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David Vickerman Bedford (born 4 August 1937 in Hendonmarker, North West London), is a Britishmarker composer and musician. He has written and played popular as well as classical music.


Studies and early work

Bedford studied music at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker under Lennox Berkeley, and later in Venicemarker 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.

Avant garde classical compositions

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. The songs challenge the definition of music. 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" 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. John Peel is included in the acknowledgements. 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 is noted for the large amount of educational music he has written for children. The musical notation he uses is 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 has a tendency to harmonic stasis, the main interest instead being created by shifting timbres and textures. In his music for voice, he has set many texts by the poet Kenneth Patchen. To record his Song of the White Horse, lead soprano Diana Coulson had to inhale helium to be able to reach the highest notes towards the end of the piece.

Science fiction has been a repeated area of interest for Bedford. The Tentacles of the Dark Nebula has words taken from Arthur C Clarke's short story Transcience. The title of Star's End was taken from Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation. Rigel 9, was a collaboration with Ursula LeGuin.

David Bedford is the brother of the conductor Steuart Bedford, and the grandson of the composer, painter and author Herbert Bedford and the composer Liza Lehmann.

Notes and references

  1. Decca Headline (1974) Insert from LP recording of Tentacles of the Dark Nebula LP Head 3
  2. Manfred Nagl Science Fiction: ein Segment populärer Kultur im Medien- und Produktverbund p.140 [1] (in German)
  3. Details of the album available at [2]




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