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James MacMillan

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 28 April 2011

Lou Stein's investigation into the connections between fatherhood and creativity continues with composer James Macmillan's view that the traditional role of fatherhood which values family and life must be re-discovered and celebrated. For Macmillan, marrying and having a family was entirely sympathetic with the demands of his life as an artist.

"Can a musician contribute to this much-needed counter-revolution? Can artists be weaned off their toxic hedonism to provide new ways of imagining our human condition and its flourishing in a universal sense of the good life? I have no idea.

Nevertheless, something strange happened to me and my long-time collaborator, the poet Michael Symmons Roberts when we first became fathers in the 1990s. We were overwhelmed at the new experience. No one warns you that you fall head over heels in love with the new arrivals - these tiny, insignificant little bundles - who can do nothing for themselves, but turn your lives inside out. Maybe mothers know about this, but as usual, fathers, perhaps a bit slow on the uptake, are the last to find out. We noticed that there was not much in our culture which reflected on this, or celebrated parenthood, and fatherhood especially. Neither was there much which rejoiced in the family, or marriage or the fullness of human sexuality, other than the usual stuff from popular culture. We wondered if we could address this vacuum in our own work, some way. It is not the first time that Michael and I have been accused of muscling into territory recently colonized by militant, exclusivist feminism, but you know what? We couldn't care less! The result was Quickening, a large oratorio co-commissioned by the BBC Proms and the Philadelphia Orchestra."

JAMES MACMILLAN (Composer). James became internationally recognised after the performance of his composition Tryst in 1990 which lead to his appointment as Affiliate Composer of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. His prolific output has been performed and broadcast around the world, placing him in the front rank of contemporary composers. James' beautifully reflective works about the Scottish Isles The Road to Ardtalla (1983) and I (A Meditation on Iona) (1996) were toured nationally in 2004 as part of Lou Stein's and Deirdre Gribbin's Venus Blazing Tour, which played to a sell-out crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.



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