Charlie Barber (b. 1949) has worked in a wide variety of musical genres: orchestral and chamber works, film, video, music-theatre and dance.
Charlie Barber was born in Bradford and spent much of his early life in Glasgow where he started piano lessons, before moving to South Wales in his early teens. In 1966, whilst still at school in Newport, he studied composition with David Wynne. After leaving school, he briefly attended art college in order to study theatre design before deciding on a career in music.
He started out playing piano in several rock bands (including Chuck Berry’s UK tour in 1973) and composed music for a number of plays, including Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, Frank V (1976) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Red Light Theatre’s Blood of Orpheus (1977), Later on he wrote music for several productions with Moving Being, including In Düsseldorf and Nebraska (1988), The Duchess of Malfi (1990) and the Darwin Project (1992).
In 1978 he formed the New Arts Consort, an ensemble specialising in contemporary music and multimedia, and began to study Japanese theatre music, Balinese gamelan and African drumming techniques.
The ensemble gave several world premieres, including Punishment by Roses (1981) and Sex and Death at Covent Garden (1986), a large scale orchestral, installation and promenade event which took place in the National Museum of Wales.
In 1988 he formed a 12-piece Band whose repertoire covered an eclectic assortment of musical styles – from Guillaume de Machaut to John Cage and The Velvet Underground to Chick Corea, as well as non-Western music. The Band gave the world premieres of over twenty new works including David Lang, Django Bates, Graham Fitkin, Orlando Gough, Tunde Jegede, Patrick Nunn, Andrew Poppy, Robert Moran, Chris Batchelor, John Hardy, Michael Parkin and Barnaby Oliver. They performed extensively around the UK and give regular performances at the Southbank Centre in London. In May 1999, they were invited to take part in Voices of a Nation, the gala concert in Cardiff Bay to celebrate the inauguration of the Welsh Assembly.
He has collaborated on several projects with film and video makers and has written music for choreographers Tamara McLorg, Andy Howitt and several dance companies. His film projects include music for E A Dupont’s silent classic Moulin Rouge (2004); Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet (2006), a surrealist classic of early cinema; Salomé (2009), the 1923 film starring Nazimova; and a new score for Jean Epstein’s 1928 film The Fall of the House of Usher.
Other works for Sound Affairs include BreakBeats (2005) for piano, percussion, DJ and breakdancers; LUDWIG (2006) a tribute to Beethoven; Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2009) for string quartet; Michelangelo Drawing Blood (2013) a chamber opera; The Tempest (2016) for countertenor, period instruments and video, and Radio Amore (2018) a live mix of British and Italian music for oboe and string quintet.
Orchestral works include: Shut Up and Dance (1994) for BBC NOW, a BBC Radio 3 commission; The Transport of Time for BBC NOW, commissioned by Newport CBC for the 2000 Millennial celebrations; and Scarlatti Remix (2015) and LUDWIG (2017) both for the Welsh Sinfonia.
His works have been performed at Settembre Musica, Turin; Festival Internacional de Música, Portugal; Brno International Music Festival; Marató de l’Espactacle, Barcelona; Hong Kong Arts Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Cheltenham International Music Festival, Three Choirs Festival, O-Modernt Festival in Sweden and concert halls in Prague, Amsterdam and Budapest.