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
Philip Cashian’s music is full of juxtapositions – dizzying yet logical, blended together with artful skill and always teeming with passion: driving Stravinskyan rhythms, then delicate Chopinesque frills and then, maybe, a hard and unsettling funk - it is a music that refuses to be defined, its influences wide-reaching and invocations multifarious. Ultimately though, it is an always recognisable and utterly personal tone. With unnerving simplicity, total technical control and economy of means, Cashian’s music expresses the power and scope of the imagination".
His Chamber Concerto, the opening work on the NMC portrait CD Dark Inventions, is perhaps a good illustration of his many strengths. What is perhaps most striking on a first hearing is a kaleidoscopic variety of texture and colour as the work spins through 17 distinct sections in 16 minutes. What becomes more apparent on repeated listenings is the energy implicit in the melodic lines, the organic, often reiterative development of those lines, a strongly directional sense of harmony and, with that, an original approach to form. The colours too are characteristically Cashian: fundamentally dark, even elgaic, but on ocassion shot through with brighter, more evanescent hues.
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 visit Philip Cashian at NMC
Click here to listen to a movement from The House of Night on YouTube
Click here for a link to publicity photographs of Philip Cashian