Derek Strahan - Mini-Biog

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Born May 28 1935, Derek Strahan's early childhood was spent in colonial Malaya until the age of five when he, his mother and sister were evacuated to Perth, Western Australia, just before Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942. (Strahan's memories of his "Perth years" motivated his later return to Australia). From 1946 he was based in Northern Ireland receiving education at Campbell College, Belfast and later at Cambridge University from which he graduated in 1956 (BA Cantab. Mod. Lang.) From 1962 he juggled commissions to write film scores with work as, variously, actor, teacher, film director and scriptwriter. During this period he also began writing concert works including a Wind Octet which was performed at the 1964 Auckland Festival. His film music has been heard internationally on over 30 Australian Film & TV documentaries and 3 feature films. Material from these sources is available on CD. Since 1980 he has increased the output of works for concert performance. These now number 15 chamber, 3 solo instrumental, 2 vocal and 2 symphonic works. Recordings of his works are frequently heard on national and fine music radio stations. Strahan does not subscribe to any particular school, style or set of musical dogmas. He is concerned to retain melodic lyricism, and to achieve harmonic liberation through a synthesis of melodic and metric polyphony. Musical material for various opera projects is being developed in smaller scale works (as indicate in CD notes), and work is in progress on libretti which Strahan is writing himself. See CD "Voodoo Fire" for "Atlantis" in which themes for an opera are presented.


Derek Strahan



As published in the journal of the Australian Music Centre

The problem with the use of the term "emotion" is that the term itself is old-fashioned to the point of being useless. It belongs to an era when doctors spoke of "humours" to explain the human condition. I do not believe there is such an event/thing as a pure emotion. There are thoughts, concepts which evoke a visceral reaction. Traumatic personal experience has forced me to conclude that humans constantly, at an unconscious level, exchange thought/emotions between each other often at a distance.

One of the functions of music appears (to me) to be to define and codify such thought/emotion events in a communicable form by the manipulation of sound waves painted on a canvas torn from the fabric of time. The motive to so define and codify is to arrogate to yourself control of forces which commonly in your life control you.

Two conclusions follow: (1) that since "emotion" is always evoked in response to a "thought", therefore an intrinsic quality of "emotional" music is that it will always also evoke thought forms. (2) Provided the compositional impulse is generated by a strongly defined trauma (wound/dream), the following process may (be allowed to) occur: an "idea" is provoked into existence; so in this germ lies the basis of a "composition"; then, paradoxically, the more structured, the more abstract, the more cerebral and the more contrapuntal the development of/from the germ, the more "emotional" will be the resulting work.

The end result of this process is to achieve what all "games" aim at: the enjoyment (through music) of dangerous life experiences in a situational context where there is no danger to life, but where one can experience the danger of being alive without incurring a lethal consequence. Thus defined, music is seen as the most ancient and most seductive form of virtual reality.


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