Obituary: Daniel Jones

Daniel Jenkyn Jones, composer and conductor: born Pembroke 7 December 1912; married 1937 Eunice Bedford (three daughters), 1944 Irene Goodchild (one son, one daughter); died Swansea 23 April 1993.

WHEN listening to Daniel Jones speaking one was often reminded of the pleasantly rhetorical Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (himself the son of a distinguished Welsh composer) - the distinctive sound of Mumbles, a seaside suburb of Swansea where the composer lived, writes Geraint Lewis.

The so-called 'Anglo-Welsh' somehow inject Welsh fervour into English delivery and often love language in the abstract to a much greater degree than the purely English. Daniel Jones was a noted linguist and during the Second World War was employed as a codebreaker. His undergraduate study was principally of English literature and arguably his finest, most eloquent work is a symphony (the fourth) dedicated to the memory of his closest friend, Dylan Thomas, in 1954.

Jones will be remembered in musical text-books for two main achievements, both essentially linguistic in a musical sense. In the 1930s he invented a rhythmic system he called 'complex metres', a form of metrical interplay which allowed the pattern of a musical phrase to be composed of regular groupings of irregular units in a variety of permutations. Although not aurally iconoclastic or even innovative as compared to the revolutions of Stravinsky of Schoenberg, such an approach was typical of Jones's meticulous attitude to composition. His other great claim to fame was the successful completion of a cycle of 12 symphonies each based on one of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.

The Welsh sense of rhetoric is never far away from Jones's music and his most frequently performed orchestral piece - the popular Dance Fantasy (1976) - is imbued with a stirringly Celtic sense of heraldic display. Yet in many ways he seemed happiest when writing for chamber groups, and particularly the string quartet. Having composed so many in youth and early maturity he eventually gave up numbering them and simply allocated dates to those within the accepted canon. At least eight of these, along with nine or ten of the symphonies can be justifiably considered among the notable British quartets and symphonies of the post-war era. Along with similar works by Edmund Rubbra, Elizabeth Maconchy and others of the same generation, Jones's scores have been neglected. A rehabilitation would not now be surprising or overdue.

Unlike his British contemporaries Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett, or the younger Welsh figures of Alun Hoddinott and William Mathias, Daniel Jones did not easily achieve international recognition. Despite the indubitable cogency and eloquence of his musical language it never quite touched a nerve with Welsh audiences and it didn't readily export either. He was not a musical Dylan Thomas. But his sterling qualities, hidden again to some degree because of his maverick status, will surely be recognised alongside his significance to the development of Welsh music in the 20th century.

His swansong was a symphony - the 13th, though not actually numbered - dedicated to the memory of John Fussell (director of the Swansea Festival) and premiered in Swansea last October. The composer was visibly and touchingly moved by the reception accorded him. He was probably happy however to die virtually with pen in hand while engaged - more or less in the manner of his master Haydn - on a final string quartet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness