Persistence of Sound celebrates the British composer Richard Orton with a selection of electroacoustic and computer music from across his career.
Richard Orton (1940-2013) was a composer, performer and music educator, known for developing early electronic music in the UK, establishing the country's first university-based electronic music studio, writing seminal texts on tape composition, then developing softwares that democratised computer-assisted music.
Orton was born in Derby, and, having studied at Birmingham School of Music and worked as a specialist music teacher in Staffordshire, arrived in York in 1967 as a Cambridge graduate to establish the first university-based electronic music studio and course in the UK. At York, he was responsible for the initial output of the studio (Kiss
), and counted Trevor Wishart
, Denis Smalley, Andrew Bentley, Jonty Harrison, Archer Endrich and Martin Wesley-Smith among early pupils. In the mid 1970s, Orton established a concert series combining electroacoustic music with film, sound poetry, dance and other performance media at York, and, in 1981, published a seminal text on tape composition for secondary school teachers and pupils, Electronic Music for Schools. Over the course of his three decades at York, he was instrumental in advocating for and overseeing the transition from analogue tape music to computer-aided composition.
Orton was at the vanguard of the home-computing democratisation of electronic music in the mid-1980s, authoring software as a co-founder of the Composers Desktop Project in 1986, and introducing Music Technology as a discipline to the University that same year. A founding member of Electroacoustic Music Society of Great Britain (EMAS; later Sonic Arts Network), he contributed to the working party attempting to establish a national studio for electroacoustic music, and served as a founding editor of the music technology journal, Organised Sound in the 1990s.
His compositional and performance strengths were not at all limited to electroacoustic music, and his oeuvre includes works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, voice, piano, strings, woodwind, brass and guitar. Orton was a founding member of both Gentle Fire—the electronic music ensemble including Hugh Davies and Graham Hearn—and the Monteverdi Choir.
Orton remained an active composer and contributor to the CDP following his retirement from the University of York in 1998. His archive is held at the University's Borthwick Institute for Archives.