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About Michael Stimpson
Michael Stimpson did not turn to composition until a relatively late age compared to most others, and, in a way, with more determination. Although he left university with a degree in botany and zoology, he decided to make his career in music, embarking on guitar studies, concertizing, and teaching. Just before turning 30, Stimpson contracted Guillain-Barrè syndrome, which left him nearly blind, and a prolonged period of physiotherapy made it possible for him play music again, although not at the level he hoped. For more than a decade after, he wrote articles and books and taught, and only dabbled in composing. He was in his mid-forties when he studied it in earnest at the University of Southampton. By this time, the mid-1990s, computer-aided tools for composition had developed to a point where Stimpson could use them, albeit having to sit extremely close to the screen to compensate for his visual impairment. The Sonata for Piano Trio was his first major work, and in the following years, Stimpson wrote other chamber music, solo pieces (for guitar, piano, and harp), and choral and orchestral works. He often finds inspiration in historical figures or current events or poets. Clouds of War, for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II; a cycle of varied pieces, Age of Wonders, honored the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. The opera Jesse Owens chronicles the athlete's life and Olympic experiences. The song cycle Dylan, for baritone and harp, intersperses a poem of Dylan Thomas with Stimpson's settings of other Thomas poems. Stimpson's music has been performed by several prominent British musicians, and by others beyond. The final part of Age of Wonders, Transmutations, was commissioned by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra of Australia. The Allegri Quartet's Journeyman (2008) featured Stimpson's music, and in 2016 Stone Records released recordings of both Dylan and excerpts from Jesse Owens.