Christopher Redgate

FRAM

Research Programmes - AHRC Creative and Performance Research Fellow

Oboist, researcher and re-inventor of the oboe

Research Statement

Project Title: 21st-Century Oboe: Re-activating interactions between composers, performers and makers

Since the late 1970s, Christopher Redgate has specialised in the performance of contemporary oboe music. He has been described as having ‘extraordinary exploratory technical brilliance’ (Music Web) and of being a ‘tireless champion’ of extended techniques (Double Reed Magazine). This specialisation has inspired many composers to write for him including Michael Finnissy, Roger Redgate, Christopher Fox, James Clarke, Paul Archbold, Michael Young, Fabrice Fitch, Joe Cutler, David Gorton and Diana Burrell. New works are in progress from Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnissy, Edwin Roxburgh, Sam Hayden, Richard Barrett and Fabrice Fitch.

His performing career has taken him all over the world as a soloist, or in ensembles; he has performed in most European countries, Scandinavia, Australia, America, Canada, Mexico and China. He has worked with many ensembles including Ensemble Exposé, Suoraan, Trio Krosta, Kreutzer Quartet, Arditti Quartet, Firebird Ensemble, Music Projects/London, Lontano, Ensemble Modern, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Ixion, Apartment House, Topologies, London Sinfonietta and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio Three and has recorded several solo CDs.

He has been active as a teacher both of oboe and in workshops for composers. From 1986–92 he was professor of oboe at the International New Music Course in Darmstadt. Recent teaching events have included oboe classes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Kingston University. Composition workshops (writing for oboe) have been presented at Kings College London, Huddersfield University, Goldsmith’s College, Kingston University, and Birmingham Conservatoire and in workshops run by the SPNM and the BMIC.

Chris studied at Chethams’ School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. During his time at the Royal Academy of Music he won several prizes. A number of prizes in international competitions marked the beginning of his professional performing career.

The Fellowship:

Many significant composers writing for the oboe during the second half of the 20th century explored a range of ‘extended techniques’ and ‘new sounds’. Towards the end of the century, some of these composers pushed the technical limits of the instrument, exploring boundaries and writing at the very edge of the playable. This was particularly the case with the extended range, microtonal possibilities and multiphonics. Many of these works were written in collaboration with the performers.

During the previous century, such composer/performer collaborations were not uncommon but, in addition, there were frequently performer/instrument-maker collaborations. For the oboe, the latter ceased almost entirely at the end of the century. A core thread running through my research therefore is the re-activation of these collaborations: oboist/composer, oboist/maker and, at one remove, the composer/maker.

The demands made upon performers at the end of the 20th century, especially through their use of ‘extended techniques’ and ‘new sounds’, highlighted many inadequacies in the design of the keywork of the instrument. Central to my research, in response to these compositions, is the redesign of aspects of the keywork in order to meet these demands. The demands made upon the instrument, however, also point beyond simply responding to current needs and, as part of the research; I am exploring possibilities for the future.

This research is in collaboration with the instrument maker Howarth of London, and a prototype oboe will be built as a result of the research. Feeding into this research is a range of collaborations with composers who are writing works for the prototype. In addition, I am exploring a number of aspects of instrumental technique, including high range production and technical problems that are related to current methods of multiphonic, high range and microtonal fingerings.

Research into notation has lagged behind other areas of work on multiphonics, the current systems being inadequate to notate complex multiphonic passages in an easily readable form. An easily readable system could also be applied to other areas where complex fingerings need to be notated. As a part of my research I have been working to develop such a more user-friendly system.
Many of the ‘extended techniques’ and ‘new sounds’ have found only limited acceptance in the oboe world and, because they tend to be identified with the avant-garde, are used infrequently in other styles of music. I intend to address some of these issues as part of the fellowship.

At the time of writing, September 2010, I am starting the second year of this three-year fellowship. To date, five new works have been written and performed (four recorded). I have devised a new notation system for multiphonics, developed a range of fingerings for the altissimo range of the oboe, developed fingerings for third-tone scales and tested a number of new or altered keys for the oboe. A number of very exciting areas will converge during the following year including the production of the first prototype instrument!

Recordings

Electrifying Oboe, (Double CD) (December 2010), Metier. (Music by Roger Redgate, David Gorton, Christopher Fox, Michael Young, Matt Wright, Edwin Roxburgh).

Articles

Developing the Altissimo Range of the Oboe, Double Reed News (Winter 2010) and The Double Reed (Journal of the International Double Reed Society) (Winter 2010)

Recent Recordings

Greatest Hits of All Time. 2009, Christopher Redgate, Kreutzer Quartet, Ensemble Exposé. Metier. Edwin Roxburgh: Oboe Music. 2008, Christopher Redgate, Stephen Robbings Ensemble Exposé, Metier.
Ferneyhough Chamber Music (Allgebrah and Coloratura). 2008, Christopher Redgate, Ensemble Exposé and Ian Pace, Metier. Oboe Plus: Berio and Beyond. 2006, Christopher Redgate, Julian Warburton,  Oboe Classics.

Recent Video

Fluxions (DVD and web resource: Optic Nerve) October 2010.

Archbold’s Fluxions, articles and video discussion.

Multiphonics and the Oboe, 2009 PRIMO website

Recent Articles

‘Reinventing the Oboe’, Contemporary Music Review, 2007.

‘A discussion of practices used in learning complex music with specific reference to Roger Redgate’s Ausgangspunkte’, Contemporary Music Review, 2007.

‘Performing Sequenza VII’, Contemporary Music Review 2007. A series of articles for The Double Reed.

Website

www.christopherredgate.co.uk

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