Kenneth Gloag, 1960-2017

Tributes paid to expert on 20th-century music who was ‘exhilarating colleague’

May 25, 2017
Kenneth Gloag 1960-2017

An intellectual polymath who made a major contribution to the study of 20th-century British music has died.

Kenneth Gloag was born in Edinburgh on 11 October 1960 and, after leaving school at 16, studied for a two-year diploma at Napier Polytechnic (now Edinburgh Napier University) before going on to a music degree at the University of Surrey (1987-90). He followed this with an MMus at King’s College London (1990-91) and then a PhD on Stravinsky at the University of Exeter (1991-95). Even while still a graduate student, he became a central intellectual figure in a group of academics, composers and performers seeking to forge new musical directions.

Although he taught briefly at Exeter, Napier and Dartington College of Arts, Professor Gloag spent his whole career at Cardiff University, where he was appointed a lecturer in music in 1995 and then rose through the ranks to become senior lecturer (2004), reader (2010) and, finally, professor (2015).

As a leading expert on 20th-century British art music, he produced the first monograph on the composer Nicholas Maw and co-edited major overviews of three better-known figures: Peter Maxwell Davies Studies (2009), The Cambridge Companion to Michael Tippett (2013) and Harrison Birtwistle Studies (2015). More general works include Musicology: The Key Concepts (with David Beard, 2016), which is widely used by graduate students across the world, and Postmodernism in Music (2012).

Yet such titles give little sense of the sheer range of Professor Gloag’s musical and wider intellectual interests. On joining Cardiff, he rapidly introduced the study of rock, pop and jazz into the music syllabus and set up a pioneering interdisciplinary MA in music, culture and politics with colleagues working in philosophy and politics. He had an exceptionally rich knowledge of 20th-century literature and art, not to mention cricket and football, and he had been planning – with Peter Sedgwick, senior lecturer in philosophy at Cardiff – a volume titled On Music and Photography.

Dr Sedgwick, who taught seminars with Professor Gloag over two decades, remembers him as “an exhilarating colleague” with “a tremendous and quite frankly humbling breadth and depth of knowledge. He had unfailing intellectual integrity and always followed his own fiercely independent path, never guided by what was current or advantageous.”

Combined with “the sharpest of analytical minds”, “disarming modesty” and “a dry humour rich in irony”, continued Dr Sedgwick, such qualities gave Professor Gloag “that rare kind of authority that inspires not only respect but fond admiration”. He died of cancer on 28 April.

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