The head of composition at The Royal Academy is Philip Cashian, whose own tartly seasoned, stylish music sounds as influenced by Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant and King Crimson as by Charles Ives, Boulez and Cage. To some extent, if his music was on, say, the Leaf label, or folded into the electronica of Warp, or given space on 4AD, it would not actually be defined as classical music, and could be easily filed alongside Murcof, Johann Johannsson and Autechre.
As classical music, it inherits different levels of expectation, and a certain sense that because it does not produce sounds as soothing and familiar and in all ways as rich as the canonised greats - even if their music was considered during its day painfully discordant and often quite unnerving - it is disappointing, even insulting. The fact that such a committed modernist, even post-modernist, as Cashian is the head of composition at the Academy made me realise that the Academy does not hold the view that serious music is best presented as a kind of soporific, or that classical music is simply about historical reconstruction.
Paul Morley, Observer Music Monthly
Several Cashian hallmarks emerge in the course of this CD: bold melodic gestures for instruments in unison; a kind of 'broken machine' texture in which uneven rhythms lumber almost out of control; motor rhythm sections pointing up a relationship with minimalism; and contemplative passages, akin to Morton Feldman, in which musical objects are carefully placed in 'static fields'. Above all there is a brisk intelligence behind the music, unsentimental certainly, but never arid.
Bernard Hughes, Tempo magazine
First and foremost, Cashian’s work is musicianly, written without need of grand accompanying statements for musicians, at whatever level, to play. It is also, as players and listeners will discover, the emanation of a vivid imagination possessed of a narrative strength that can sweep the listener along on journeys to unanticipated destinations.
Matthew Greenall, Music Teacher magazine
Click here to watch Matthew Farthing perform Tag on BBC4
Click here to visit Philip Cashian at NMC