Vic Hoyland

02: History: 1945–1970+

Early tramping ground was The West Riding of Yorkshire: Wombwell, Rotherham, Doncaster, Wentworth Woodhouse (Lady Mabel Smith College), Grammar schools at Wath upon Dearne then Normanton Boys’.

It was a Yorkshire life until my age of 27.

3 major inputs: Wentworth (Roland Cowen and his family. Roland’s father taught painting and fine art at the college. He taught me how to look. Classical music was in the fabric of their house (in the Wentworth stables). They taught me how to listen.

Normanton Grammar drew out this developing interest in music and Joan Dixon’s family of professional musicians provided the rest. I was 15 and Joan was 13.

The leap came when Wilfrid Mellers invited me to join his new department at York, as a postgraduate composer. I had little to no financial resource but I felt duty bound to take up the offer; and Joan applied for the undergraduate course. I lived in a field at Bleak House Farm, Fulford. Roger Marsh has written about those years.

The York department (1968 – 70s) was an international hub of creativity, connected via Bernard Rands (my 2nd tutor) to UE (London and Vienna), The UE Summer School was held at York (Dir. William Colleran – my publisher and agent until his death). PG students came from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Germany and France as well as the whole of the UK. A vast world of new music opened up to me.

Of the classical period, Bach, Beethoven and Schubert stay with me, but it was the moderns - Debussy, Bartok, early Stravinsky, Webern, Messiaen and Birtwistle as he developed - who fired my interest and imagination. Mahler (4th Symphony onward, came later).

Then into York came the Americans (Cage, Feldman, Reich, Riley, Earl Brown) and the Europeans (Boulez, Berio, Maderna) as well as Max Davies and Birtwistle. The Huddersfield Festival of New Music stirred into being with Richard Steinitz. He invited us over to present concerts of our new work. This period was a heady mix of every conceivable and inconceivable kind of music.

It was an explosive, head-banging mix. Where was I to find my own voice in music, in all this array of competing styles and techniques? It took some time, and for a time I fell silent.