Stanley Glasser, composer (1926-2018)


Stanley Glasser (1926-2018)

The death has been announced on 5 August of Professor Stanley Glasser, composer, academic and lately Head of Music and Dean of School of Humanities at Goldsmiths’ College. He was 92. Born in Johannesburg, Glasser was deeply influenced by the South African culture and this was wonderfully reflected in his folio of compositions.

Many former students across the globe will have fond memories of this charismatic, larger-than-life, dedicated and go-ahead figure whose life story is far more significant than can be recorded here.  As a former student, Stanley brought me up under the mantra “Goldsmiths breeds Heads of Department” and always encouraged us to test ourselves, to follow our star and not to be afraid of trying something new. At the end of my second year, SG invited me to accept a post in the Music Department with the brief to set up a Resources Centre once I had finished my Finals the following year - no respite here, just straight in. It became (unwittingly) a departmental nerve centre, administering everything from full-time and part-time degrees, the specialist teaching course, visiting lectures, University exams and viva voce, concerts, recitals – and, during the long vacation, to hosting hordes of American high school students at short music courses!  Music Week at the beginning of each new academic year set the tone for the months to come. This was a series of concentrated rehearsals for a major concert at the end of the week, surrounded by lectures, recitals and much socialising - especially to make new students feel at home from the start.  SG (as he was known) allowed me to take the final concert and present it off-campus to a public audience in Greenwich’s Royal Naval Chapel, when it was still an active Naval College. The fine baroque church was perfect, we received a very warm welcome, it helped to raise Goldsmiths’ profile and encouraged the students to raise their performing game from the beginning of their College life. For smaller-scale concerts we performed at the Ascension Church in Blackheath and on one famous occasion by candle-light because the electrics had failed!

Glasser had vision and he believed that all students should be fully acquainted with contemporary music, so this formed the bed-rock of the teaching.  As a composer himself, he encouraged many to write, have their music performed and several lecturers among the staff during his tenure were themselves distinguished composers – Jeremy Dale Roberts and Anthony Milner among them. In fact the whole teaching staff was, and remains so today, a Who’s Who of experts - including  under Glasser, John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew, Keith Potter, Paul Steinitz, Frank Dobbins, Ian Bartlett, Michael Musgrave and Margaret Bent among them. All were given Research Days and all encouraged to further their own field of study. His vision extended to setting up the first ever Electronic Music Studio at an academic institution, one that now bears his name – the Professor Stanley Glasser Electronic Music Studio. I could go on; the rosta of his achievements at Goldsmiths, to which others will contribute in the coming weeks I am sure, has been central in helping to shape the Goldsmiths Music Department of today going forward.

There was another aspect of College life to which Stanley Glasser was single-mindedly devoted, at the expense of perhaps of prized composing time. He was determined to do everything he could to secure School status for Goldsmiths that would enable the College to offer its own degrees and expand in all sorts of complementary directions. Times in Higher Education and the needs of the students were changing significantly. He used his tenure as Dean of the School of Humanities to further the work with the Warden and Fellow Deans and saw the task through to a successful conclusion with these colleagues before his retirement.

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