Funeral Ikos in 1987. Other key moments were hearing Nick Drake, Judee Sill, Van der Graaf Generator, T2, The Comsat Angels and Modern Eon. Musical highlights: too many to mention.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Tradition and strong, meaningful harmony. The recent new music I'm currently hearing often lacks these dimensions. I tend not to fear but hope - and pray - tradition is restored to contemporary culture. Music is an essential part of a healthy culture. Presently, I'm unsure that contemporary culture is healthy, and its music reflects this.

"Subsequently, I wrote many classical music commissions alongside Musical Guides on the music of King Crimson and also arranged music for Robert Fripp, Tim Bowness and others. I then worked with former Comsats Angels' guitarist Stephen Fellows in my Otherworld alt-rock unit, and Alex Che and Cliff Hewitt from Modern Eon in my most recent project with musical partner Mark Graham, The Gong Farmers. This also includes contributions from former-Van der Graaf Generator's David Jackson and several other fine musicians. These two musical areas - classical and rock - have always been present, combining and intertwining. Another facet is improvisation with David Cross who played violin in King Crimson, '72-'74."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Inward/inner listening might again be practiced. Modern computer composing software has eliminated the inner ear essential for writing significant and functional music. Everything is heard outwardly.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications?  How do you want the music to affect people?

The elimination of the sacred has affected everything. Music has suffered accordingly. The State has become the new god with technology as the tool for achieving its aims. The result of this is the relativisation of all music. Music has been ripped from its traditional functional roots.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Keep oneself to oneself and listen to the unconscious. Practice constantly and think, then keep quiet. Where possible, steer clear of psychological inflation.

Andrew Keeling - Home

(Photo: Andrew Keeling)

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