Bright Futures, Dark Pasts: Michael Finnissy at 70

19th and 20th January 2017.

Department of Music, College Building, City, University of London, London EC1V 4PB


The Music Department of City, University of London presents a two-day conference devoted to the work of composer Michael Finnissy, to celebrate his 70th birthday year, including a performance of his five-and-a-half hour magnum opusThe History of Photography in Sound (1995-2002) – the first complete performance in London for over 15 years and the culmination of Ian Pace’s eleven-concert series of Finnissy’s complete piano works.


Two further concerts will feature Finnissy’s complete works for two pianos or four hands, played by the composer, Ian Pace, and City Alumnus Ben Smith, and a diverse cross-section of Finnissy’s oeuvre, performed by Nancy Ruffer (alto flute), Christopher Redgate (oboe), the composer and City University Experimental Ensemble, among others.


Papers will consider Finnissy’s work in the context of issues of marginality, sexuality, cinema, folklore, other composers, and performance. Keynote speakers will be Roddy Hawkins (University of Manchester), Gregory Woods (Nottingham Trent University, author of Homintern) and Ian Pace (City, University of London). The composer will be present for the whole event, and will perform and be interviewed by Christopher Fox (Brunel University) on his work and the History in particular.


The composer and artist (and one-time student of Finnissy) Patrícia Suçena de Almeida has created a special photographic exhibit to accompany the event, inspired by The History of Photography in Sound. This will take the form of both a slideshow screened continuously in the building during the event, and a small book of photographs which will be available at the conference.


Registration fee is £42 for the whole event, £25 for each day separately, and other rates for those just attending the concerts. Bookings can be made at



Thursday January 19th, 2017

09:30-10:00 – Introduction and tribute to Michael Finnissy by Ian Pace.

10:00-12:00 – Papers on Finnissy’s work: Larry Goves (Royal Northern College of Music), Maarten Beirens (Amsterdam University), Lauren Redhead (Canterbury Christ Church University), other speakers to be confirmed.

13:10-14:15 – Concert 1: Michael Finnissy: The Piano Music (10). Michael Finnissy, Ian Pace and Ben Smith play Finnissy’s works for two pianos or four hands.

  • Michael Finnissy, Fem ukarakteristisek marsjer med tre tilføyde trioer(2008-9)
  • Michael Finnissy, Stille Thränen (2009)
  • Michael Finnissy, Zortziko (2009)
  • Michael Finnissy, Duet
  • Michael Finnissy, his voice/was then/here waiting (1996)
  • Michael Finnissy, Eighteenth-Century Novels: Fanny Hill(2006)
  • Michael Finnissy, Wild Flowers (1974)

14:30-15:30 – Keynote: Roddy Hawkins (University of Manchester): ‘Articulating, Dwelling, Travelling: Michael Finnissy and Marginality’.

16:00-17:00 – Keynote: Ian Pace (City, University of London): ‘Michael Finnissy between Jean-Luc Godard and Dennis Potter: appropriation of techniques from cinema and TV’

17:00-18:00 – Roundtable on performing Finnissy.

Participants: Ian Pace, Jonathan Powell, Roger Redgate, Christopher Redgate, Neil Heyde, Nancy Ruffer. Chair: Christopher Fox.

19:00 – Concert 2: City University Experimental Ensemble, Christopher Redgate, Nancy Ruffer, Berince Chitiul, Alexander Benham, and solo performance by Michael Finnissy.

Programme to include:

  • Michael Finnissy, Yso (2007)
  • Michael Finnissy, Runnin’ Wild (1978)
  • Michael Finnissy, Anninnia(1981-82)
  • Michael Finnissy, Ulpirra (1982-83)
  • Michael Finnissy, Pavasiya (1979)
  • Michael Finnissy, Selected Gershwin Arrangements (1975-88)
  • Michael Finnissy, Brahms-Lieder (2015)
  • Michael Finnissy, APRÈS-MIDI DADA (2006)

21:00 Conference Dinner (tbc)


Friday January 20th, 2017

10:00-11:00 – Christopher Fox in conversation with Michael Finnissy onThe History of Photography in Sound.

11:30-12:30 – Keynote: Gregory Woods: ‘My “personal themes”?!: Finnissy’s Seventeen Homosexual Poets and the Material World’

14:00-21:00 – Concert 3: Michael Finnissy: The Piano Music (11): The History of Photography in Sound, played by Ian Pace

  • 14:00 – Chapters 1, 2: Le démon de l’analogie; Le réveil de l’intraitable realité
  • 15:15 – Chapters 3, 4: North American Spirituals; My parents’ generation thought War meant something
  • 16:35 -Chapters 5, 6, 7: Alkan-Paganini; Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets; Eadweard Muybridge-Edvard Munch
  • 18:10 – Chapter 8: Kapitalistische Realisme (mit Sizilianische Männerakte und Bachsche Nachdichtungen)
  • 19:35 – Chapters 9, 10, 11: Wachtend op de volgende uitbarsting van repressie en censuur; Unsere Afrikareise; Etched Bright with Sunlight


For those attending the conference, tea and coffee will be available on both days, a sandwich lunch will be provided on the Thursday, and a glass of wine will be provided during the concert on Friday evening.