Philip Thomas (b.1972, North Devon) specialises in performing new and experimental music, including both notated and improvised music.
He is particularly drawn to the experimental music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff, and composers who broadly work within a post-Cageian aesthetic. In recent years he has been particularly associated with the music of Christian Wolff, giving the world premiere of his Sailing By in 2014 and Small Preludes in 2009, the UK premiere of Long Piano (Peace March 11), having co-edited and contributed to the first major study of Wolff’s music, Changing the System: the Music of Christian Wolff, in 2010, and currently recording all of Wolff’s solo piano music for sub rosa. He is an experienced performer of John Cage’s music, having performed the Concert for piano and orchestra with both Apartment House and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as well as most of the solo piano and prepared piano music, including a unique 12-hour performance of Electronic Music for piano
He has commissioned new works from a number of British composers whose ideas, language and aesthetic have been informed in some ways by the aforementioned American composers, such as Stephen Chase, Laurence Crane, Richard Emsley, Michael Finnissy, Christopher Fox, Bryn Harrison, John Lely, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, and James Saunders.
After significant encounters with the music of AMM and Sheffield-based musicians Martin Archer, Mick Beck and John Jasnoch, Philip has worked with improvisers in a variety of contexts and in 2005 devised a programme of composed music by musicians more normally known as improvisers as well as others who have been influenced by improvisation in some form. This led to his first CD release, Comprovisation, which featured newly commissioned works by Mick Beck, Chris Burn and Simon H Fell. Since then he has released many more CDs, including music by Martin Arnold, John Cage, Laurence Crane, Christopher Fox, Jürg Frey, Bryn Harrison, Tim Parkinson, Michael Pisaro, James Saunders, Linda Smith, Christian Wolff, as well as with improvisers Chris Burn and Simon H Fell.
Philip is a regular pianist with leading experimental music group Apartment House, with whom he has performed in festivals across the UK and Europe. In recent years he has performed and recorded with Quatuor Bozzini, Ensemble Grizzana, and pianist Mark Knoop. He has also performed with pianists Catherine Laws, Ian Pace and John Tilbury, as a trio with flutist Richard Craig and percussionist Damien Harron, and with composer James Saunders (electronics). He performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company during their farewell tour in 2010-11.
In 1998 Philip was awarded a PhD from Sheffield University in the performance practice of contemporary piano music. Between 2000 and 2005, he was Head of the Sheffield Music School whilst pursuing an active performing and teaching career. He joined the staff team at the University of Huddersfield in 2005, and became Professor of Performance in 2015. Philip is one of the Directors of CeReNeM, the University’s Centre for Research in New Music. In 2016 he was awarded an AHRC grant to fund research about John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra, details of which can be found here. He lives in Sheffield, where he premieres the majority of his programmes, with his wife Tiffany and children Naomi and Jack.