Classical: Unforgettable, that's what he is

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The Independent Culture
"HAD HE not died tragically in mid-life, Souster might now be winning greater recognition for his saboteur assaults on the front line separating academic electronic composition and art rock." That's the verdict in The Wire, whose September issue singles out Tim Souster's 1977 LP, Swit Drimz, to join 99 other recordings as "100 records that set the world on fire ... but somehow got forgotten along the way".

Souster died in March 1994, aged just 50. His "musical upbringing" was impeccable: Oxford University; Richard Rodney Bennett; the Cologne studio of Karlheinz Stockhausen; music producer at the BBC. After stints at academic establishments in the USA and Britain, Souster established two performing groups, Intermodulation and 0dB, pioneering in their exploration of "live" electronics. But his wider interest in film, TV and popular culture fed a frustration with the narrowness of Britain's musical establishment. Like his friends Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars, Souster operated outside "the inner circle" although he was never really "an outsider": he received important commissions from the BBC.

The trumpet player, John Wallace, was one of his closest associates for whom he wrote some of his best music. The loyalty and devotion of John Wallace since Souster's death has been remarkable: it has always been Wallace behind the several concerts in Souster's memory.

On Sunday at the Wigmore Hall, John Wallace and the Wallace Collection launched their new CD, Tim Souster - Electric Brass, in a concert of staggering virtuosity. If the Wigmore Hall for a Souster concert seemed dated - memories of the Roundhouse to the fore - some of the electronic sounds seemed dated too, in a fashion suited to the venue. The gamut of Souster's eclectic output was run: Equalisation, a seriously beautiful exploration for brass quintet and live electronics; Heavy Reductions, a reductio ad absurdum for tuba, tuba player's voice and tape of the introduction to Wagner's Das Rheingold; Rabbit Heaven - a homage to Bugs Bunny; and La Marche, a Pythonesque spoof termed "political entertainment" where the Wallace Collection impersonated Stalin, Che Guevara, Hitler, Mao and Mrs Thatcher.

The Transistor Radio of Saint Narcissus is a solo concerto for flugel horn, tape and live electronics. If stylistically uneven, starting as a modernist piece and ending as rock, the mixing of tape and flugel horn is magical, John Wallace's virtuosity amazing. What better friend for a dead composer?

Annette Morreau