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Marc Wilkinson

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Marc Wilkinson (27 July 1929 – 9 January 2022) was an Australian-British composer and conductor best known for his film scores, including The Blood on Satan's Claw, and incidental music for the theatre, most notably for Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun. His compositional approach has combined traditional techniques with elements of the avant-garde. After residing for most of his life in the United Kingdom, he retired from composition and lived in France.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Paris, France, Wilkinson studied composition at Columbia and Princeton Universities; he also took some private lessons with Varèse in New York.[1] He published a number of analytical articles on works by Varèse and Boulez.[2][3] In England, he became one of the first independent composers to make use of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop after it opened in 1958.[4] For a time Wilkinson was resident composer and musical director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, then musical director of the Royal National Theatre (1963–74).[5] One of the first scores he composed in that post was for Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964); the result deeply impressed the playwright, who has described Wilkinson's work as "perhaps the best score for a play to be written since Grieg embellished Peer Gynt".[6] Wilkinson subsequently wrote the incidental music to Shaffer's play Equus (1973).

Other National Theatre productions for which Wilkinson wrote incidental music included Tom Stoppard's plays Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967) and Jumpers (its premiere production, 1972). He also taught at the Royal Court Theatre studio, under the directorship of Keith Johnstone, from the autumn of 1964.[7]

Through his work at the National Theatre Wilkinson met Piers Haggard, who was working as an assistant director: the two worked together on the National Theatre production The Dutch Courtesan (1964).[8] Having directed several TV dramas, Haggard was about to direct his first feature film and invited Wilkinson to score it.[9] The result is one of Wilkinson's most celebrated film scores, Blood on Satan's Claw (1971),[10] acclaimed by Jonathan Rigby in English Gothic as "easily among the best ever composed for a British horror film".[11] Wilkinson subsequently gave crucial advice to Paul Giovanni who had been commissioned to score the film The Wicker Man.[12]

Wilkinson and Haggard subsequently worked together on further TV and film productions, including Quatermass and The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.

He died on 8 January 2022, at the age of 92.[13]

Selective list of works[edit]

Incidental music for theatre[edit]

  • Richard III (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1961)
  • Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1962)
  • The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964)
  • The Storm (1966)
  • Macbeth (1966)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967)
  • As You Like It (1967)
  • Three Sisters (1967)
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (1968)
  • National Health (1969)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1970)
  • The Duchess of Malfi (1971)
  • Jumpers (1972)
  • Equus (1973)

Film scores[edit]

Television scores[edit]


  1. ^ "An Interview with Composer Marc Wilkinson". Movie Music Italiano [sic]. 2007. Archived from the original on 30 November 2012.
  2. ^ Perle, George (1990). The Listening Composer. Volume 7 of Ernest Bloch Lectures. University of California Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780520917835.
  3. ^ Delaere, Mark; Crispin (eds), Darla (2009). Unfolding Time: Studies in Temporality in Twentieth-century Music. Leuven University Press. p. 75. ISBN 9789058677358. {{cite book}}: |last2= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ Niebur, Louis (2010). Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Oxford University Press. p. 223. ISBN 9780195368406.
  5. ^ "National Theatre: Music". National Theatre. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  6. ^ Shaffer, Peter. The Collected Plays. Harmony Books, 1982: p. x
  7. ^ Dudeck, Theresa Robbins (2013). Keith Johnstone: A Critical Biography. A&C Black. pp. 61–62. ISBN 9781408184714.
  8. ^ "Production of the Dutch Courtesan | Theatricalia".
  9. ^ Wilkinson, Marc. Sleevenotes to Soundtrack album Blood on Satan's Claw, Trunk Records [1].
  10. ^ Spencer, Kristopher. Film and television scores, 1950–1979: a critical survey by genre. McFarland, 2008: p. 254
  11. ^ Rigby, Jonathan. English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn, 2004: p. 200
  12. ^ Bartholomew, David. "The Wicker Man" in Cinefantastique Vol. 6, no. 3, 1977: p. 24 [2]
  13. ^ Mönter, Oliver (15 January 2022). "Marc Wilkinson verstorben". Cine Music. Retrieved 16 January 2022.

External links[edit]