'One of the most distinctive composers of the post-second world war generation' The Guardian
Roger Smalley (1943-2015) studied piano (with Anthony Hopkins) and composition (with Peter Racine Fricker and John White) at the Royal College of Music, London, and privately with Alexander Goehr. In 1965, on an Octavia Travelling Scholarship, he studied composition with Stockhausen in Cologne.
As a composer he was undoubtedly one of the most significant personalities of his generation. His works, which have been extensively performed and broadcast, fall into that ever-narrowing category of modern works which are both stylistically up-to-date and readily assimilable by the non-specialist listener. He was awarded a Royal Philharmonic Prize in 1966 for his orchestral work, Gloria Tibi Trinitas. Commissions include The Song of the Highest Tower, for soprano and baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra (City of London Festival, 1968); Pulses for 5x4 players (brass and percussion ) written for the London Sinfonietta and awarded prizes at the International Composers Rostrum and the Paris Biennale, 1969, Beat Music for the 1971 London Proms and Accord for two pianists (Park Lane Group, 1975).
In 1967 he was appointed the first Composer in Residence at King’s College, Cambridge, where he subsequently held a Research Fellowship. In 1974 he went for three months as a Musician in Residence to the University of Western Australia in Perth. In 1976 he returned to Perth to take up a position as a Research Fellow. He was a Lecturer on the staff of the Department of Music there. His lectures and many published articles showed him to be a most perceptive and provocative chronicler of the contemporary music scene.
As a pianist Roger Smalley achieved international recognition as an outstanding interpreter of contemporary piano music; he gained fourth prize at the International Competition for Interpreters of Contemporary Music (Utrecht 1966). He has given the first British performances of five of Stockhausen’s Piano Pieces and numerous other avant-garde piano works. In 1969, together with Tim Souster, he formed Intermodulation, an ensemble specialising in the realisation of contemporary scores, particularly those involving live electronics. This ensemble performed regularly until 1976.
In 1991 Smalley was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 1994 he was awarded the Australia Council's prestigious Don Banks Fellowship in recognition of his distinguished contribution to Australian music. He received the Australian Government Centenary Medal in 2001 and was proclaimed a Western Australian Living Treasure in 2004. In 2011, Smalley was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).