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June 9, 2009

Md. composer on Salisbury U. faculty gets premiere at Scotland's St. Magnus Festival

Robert BakerRobert Baker, a Canadian-born composer on the Salisbury University Music Department faculty, is one of eight people chosen from the U.S., the U.K. and Germany to participate in the Composers' Course at the St. Magnus Festival in Orkney, the archipelago in northern Scotland.

The highly regarded festival was founded in 1977 by Peter Maxwell Davies, the eminent British composer who has long been based in the Orkney islands area.

Baker and the other composers in the course will each produce a work of about six minutes that will be premiered on the last day of the festival, June 24, by a string ensemble called Psappha.

Baker, who recently started on the composition, is set to arrive ...

in Orkney on June 13 and finish the score during the festival, after getting feedback from the players. He'll also be working on the piece with Davies.

Samples of Baker's music can be found on his Web site. Judging by those excerpts, his style is decisively contemporary in its sophisticated use of dissonance and its exploitation on sonic effects. 

I can't recall ever coming across Baker's music in the Baltimore area. Since he lives just over on the Eastern Shore, perhaps his Scottish exposure this summer will help bring him extra attention in Maryland, too.   



Posted by Tim Smith at 9:21 AM | | Comments (2)


The ORKNEYS?!!? And they travel all that bloody way for the sake of mere six-minute compositions?!?! If any thing's wrong with this picture, then I think if you're going to cross all that time and distance to let your music be heard, you should be afforded at least _15_ minutes... To heck with conciseness, let 'em SPEAK!!!

(By the by, I like PMD -- he's a fairly tolerable "modern" composer, i.e., his stuff's not _too_, a-hem, "challenging." [Read: Not too damn ugly, which is definitely endemic to a great deal of "academic contemporary/modern classical" music.] His string quartets on Naxos with the Maggini Quartet are genuinely interesting, even excellent in spots, though I have to be "in the mood." His works inspired by living in the Orkneys are of a slightly better order, too!)

Dear Tim,

in response to your writing "I can't recall ever coming across Baker's music in the Baltimore area. Since he lives just over on the Eastern Shore, perhaps his Scottish exposure this summer will help bring him extra attention in Maryland, too. "

I can assure you you'd listen to far better stuff than you do now, should you report on other stuff than what your pals from Peabody or BSO present you with.

Just for the record, I hear a whole lot more than Peabody and BSO each season. TS

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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