|Birth name||David Vickerman Bedford|
4 August 1937|
Hendon, London, England
|Died||1 October 2011(aged 74)|
David Vickerman Bedford (4 August 1937 – 1 October 2011) was an English composer and musician. He wrote and played both popular and classical music. He was the brother of the conductor Steuart Bedford and the grandson of the composer, painter and author Herbert Bedford and the composer Liza Lehmann.
From 1969 to 1981, Bedford was Composer in Residence at Queen's College, London. From 1968 to 1980, he taught music in a number of London secondary schools. In 1996 he was appointed Composer in Association with the English Sinfonia. In 2001 he was appointed Chairman of the Performing Right Society, having previously been Deputy chairman.
Early life and career
Bedford studied music at the Royal Academy of Music under Lennox Berkeley, and later in Venice under Luigi Nono. His studies and early influences included the work of Nono, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern. In the mid-60's, he was a music teacher at Whitefield school in Hendon. The pupils were very fond of him, as he taught them to play Sonny and Cher songs, instead of the usual music class stuff. In 1969, Bedford was engaged to orchestrate Kevin Ayers' album Joy of a Toy, on which he also played keyboards. This led to his role as keyboardist for Ayers' band, Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, who recorded one album, Shooting at the Moon (1970). On that album, in addition to organ and piano, Bedford plays accordion, marimbaphone and guitar. Bedford also contributed to later Kevin Ayers albums as keyboardist and orchestral arranger.
Recording and arranging
Bedford's work with The Whole World led to collaborations with the group's saxophonist Lol Coxhill, with whom he formed the Coxhill-Bedford Duo. The Duo released several singles of old vaudeville and British music hall songs featuring Bedford on piano and lead vocal, and Coxhill on saxophone and second vocal, for John Peel's Dandelion Records label in the early 1970s. One of these singles was released under the pseudonym, Will Dandy and the Dandylettes (covering a medley of Al Jolson songs), with the B-side credited to the Coxhill-Bedford Duo. More tracks by the Duo appear on Coxhill's solo album, Ear of Beholder (1971) on which they play three songs, including an early version of "Don Alfonso" which Bedford would record again later. Still more Coxhill-Bedford Duo songs can be found on Banana Follies, a 1972 BBC concert radio broadcast featuring Kevin Ayers, released on CD in 1998. In that broadcast, Bedford and Coxhill also perform a short radio play titled "Murder in the Air". Coxhill later re-recorded the play without Bedford and released it as a 12-inch single, stating in the liner notes that he would have preferred to record it with Bedford, who was unavailable.
The first album to consist entirely of David Bedford compositions was Nurses Song with Elephants, recorded at the Marquee Studios, and released in 1972 on John Peel's Dandelion label. On this album, Bedford mixed classical ensemble with poems and voices. Some Bright Stars for Queen's College uses twenty-seven plastic pipe twirlers, John Peel himself being among the pipe twirler players. There are five tracks on the album: It's Easier Than It Looks, Nurses Song With Elephants, Some Bright Stars for Queen's College, Trona (1967), and Sad and Lonely Faces. Bass guitar on the title song is played by Mike Oldfield and the final track features a poem by Kenneth Patchen that is sung by Kevin Ayers.
Bedford collaborated even more extensively with Mike Oldfield, The Whole World's bass guitarist. He orchestrated and conducted Oldfield's The Orchestral Tubular Bells album (1975), an adaptation of Tubular Bells, the record that had given the Virgin record label its first major success in 1973. Bedford also orchestrated Oldfield's follow-up album-length composition, Hergest Ridge (1974) as The Orchestral Hergest Ridge, which was performed live and recorded for radio broadcast from concert performances twice, once in 1974 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Steve Hillage on guitar, and once in 1976 by the Scottish National Orchestra, again with Hillage on guitar, although Andy Summers had played on other performances that year. The latter recording was acquired by Virgin, but not released as an album, although portions of it were used in The Space Movie (1979) which featured Oldfield's music.
Bedford provided vocals and piano for Oldfield's cover versions of more old music hall numbers (in the manner of the now-defunct Coxhill-Bedford Duo), Don Alfonso (1974) and Speak (Tho' You Only Say Farewell) (1976), collaborated with Oldfield on a piece titled "First Excursion" for Oldfield's box set compilation Boxed, and orchestrated Oldfield's soundtrack for The Killing Fields (1984). In 1983, Oldfield created a short-lived record label called Oldfield Music whose sole release was a David Bedford album, Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse.
Bedford's association with Oldfield led to a record contract to make a number of albums for Virgin, some using orchestral players, others featuring Bedford's keyboards, and some include Oldfield as a featured performer. Album titles from this period include Star's End (1974), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1975, a musical setting of the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge), The Odyssey (1976, a musical setting of the poem by Homer), and Instructions for Angels (1977), the latter including an appearance by Mike Ratledge.
Bedford contributed to records by the Edgar Broughton Band, including a single titled Up Yours!, a polemic on the 1970 UK general election declaring their intention to drop out. The single features a string arrangement by Bedford.
Bedford worked on several Roy Harper projects, including the 1971 four-song album Stormcock which also featured Jimmy Page on guitar (credited as S. Flavius Mercurius for contractual reasons), and the 1974 album Valentine. Bedford also conducted an orchestra during Harper's live concerts, including the Valentine's Day launch of the album, the concert later released as Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion and featuring, among others, Keith Moon. In 2001 he was reunited with Harper when the latter celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall, joined by numerous guest artists, including Jeff Martin and John Renbourn. A recording of the concert Royal Festival Hall Live - 10 June 2001 was released as a double CD shortly afterwards.
He also worked with a wide variety of other artists, including A-ha, Billy Bragg, Camel, Elvis Costello, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madness, Andy Summers, Alan White (drummer for Yes), and Robert Wyatt.
Avant-garde classical compositions
All this time, Bedford was also writing avant-garde classical works. The liner notes from a 1970 album cite Piece for Mo (1963) as "his first work of standing", although that piece has never been recorded for release.
O Now the Drenched Land Wakes and The Great Birds (two poems for chorus based on the words of Kenneth Patchen, 1966) were released by Deutsche Grammophon on one of their Avant Garde series of albums in 1968.
Bedford also composed a number of works for wind orchestra, beginning with Sun Paints Rainbows on the Vast Waves in 1982, commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Many of these works have recorded by the wind orchestra of the Royal Northern College of Music, conducted by Clark Rundell, released by Doyen Records UK in 1998.
Bedford combined skilled and non-skilled musicians in other works as well, with Seascapes (1986), for instance, combining a full symphony orchestra with school children, and Stories from the Dreamtime (1991) written for 40 deaf children and orchestra. He was a founding Trustee of the PRS for Music Foundation, which supports the composition of new pieces. After his death, as part of a tribute, one of his later works for children 'The Wreck of the Titanic' received nine performances at venues across England during early 2012. The performance at the SAGE Gateshead included choirs from four North East primary/junior schools.
He is noted for the large amount of educational music he wrote for children. The musical notation he used was often unconventional, frequently making use of graphics, thus letting his works be performed by children and others who cannot read conventional notation. For example, in the liner notes to the album Viola Today (1974) by Karen Phillips, it is stated that in the score of Bedford's Spillihpnerak (1972) (the title being the performer's name printed backwards) there is "(a) page consisting of a drawing of a lysozyme molecule which the performer is asked to interpret".
In general, Bedford's music has a tendency to harmonic stasis, the main interest instead being created by shifting timbres and textures. The score to The Song of the White Horse (1978) instructs the choir to inhale helium gas to be able to reach the highest notes near the end of the piece.
In his music for voice, he set many texts by the poet Kenneth Patchen, especially on Music for Albion Moonlight which set four Patchen poems to music, and Instructions for Angels (1978), an album which uses Patchen's poems for inspiration and song titles, although Patchen's poems are not sung or recited in the music, but are printed on an insert.
Science fiction was a repeated area of interest for Bedford. The Tentacles of the Dark Nebula has words taken from Arthur C Clarke's short story Transcience, recorded by tenor Peter Pears with Bedford conducting the London Sinfonietta. The title of Star's End was taken from Isaac Asimov's book Second Foundation. Rigel 9 is a play based on the book by Ursula K. Le Guin, featuring background music composed and recorded by Bedford.
Bedford was married three times. His first marriage was to Maureen Parsonage, in 1958, and produced two daughters. His second marriage, to Susan Pilgrim in 1969, also produced two daughters. His first two marriages ended in divorce. He married his third wife, Allison Powell, in 1994, and the couple had a son and two daughters. His third wife and all seven of his children survive him.
- Decca (1970) LP notes by Anthony Payne from Music for Albion Moonlight LP ZRG 638
- "Severnside Composers Alliance Presents: More Strings Times Four, a tribute to David Bedford". Arnolfini website. Arnolfini. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- Keith Potter (4 October 2011). "David Bedford obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
- Ronald Crichton (May 1972). "Music in London, (Choral; Bedford, Strauss)". The Musical Times 113 (1551): 475. JSTOR 955458.
- "David Bedford: Sun Paints Rainbows on the Vast Waves". ChesterNovello. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- Finnadar Records (1974) LP notes by Karen Phillips from Viola Today LP by Karen Phillips, SR 9007
- Song of the White Horse (David Bedford, 1978) on YouTube, posted by family of David Bedford
- David Bedford's The Song of the White Horse BBC Radio 3
- Oldfield Music Records (1983) LP notes from Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse LP, OM 1
- Decca Headline (1974) Insert from LP recording of Tentacles of the Dark Nebula LP Head 3
- Nagl, Manfred. Science Fiction: ein Segment populärer Kultur im Medien- und Produktverbund (in German). Google Books. p. 140.
- "David Bedford". Telegraph. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- David Bedford official website
- Transcript of an interview with David Bedford, originally published in the Kevin Ayers fanzine Why Are We Sleeping August 1994
- Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra The LSSO performed on the album Instructions for Angels
- "David Bedford Biography". Making Music. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- "David Bedford Biography & Discography". ModernClassical.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- "David Bedford Biography". Performing Right Society. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- midomi.com Details of "Rigel 9" album at Midomi.com
- The Bag of Secrets – Mike Oldfield website
- Mike Oldfield discography: Hergest Ridge, at Tubular.net