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Poppy studied piano formally but was self taught as a guitarist. Teenage musical life included playing bass guitar in an improvising rock band inspired by Cream. After leaving school at 16 start playing Bartók and Debussy on the piano and writing piano pieces. Hearing Stockhausen on the radio he made a music concrete piece with his father's tape recorder and enrolled in a music course at Kingsway College in London. There he met composer/pianist and scratch orchestra member Dave Smith who introduced him to the experimental composition of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John White, Howard Skempton, Bryars and Conlon Nancarrow. From 1974 to 1979 he studied music at Royal Holloway College and Goldsmiths College University of London
During the 1970s he developed a strong interest in contemporary American composers who he started to perform: John Cage, Morton Feldman, Terry Riley, Reich and a public performance of Glass's Music in Fifth for solo amplified piano in 1978. Poppy also played in an ensemble with Christian Wolff and attended a summer school with Cage and Merce Cunningham. At Goldsmiths he started an ensemble with Jeremy Peyton Jones to play their own music. After graduating in 1979 he began working as an accompanist at the Laban Centre for Dance. In late 1979 Poppy was approached by Orlando Gough to start a new ensemble together. The Lost Jockey was formed and started performing Glass, Reich, Poppy and Gough scores. The first concert at the Air Gallery in Roseberry Avenue was attended by Michael Nyman. Lost Jockey and The Nyman Band performed together at the 2nd Almeida Music Festival in 1981.
One of the least internationally known of British minimalist composers, within contemporary classical circles, his concert scores are only a fraction of his creative output and his artistic profile reaches into many strands of popular culture.
His first solo album The Beating of Wings was released on Trevor Horn and Paul Morley's ZTT records in 1985, and the follow-up Alphabed (A Mystery Dance) in 1987. His third album for ZTT (Under the Son) was scheduled for release in 1988, but he left the label that year and most of its material appeared only in 2005 as part of a 3-CD collection of Poppy's ZTT works entitled Andrew Poppy on Zang Tuum Tumb. The collection comprised three tracks from Under the Son as well as the first two ZTT albums, some of whose tracks appeared in versions slightly different from their initial album appearances, as well as in 12" remixes. The music has been critically connected to both American experimental/minimalism and British electronica of Cabaret Voltaire
He contributed orchestral arrangements to Force The Hand of Chance, the first album by the group Psychic TV which was released on WEA Records in 1982 and contributed compositions to Dreams Less Sweet, the follow up. Poppy's subsequent arrangements have appeared on records by groups such as Coil, Erasure, The The, The House of Love, Strawberry Switchblade and Nitzer Ebb.
Poppy's first orchestral work 32 Frames was written in 1981 for the Goldsmiths College orchestra. It was recorded for the Beating of a Wings album in 1985 with the composer conducting. The music was later used for the Portuguese seminal 80's film A Girl In Summer directed by Vítor Gonçalves with additional material. Poppy worked on other Portuguese film projects in the early 1990s.
Live performances are often theatrical or multi-media based. In the 80s this included a special show for the opening of the muscium of science and technology at la Villette in Paris and collaboration with experimental theatre companies.
During the 1990s Poppy developed a number of opera projects. These and other productions often involved a collaboration with theatre, video and performance maker Julia Bardsley.
On 9 June 2011, Poppy's early 1990s orchestra and live electronics work Revolution No. 8: Airport for Joseph Beuys featured as one of the works in Electronica III at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, the final event in a series of BBC Concert Orchestra concerts showcasing contemporary music and electronica.
A collaboration between Poppy and German singer Claudia Brücken (another ZTT artist in the 1980s who recorded with Propaganda and Act) resulted in the album Another Language in 2005. On this sparsely scored album of cover songs Poppy's piano and guitar playing accompanied Brücken's vocals. Having used Schubert Songs as a model for arrangements on the album led Poppy to a more song and vocal based approach to his own composition.
Poppy's style occupies a place between classical minimalism, Postminimalism and more popular genres, although individual pieces are not necessarily overtly minimalist. A wide range of ensembles have commissioned and/or performed his works at prestigious musical festivals including Noszferatu Ensemble and the Graham Fitkin Band.
The last three album projects have been presented as staged multi-media musical performances including video and audio projection and lighting. With a core production team of Julia Bardsley (scenographer) Martin Langthorne (lighting) Fred De Feye (sound). Hoarse Songs released 1st May has been presented in London Lisbon Athens and Liverpool.
In 2017 Liverpool's Capstone theatre commissioned a presentation of Poppy's first album The Beating of Wings.
- Cadenza and 'Matters of Theory from the self-titled LP by The Lost Jockey (1982, Les Disques du Crepuscule)
- Crude Din from "Professor Slack" EP by The Lost Jockey (1982, Operation Twilight 10"; reissued 1983, Battersea Records 12")
- The Beating of Wings (1985, ZTT)
- Alphabed (1987, ZTT)
- Recordings (1992, Bitter and Twisted Records)
- Ophelia/Ophelia (1995, Impetus)
- Rude Bloom (1995, ArtGallery / Wotre Music)
- Time at Rest Devouring Its Secret (2000, Source Research Recordings)
- Another Language (with Claudia Brücken ex. Propaganda singer) (2005, There (there))
- Andrew Poppy on Zang Tuum Tumb - comprises The Beating of Wings, Alphabed, Under the Son (previously unreleased third album for ZTT) plus bonus tracks (2005, ZTT)
- ...and the Shuffle of Things (2008, Field Radio)
- Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling (2012, Field Radio)
- Hoarse Songs (2019, Field Radio)
- Emre (Dark Matter) (2000)
- Music From The Edge Vol. 04 (margen Records. mR 0601) Andrew Poppy- Revolution Number Eight: Airport For Joseph Beuys (For Orchestra & Electronic Delays) 11:50