Philip Thomas


Tony Conrad – Writings

Walter Zimmerman – Desert Plants

Listening to:

Tim Parkinson, Angharad Davies, Michael Pisaro and many others on Quarantine Concerts

Mark Knoop’s daily Scarlatti performances

Aisha Orazbayeva


Spending time with my teenage son has been good. On an almost daily basis we’ve played a game of chess (I’m getting better) and watched an episode of the 1990s Alaska-set comedy Northern Exposure.

Working on and thinking about:

I’m fortunate to be employed and that’s still very much the case through lockdown, so am actually very busy, mainly marking currently. And it’s been heartening to see how students have adapted to the situation and submitted some really creative and thoughtful framings of performances. So that’s been surprisingly positive actually. Less positive is zoom fatigue, and how tiring it can be going from one remote meeting to another.

Creatively I’ve set myself a little challenge of learning and filming one piece a day from Christian Wolff’s ‘Keyboard Miscellany’. I’ve played a few in the past, but mostly these are new to me and it’s proven to be a fascinating and rewarding project for me. At the time of writing I’ve nearly done, with only 5 pieces left, having recorded 55 over 60 days (5 days off during a brief illness) though Christian’s just sent me 2 new ones, and I suspect a few older ones may turn up over coming weeks. They’re like little gifts, or postcards he’s composed for people, most of them taking letters from the names of the dedicated as the basis for the musical material. You can find the whole set here 

I’ll be done with these soon, so not sure what next. Will work on some other pieces by Christian for my next sub Rosa recordings. And maybe I’ll use this time to make a start learning Cage’s Etudes Australes, pieces that I’ve always wanted to learn but never got round to it.

The amount of new releases out there, both aural and visual, streaming, digital releases, festival alternatives, plus the Bandcamp first of the month days, is amazing but can be overwhelming too. So I’m going to take my time and steadily enjoy and explore many of these. In particular am looking forward to checking out the new Cafe Oto Takuroku releases 

And I’ve been listening to Radio 3 a lot more than usual. Knowing that there’s someone there, sharing music with us all, is both precious and rather old-fashioned. In particular I’m enjoying hearing Elizabeth Alker, Kate Molleson and Sarah Walker’s programmes.

Philip Thomas plays piano, as a soloist and with experimental music group Apartment House. Recent CD releases include a set of Morton Feldman’s music for solo piano, a set of Christian Wolff’s solo piano music, a double disc of John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra and Wolff’s Resistance with Apartment House, and portrait discs of music by Christopher Fox, Jürg Frey, Bryn Harrison, Cassandra Miller, Tim Parkinson, Michael Pisaro, James Saunders, and Linda Smith. He is currently Professor of Performance at the University of Huddersfield, co-Director of CeReNeM, and publishes widely on issues relating to performance and experimental music.

Philip Thomas