Professor Darren Sproston

Head of Performing Arts and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Media

Darren Sproston is a composer, musicologist and educationalist whose musical interests range from Mauchaut to mashup, Josquin to jazz and Elektra to electronica. He is Head of the Department of Performing Arts and across his career has been lucky enough to collaborate with performers, dancers, choreographers, playwrights and directors.

Qualifications

2005 - Accredited as Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

1993 - University of Sheffield: PhD in original composition

1991 - University of Sheffield: Master of Music with distinction

1990 - University of Sheffield: Bachelor of Music: First Class Honours

Overview

Darren Sproston was born in Stafford and while studying at the University of Sheffield was awarded the Phillip John Lord Composition Prize, and the Mrs Stewart Blake Dissertation Prize. He continued his studies under Professor David Harold Cox and obtained his Master of Music degree in composition and musicology. This was funded by a British Academy Postgraduate Scholarship. A second scholarship was given in order for further study, resulting in Darren becoming the first composer to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in original composition from the University of Sheffield.

Darren's first full-time post was at the University of Bradford where he was the Fellow in Music. He returned to the Midlands as Head of Music at Rowley Regis College, and following this he was appointed as Principal Lecturer and Head of Music at the University of Wolverhampton. At Leeds College of Music he held the position of Head of Research, Postgraduate Studies and Classical Music for three years before moving to the University of Chester where he is Head of Performing Arts and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Media.

Darren has been integral to the development of a range of music curricular since starting teaching in Higher Education in 1990, including Classical undergraduate courses and postgraduate composition, performance and musicigological programmes. He has shown particular interest over the last decade in the development of Popular Music in HE, and has led the validation of Popular Music (or Pop-related) undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Wolverhampton University and Leeds College of Music; external examined at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, London College of Music, Open University, Canterbury Christ Church University and the British Academy of New Music; and acted as external panel member for the validation of courses at: Royal Northern College of Music; Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama; Colchester Institute; South East Essex College; and West Suffolk College.

Teaching

Throughout his career Darren has taught across a wide range of areas at all levels. His undergraduate teaching includes composition/songwriting, twentieth century musicology (European and American), performance, music and the moving image, music technology, music and multimedia, popular music theory and popular music analysis. He has supervised dissertations across a range of areas including John Cage, Philip Glass operas, Steve Reich, film music, Joe Satriani, Dream Theatre and twentieth century performance practice. At postgraduate level he has taught composition (classical, jazz and studio composition), twentieth century analytical techniques, supervised dissertations across classical and popular music. He has supervised three postgraduate research students through to successful completion in original composition.

Research

Darren's research is both practice-based and ‘traditional’. He is a composer and musicologist and has been able to sustain practice in both of these disciplines alongside roles which have been predominantly management orientated. As a composer he has received performances in a variety of venues ranging from Firth Hall in Sheffield to the Moscow State Theatre. A number of ensembles (including the English Serenata, Serenata Winds and Northern Saxophone Quartet) and soloists (such as Richard Ingham, Alan Cuckston and Rhodri Davies) have performed his music. He has composed in numerous genres including orchestral, chamber, vocal, electro-acoustic and solo instrument with fixed media.

Darren's principal areas of musicological research have been into the serial techniques of Stravinsky (analysing all of the post 1951 serial compositions) and Roberto Gerhard (his four symphonies and Concerto for Orchestra), and he has presented papers both nationally and internationally in these areas. He has recently written a Chapter on Gerhard's symphonies which is to be published as part of The Roberto Gerhard Companion (Ashgate). Further research interests include analytical methodologies for Popular Music, Minimalism and Film Music.

Published work

Articles:

 

  • Serial Structures in Roberto Gerhard’s First and Second Symphonies published in Tempo no. 248, April 2009, pp.21-34.
  • Thematicism in Roberto Gerhard's Concerto for Orchestra published in Tempo no. 184, March 1993, pp.18-22.

 

Papers:

  • 2012 Broken Structures in Roberto Gerhard's Metamorphoses, paper presented at the Second International Roberto Gerhard Conference in Barcelona, April 2012.
  • 2010 Serial Metamorphoses in the Music of Roberto Gerhard at the First International Roberto Gerhard Conference, University of Huddersfield.
  • 2005 Serial Structures in Roberto Gerhard’s Second Symphony as part of the Wolverhampton University Research Seminar Series.
  • 2003 Sportively Spanish or Seriously Serial? An introduction to the Music of Roberto Gerhard as part of the Wolverhampton University Research Seminar Series.
  • 2001 Pre-concert talk at University of Wolverhampton as a prelude to the première performance of Invention in Momentum by the English Serenata.
  • 1996 Conference Paper on David Harold Cox’s Song of the Paving Stones at University College Cork, Ireland as part of the Cork International Choral Festival seminars on contemporary choral music.
  • 1995 Roberto Gerhard’s Symphonies and Concerto for Orchestra, presented at University College Cork as part of the Music Department’s Research Seminar Series.

 

Performances of Compositions:

 

  • H2angO for fixed media (quadraphonic). First performed at The Venue, Leeds College of Music April 2010.
  • Seven for fixed media (quadraphonic). First performed at The Venue, Leeds College of Music commissioned as part of FuseLeeds, May 2009.
  • After Syrinx for fixed media (stereo). First performed at The Venue, Leeds College of Music, diffused into 5.1 surround sound by Nick Bentley, September 2007.
  • Opaline for fixed media (stereo). First performed at The Venue, Leeds College of Music, diffused into 5.1 surround sound by Dr Dale Perkins, March 2007.
  • On the Edge for marimba and string trio. First performed by Debbie Childs (marimba), Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, March 2006.
  • The Persistence of Memory for drum kit and tape. First performed by John Evans, University of Wolverhampton, June 2005.
  • All that Jag… for recorder, clarinet and piano. First performed by JAG, University of Wolverhampton, January 2005.
  • Spiriti Spenti for violin and harp. First performed by Rhodri and Angharad Davies at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, 2004.
  • Invention In Momentum for woodwind quartet. First performed by the English Serenata at Wolverhampton University Theatre, June 2001. Also performed by Serenata Winds at the Arena Theatre Wolverhampton, October 2006. Short-listed for performance by the Society for the Promotion of New Music, 1999.
  • The Night Will Never Stay for choir (SATB). First Performed by Lancaster University Chamber Choir at Lancaster University, September 2000.
  • Canon For Lord Paul for organ commissioned by the University of Wolverhampton for the installation of the new Chancellor. First performed at St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton, May 2000.
  • Duel for oboe and tape. Commissioned by the University of Bradford for its ‘Science Week’ celebrations. First performed at Gallery II, Bradford, June 1996.
  • Octarine II for soprano saxophone and piano. First performed at the Alhambra Studio Theatre, Bradford, March 1996 by Richard Ingham and Alan Cuckston.
  • On The Edge of a Dream for flute/alto flute, viola, 'cello and harp. Short-listed for performance by the Society for the Promotion of New Music, 1995.
  • Sonatina for trumpet and piano. First performed at the Alhambra Studio Theatre, Bradford, October 1995.
  • Everyman incidental music for the medieval mystery play. First performed at the Theatre-in-the-Mill, Bradford, March 1995.
  • Murder! Murder? Electronic (tape) incidental music for Stuart Blackburn's play. First performed at the Theatre-in-the-Mill, Bradford, March 1994 followed by a series of performances at the Moscow State Theatre of Nations, April 1994.
  • Labyrinth for saxophone quartet. First performed at the Alhambra Studio Theatre, November 1994 by the Northern Saxophone Quartet.
  • Sonata for oboe/cor anglais and piano. First performed at the Alhambra Studio Theatre, November 1994.
  • La Métamorphose de Narcisse (In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen) for two pianos. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, December 1993.
  • Apocalypse for orchestra. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, February 1993.
  • Two pieces for string quartet. First performed at Sheffield University Music Department, January 1993 by Opus 20 String Quartet.
  • Pan 86 259 for eight flutes. First performed at Sheffield University Drama Studio, Sheffield, November 1993.
  • Gloria for choir and organ. Commissioned by the Parish of St John the Baptist, Stafford. First performed by Cantemus Chamber Choir at St John the Baptist Church, Stafford, June 1992.
  • Nocturnefor percussion ensemble. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, June 1991.
  • Three Quadrilaterals for organ. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, June 1991.
  • Zephyr for flute octet. First performed at Rotherham Arts Centre, March 1990.
  • Reflected Images for flute and piano. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, November 1990.
  • Prelude, Incantation and Dance for oboe and piano. First performed at Firth Hall, Sheffield, June 1989.
Samples of the music and scores can be listened to and viewed at www.darrensproston.co.uk