A.A.OWEN and BLUE QUEEN
The key to understanding Albert Alan Owen’s music can be found in how he describes himself: “I am a composer and recording artist”. He creates Sonic Sculptures. Uniquely – his music is deliberately conceived, created and structured so that performers from other artistic disciplines can, in turn, create their own work, using his music as their starting point.
Blue Queen is such a work. It can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. It could be a ballet/dance work; a film or TV show. It can be listened to all the way through, with the listener conjuring up their own particular interpretation of the narrative or as individual tracks or combinations of tracks ordered to create a different story or set of images.
Whether you are a choreographer, script writer or individual listener this remarkable work allows you, indeed requires you, to be your own interpreter, your own story teller.
Whether Blue Queen is a Cinderella or Alice type character, whether this is the story of a real person, or a tale of the afterlife, is for each individual to decide. Is the man an Osiris or a Lothario or Svengali? What is their relationship? Is she a creation of his imagination, or he a creation of hers?
The juxtaposition of the beautiful and evocative poetry of Douglas Houston and Geoffrey Godbert, as ordered by A.A.Owen, does indeed tell a story – there is a narrative line that can be followed. Where it leads and what it all means is up to you……….
ABOUT THE MUSIC
For those who like to pigeon - hole composers and place them in pre-defined genres, A.A.Owen’s music presents quite a challenge. Although his background as a student of classical music at the Royal Academy of Music and long time pupil of that most legendary of all classical teachers, Nadia Boulanger, would lead one to suppose that his music would fall neatly into the Contemporary Classical category, you would be surprised to hear that his music, save for its rigor, has almost nothing in common with his contemporaries. His use of electronic instruments might suggest New Age or Jazz or Electronic Rock, but again this would be misleading. You might make the assumption that his music was an amalgam, a synthesis, of all these genres, but this would also be wrong.
Put simply, his music is what he hears, and always has heard, in his heart and in his head. It is the timbres, harmonies, melodies and rhythms of our time. It is everything he has heard and experienced. As a boy and young man growing up in Africa, the music of Africa, Pop and Rock, Classical, his father’s Jazz piano were all one to him – Debussy, The Zombies, Kwella, Township Music, Blues, R&B were all a natural part of how he heard, felt and thought. And so it remains today – all the elements that make up his musical personality are indivisible.
As a highly trained, rigorous artist he has developed his technique to such a degree that all that he is, can be heard in all that he writes.
The great composer Edgar Varese once said “I dream of instruments obedient to my thoughts and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm”.
A few short years after his death, they were in the shops and Albert Alan Owen was the first in the queue. The first person in Britain to purchase the ARP Odyssey Synthesizer, he has remained at the cutting edge of music ever since. Just as Beethoven craved ever better pianos, so Owen has eagerly awaited and then used every new manifestation of electronic instruments and recording technology.
From the early days “on the road” with his group, a group that incidentally contained two future Grammy winners, to the present highly sophisticated Techno Arts Production Studio, he has increasingly moved away from traditional instruments – and now even voices – to the creation of what you hear today on the Blue Queen CD.
Owen had a Welsh father and a Latvian mother. They met during WW2 and lived for a short time back in Wales where Albert was born. The family moved to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) when he was very young. His father worked in African Education and the young Albert travelled the length and breadth of that extraordinary country with his father, visiting mission stations and absorbing Africa. A.A.Owen became politicized very early and his passionate anti-racist, socialist beliefs took root very early in his life.
He was a prize winning student at the Royal Academy of Music and also spent two years learning with that colossus of 20th Century Music – Nadia Boulanger. His piano teachers were Harold Craxton and, in Paris, the great French pianist Jacques Fevrier.
He taught piano to Junior Exhibitioners at the Royal Academy of Music for 15 years and taught music theory and history at London’s famous Working Men’s College, following in the footsteps of the likes of John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, the Rossettis, Vaughan Williams and latterly Jeremy Seabrook, in providing Working People with a Liberal Education. He rose through the College’s ranks to become its Dean of Studies, working with the then Principal, Lord McIntosh of Harringey, to further develop this extraordinary institution.
A.A.Owen moved back to Wales in 1990. Here he divides his time between teaching, composing and recording.
He is married to Katherine - a violinist. He has three children – Hywel, a nuclear physicist, Cari, a film maker, and Alys, a Russian trained classical ballerina.
In 1985 he wrote the Grand Finale for the Haley’s Comet Royal Gala Concert, held at the Wembley Conference Centre.
In 2002 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, for achieving distinction in the music profession.
His music and many recordings have been heard, used in film and TV productions the world over.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
“A real musician, gifted and inspired” – Nadia Boulanger
“It is a work of modern impressionism: very evocative, always beautifully handled and based upon many subtle variations, of which I think Debussy himself could have approved” – Crescendo
“Cleverly effortless modulations make up a kind of electronic-age tone poem” – Classical Music Magazine
“This original and gifted composer” – Monthly Guide to Recorded Music
“Owen’s music has the emotion that ECM recordings often lack, but none of the intellectual pretention that characterises the German label” – Jazz Journal International