Geoffrey Poole has garnered considerable admiration in the reception of the many imaginative soundworlds explored in his music, with each piece discovering a world to itself in stark contrast to its neighbours. Born in 1949 in Ipswich and growing up in outer London, he won a scholarship to Forest School and took a BA at UEA, where inspiration from Britten vied with that of newly-rediscovered medieval music. Both influences may be felt in Wymondham Chants (1971), which immediately became and remains a King’s Singers repertoire classic. Tuition from Alexander Goehr and Jonathan Harvey followed, opening the doors of modernism, and from 1975 to 2009 Poole’s inspirational teaching brought academic posts at Leeds, Manchester, Princeton and (as Professor) Bristol Universities. If this sounds like a dangerously official career path for an artist, one should factor in his life in a caravan, labouring, car delivery, freelance journalism, computer programming and two years working in Kenya.
His output includes a concerto for Ghanaian drummer, another for Javanese gamelan, a seminal contribution to the emerging wind orchestra genre, electronic contemporary dance music, chamber opera, Asian-inspired string orchestral music, the invention and application of computer-designed concepts of theme and texture, and collaboration with Korean traditional musicians in Seoul.
Poole’s love of life and imaginative challenge is by no means absent from the more traditional genre works - four symphonies, five string quartets, several virtuoso solo pieces, a wealth of mixed chamber music, songs, piano music, educational music, and a variety of choral music including the 60-minute choral/orchestral cantata Blackbird and two large commissions from the BBC Singers. His music has been featured in numerous festivals (Huddersfield, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Trente, Tallahassee, Boston, Aix-en-Provence etc.), portrait concerts at London’s ICA and Bristol’s Colston Hall, some 80 radio broadcasts and 16 CDs.
Now in his sixties, with academe replaced by a busy career as a recorded contemporary and classical pianist and sought-after accompanist, Poole has continued to innovate and search afresh in every new composition. But personal losses and the wisdom of years have ushered in a more private, sensitive, and luminous aesthetic since After Long Silence (2007). In Poole’s view “Modernism no longer speaks of progress, its technology is more likely to be felt as an assault to the ear and a threat to nature in our ecologically fragile times. And having extended the hand of intercultural respect and friendship from my own white English perspective, I feel the issue belongs with the emerging talents from all over the world.”
He is currently interested in developing localism, creating events with both professionals and amateurs, presenting music in attractive syntheses (with art, film, poetry) and using his ingenuity to find simpler ways to communicate what he sees as the permanent but endangered role of music in deepening and synthesising heart, mind, and soul.