Not to be confused with his near contemporary and near-homonym Matthew Taylor, the neo-tonal symphonist. As both pianist and composer, Mark R. Taylor was among the first to attempt a juxtaposition, rapprochment and ultimate fusion of the concerns of the ‘maximalist’ avant-garde (e.g. Ferneyhough, Finnissy) with the British ‘experimental music’ tradition (e.g. Skempton, Cardew); the work of Morton Feldman and French ‘musique spectrale’ were also important influences. However the roots of MRT’s aesthetic clearly reach much further back: into Scriabin, for instance, and perhaps most tenaciously into the grimly mystical, ‘Gothic’ Satie of the Messe des Pauvres and Ogives. This is especially clear in MRT’s piano pieces, which consist almost exclusively of systematic exploration of the chromatic field through fluid processes of reiteration and gradual alteration of the constituent pitches in salient chord-shapes. the effect is often of a kind of chorale (cf the 12 petits Chorales of Satie), but one radically opposed to any sense of comfort or closure.
Being his most frequently performed works, the piano pieces may give an unduly restricted impression of this composer’s concerns. The ensemble pieces are naturally imbued with elements of polyphony and heterophony, and almost every work involving a non-keyboard instrument employs microtones. It might be argued that the piano pieces’ searching exhaustion of their own harmonic premises betokens a metaphysical desire for finer and finer gradations than the tempered keyboard will allow: and that the frustration of that desire by brute physical facts is an inherent element of theur expression. In any case their pertinacious homophony does not inevitably rnder their interpretation simple, or technically easy: the metrically rhythmicized exploration of a generative spectrum can engender its own severe virtuosity, as eg in ‘Study’, whose title refers both to Conlon nancarrow’s player-piano studies and to the electronic ‘studies’ of musique concrete.
From the late 1980s Taylor’s growing concern with music’s potential for aesthetic (amd, increasingly, political) critique initiated several multi-media projects, principally in the field of ‘abstract music-theatre’. ‘Victorian Values’ - arraigning Thatcherism through 19th-century newspaper cuttings; ‘Believe in Love’ - on the life and death of the American gay serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer; and ‘Silence’ - after the novel by Shusaku Endo - naturally extend the exploration of alienated states (isolation, obsession, loss) which earlier pieces had pursued in purely musical terms.
(all works for piano unless otherwise indicated):
- Patterns 1 (1973)
- Patterns 2 (6 trumpets or other melody instrument) (1974-6)
- Utter (organ) (1976-8)
- Patterns 3 (1978-80)
- Model-Theoretic (2 pianos, 3 players) (1979-80)
- Xod Konja (guitar) (1982 rev. ‘83)
- ’... estou em Vigo?' (piano and string quartet)
- Variations on ‘Wat Zal Men op den Avond Doen (oboe) (1983)
- 4 Little Piano Pieces (1983-4; No.1 also for trumpet and piano, 1987; No.2 also for clarinet and piano, 1990-91)
- Geological (1985-86)
- Collage (1985-6)
- Sprue (1987)
- Study (1987)
- Untitled (piccolo, violin, guitar, piano) (1985-87)
- Dream Music (large ensemble) (1984-88)
- Final music (1988)
- Appenato (1990)
- Victorian Values, abstract documentary music-theatre (1986- ; whence Piano fragments, 1990; Memorial fragment, 1993; two fragments for violin and piano, 1994)
- Film Music (1994-96)
- Believe in Love, abstract documentary music-theatre (1994- ; whence In hell, 1996, for piano with optional amplification)
- Silence, abstract music-theatre (1994-)
Composer and pianist, a regional finalist of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, 1978. Studied piano with Alexander Kelly at the RAM and privately with Susan Bradshaw. After study at Pembroke College Oxford (Classics & Modern Languages, subsequently Music), studied composition with Howard Skempton (1984-5) and Horatiu Radulescu (1987). Tutor in Music Department of Royal Holloway & Bedford new College (1986-1991) and at Oxford (1987-97) Currently teaches at King’s College, London. Though appearing as a performer at the Almeida and Aldeburgh Festivals, he has tended to concentrate on composition. In recent years he has begun to make visual works.