David Bedford

From Wind Repertory Project
David Bedford


David Vickerman Bedford (4 August 1937, London - 1 October 2011, England) was a British composer and musician. He wrote and played popular as well as classical music.

Bedford studied music at the Royal Academy of Music under Lennox Berkeley, and later in Venice under Luigi Nono. In the late 1960s, he was engaged to orchestrate Kevin Ayers' album, Joy of a Toy, on which he also played keyboards. This led to him playing keyboards with Ayers' band, The Whole World.

Through Ayers, he met Mike Oldfield, then The Whole World's bass guitarist. In the 1970s he conducted and orchestrated Oldfield's Orchestral Tubular Bells album, an orchestral adaptation of the record that gave the Virgin record label its first major success. He subsequently provided lead vocals for Mike Oldfield's cover of Don Alfonso, orchestrated Oldfield's soundtrack for The Killing Fields, and made a number of records for Virgin, some using orchestral players, others featuring Bedford's keyboards. He later worked with a wide variety of musicians, including A-ha, Billy Bragg, the Edgar Broughton Band, Elvis Costello, Lol Coxhill, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Roy Harper, Madness and Robert Wyatt.

All this time, Bedford was also writing avant garde classical works. One of his better known works is Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon (1971), for chorus and brass instruments. In With 100 Kazoos (1971), an instrumental ensemble is joined by the audience who are invited to play kazoos. This was quickly followed by the 1972 release on the Dandelion label of Nurses Song with Elephants, recorded at the Marquee Studios. Bedford again mixes classical ensemble with poems, voices and on one track, the use of twenty seven plastic pipe twirlers. Bedford has 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.

From 1969 to 1981, Bedford was Composer in Residence at Queen's College, London, and from 1968 to 1980 taught music in a number of London secondary schools. He was 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. 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.

In general, Bedford's music had a tendency towards harmonic stasis, the main interest being created by shifting timbres and textures. In his music for voice, he set many texts by the poet Kenneth Patchen. 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.

Works for Winds