Explosions in November

Richard Steinitz

Cost: £25


ISBN: 978-1-86218-099-4

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5920/explosions.2011

Subject area: Music

Published: November 2011

Dimensions: 29.6 x 23.2 x 2.4 cm

Pages: 308 pages

Publisher: University of Huddersfield Press

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Explosions in November tells the story of one of Europe’s leading cultural institutions, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf), through the eyes of its founder and former artistic director, Professor Richard Steinitz.

From its modest beginnings in 1978, when winter fog nearly sabotaged the inaugural programme, to today’s internationally renowned event, hcmf has been a pioneering champion of the best in contemporary music.

Now Richard Steinitz brings his insider view on the people behind the festival and how they made each year a success. He recalls his encounters with some true giants of music, including Boulez, Berio, Cage, Ligeti, Stockhausen and Xenakis. Discover how the author survived mushroom-hunting with John Cage, how the festival engineered a historic reconciliation between Cage and Pierre Boulez and how a ceiling fitting nearly brought Stockhausen’s career to a premature end. It is a compelling, inspiring and often entertaining story.

Explosions in November reveals the full picture of a festival that continues to surprise, delight and provoke its audiences to this day.


  1. Background
  2. The first festivals
  3. Expansion
  4. Orchestras
  5. Ensembles and soloists
  6. The shock of the new   
  7. Composers
  8. Premieres and commissions
  9. The festival in the 1990’s
  10. Venues
  11. Other spaces, other media
  12. Education and outreach
  13. The University and Music Department
  14. Marketing and audiences
  15. Partnerships and management
  16. The new millennium


Richard Steinitz retired from the University of Huddersfield in 2004, when he was awarded an Honorary DLitt and made Emeritus Professor. In addition to a long teaching career in the Department of Music, where he instituted the Electronic Music Studio and was Director of Research, in 1978 he founded Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and was its Artistic Director throughout twenty-three years of spectacular growth and international success.

Son of the Bach specialist and conductor Paul Steinitz, Richard was born in 1938 and, after the War, became a chorister at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, alongside Jonathan Harvey. In 1957 he gained a music scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, and subsequently studied composition on an Italian government scholarship with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome. Before directing the Contemporary Music Festival he was active as a composer, winning second prize in the 1968 BBC Young Composers’ Competition and the Clements Memorial Prize for Chamber Music in 1981. Later he developed a career as a musicologist specialising in twentieth century music. His György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination (London & Boston 2003) is the leading book in English on Ligeti and won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2004. Besides numerous articles, he has contributed to Contemporary Composers (St James’s Press 1992), The Messiaen Companion (Faber 1995), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd edition, Macmillan 2001) and Censorship: a World Encyclopedia (Fitzroy Dearborn 2001).

Richard Steinitz has been a frequent broadcaster and guest lecturer: e.g. at the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College Dublin, York University, Birmingham Conservatory, the Royal Conservatory in Madrid, English National Opera and major concert halls in London and Spain. He was an adviser to the Arts Council and has contributed to conferences on contemporary music promotion for the British Council, European Conference of New Music Promoters, University of Central Europe and other institutions throughout Europe and Scandinavia. He was recipient of a Performing Right Society-Arts Council Award for his contribution to new music in 1994 and an Alchemist Award in 2001, was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1999, and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1995.


…a hugely rewarding story, laced with humour as crises are confronted and (usually) overcome

Musical Times

"In this beautifully produced, thoughtful and at times moving history of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf), Richard Steinitz, its founder and artistic director for 23 years, tells an inspiring story

The Wire

…the book will be of interest to scholars and researchers as well as to the lay reader