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Peggy Glanville-Hicks

A Transposed Life

James Murdoch
2003

330 pp.

19 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576470770

hardback $54.00


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Australian-born composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, born in 1912, was trained in England and France, lived and worked in America, spent her declining years in Greece, and died in Sydney in 1990. Known as PG-H from her New York Herald Tribune byline, she was a distinguished journalist and passionate advocate of modern music during her long and influential career. Her own compositions include solo concertos, chamber music, four operas, and five ballets.

Her life was an extraordinary story of riotous fun, cruel lovers, grueling poverty, earnest endeavor, and huge success, peopled by some of the leading performers, writers, and creative artists of her time. She was at the center of the maverick group of composers, Cowell, Cage, Harrison, McPhee, and Thomson. As this entertaining and highly informative biography shows us, her love life was disastrous, but her friendships were exalted.

Her music followed what were then new paths, since pursued by others. Like many composers, she appropriated indigenous music at times and used it in a highly personal way. Never interested in postcard music, she was able to look past the exotica to see melody as a structural device, to shake off the tyranny of harmony in western music, and to promote the motor of rhythm which, to her, had become lost in the complexities of 20th-century composition.

James Murdoch, author of several authoritative books on Australian composers and music, and founding director of the Australia Music Centre, was appointed PG-H's official biographer by the composer herself. This volume, spanning the artistically energetic 50s and 60s, is a gesture of both affection and respect for a significant figure too often overlooked by both music historians and feminists.

James Murdoch: