My Ph.D thesis (Queen's University, Belfast, 1992) was a study of the early vocal works of the American composer, instrument builder and music theorist Harry Partch (1901-74). It is an analysis and a manuscript study of his earliest mature work, the Seventeen Lyrics by Li Po, for voice and Adapted Viola. I have subsequently made a performing edition of these songs, based on Partch's manuscripts. I then wrote a full-length biography that explores Partch's complex personality and his nomadic life. The resulting book, Harry Partch: a biography, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for works of excellence on American music in 1999. I co-curated and wrote liner notes for The Harry Partch Collection, four CD releases of archival recordings of Partch's music, released on the CRI label in New York in 1997 and which are now available on New World Records. I worked with the Amsterdam-based viola player Elisabeth Smalt in commissioning and building a copy of Partch's Adapted Viola to enable authentic performance of his music, and curated a series of Partch concerts in the Netherlands in 2002. We continue to perform this music with my ensemble Trio Scordatura.
More recently I edited the collected writings of composer Ben Johnston (Maximum Clarity and Other Writings on Music, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), a fascinating body of material by the one composer who can legitimately claim to have been a student of Partch. The texts in this book discuss tuning theory in detail, as well as Johnston's provocative views on the role and responsibility of a contemporary composer in the late twentieth century. This book, like my earlier study of Partch, also won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for works of excellence on American music, in 2007; I am one of relatively few musicologists to have received the award twice.
Working on Partch led to a fascination with a great many other composers who have explored the use of alternative tuning systems in their music. I have written articles on, among others, James Tenney (in Perspectives of New Music and Contemporary Music Review), Frank Denyer (in The Musical Times and elsewhere), and in recent years have worked a lot (both as scholar and performer) with Phill Niblock, on whom I have begun a book for the University of Illinois Press.
My other main current research project is a biography of the French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier (1948-83). The book has been supported by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy, and is nearly complete. (I recently published an analysis of Vivier's best-known work, Lonely Child, in the journal Tempo, and an extract from the biography — on his relationship with his teacher, Karlheinz Stockhausen — in the Montreal journal Circuit.) I also worked extensively with the late Horatiu Radulescu, the great Romanian-French pioneer of spectral techniques, and have published articles and written CD liner notes on his music; I hope to gather this material into a book in the not-too-distant future. Another strong interest of mine is the new music scene in Ireland, and between 2005 and 2008 I contributed articles on young Irish composers to the Journal of Music in Ireland, now the Journal of Music.
I also have written numerous liner notes for CDs of music by living composers, many of them younger than myself. Although CD liner notes are not peer-reviewed as intensively as a journal articles, several of these are substantial essays embodying much original research, and I consider them a significant part of my professional output as a musicologist. I have written texts for recent portrait CDs by, among others, Peter Adriaansz, Ed Bennett, Donnacha Dennehy, Frank Denyer, Philip Glass, Ben Johnston, Anne La Berge, Phill Niblock, Harry Partch, Larry Polansky, Horatiu Radulescu, James Tenney and Yannis Kyriakides.
Many of my research interests reappear in different form in my work as a performer, particularly with the Amsterdam-based Trio Scordatura, which I founded in 2006. Much of the music mentioned above (generally "microtonal" and/or "spectral") is the core of our repertory. We have worked extensively with composers Phill Niblock, Peter Adriaansz, Christopher Fox, Marc Sabat, and others. This music raises fascinating issues of notation and performance practice, especially with regard to intonation. For me it provides, among other things, an opportunity to experience in practice the issues that the musicologist in me theorizes about.