Douglas Young


Born London, June 18, 1947, Douglas Young was a British composer. He won the composition scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London (1966–70) and continued postgraduate studies with Milner and Pousseur. He won the Karl Rankl Prize for orchestral composition in 1970, by which time he was working professionally as a freelance composer. In 1974, he founded the ensemble Dreamtiger.

His early work The Listeners (1967) holds the key to his later development. It interleaves two contrasting poems by Walter de la Mare – one set to magical gamelan sonorities, the other to dynamic music redolent of Stravinsky and Berg. The implicit conflict between East and West was explored further in Canticle (1970), with its sinuous melodies and Messiaen-like rhythmic structure. Throughout the 1970s, Young aimed to absorb and transcend the influence of the postwar avant garde. Increasing interest in non-European culture and popular music (from Irish folk music to rap) progressively transformed his work, and the driving rhythms and pure melodic energy of Slieve League (1979) announced a decisive change. His scores for the Royal Ballet led to a commission from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich for a full-length ballet. The result, Ludwig (1986), with its kaleidoscopic fusion of musical languages, was hailed by the German press as a perfect exemplar of postmodernism, although it was only later that Young became acquainted with the work of writers such as Queneau, Calvino and Kundera who then influenced his artistic outlook. During the 1990s Young concentrated almost exclusively on chamber music. The string quartet Mr Klee Visits the Botanical Gardens (1990–93) is the first in a series of works inspired by Klee and other 20th-century painters (in whose work Young finds a freedom of invention lacking in music). In his collection of piano pieces Herr Schoenberg Plays Ping-Pong (1992–9) Young widened his scope to encompass jazz, popular dance music, film scores and even advertising jingles – transformed into a personal musical universe that has the same sense of fun and daring as Calvino's Cosmicomics.

[Biography from Grove Music Online]