The Innumerable Dance

The Innumerable Dance

The Life and Work of William Alwyn

Adrian Wright


Boydell Press



This first extended biography of William Alwyn sets his works in full context and uses hitherto unpublished material to give a vivid account of his marriages, his operas and his relationship with Britten.
This book is the first full-scale biography of William Alwyn since his death in 1985. Alwyn's early life as a flautist was altered when he became a leading composer of the Documentary Film Movement in the 1930s, going on to a prolific career in writing for feature films, including commissions for Walt Disney and Carol Reed. By the mid 1950s his reputation was established by the beginning of his four-symphony cycle, his many tone poems, concertos, chamber and piano pieces. An habitué of the London film studios and concert halls, and a prominent professor at the Royal Academy of Music, a major crisis in Alwyn's life precipitated an escape to the Suffolk coast in 1960, where he turned his back on film music and immersed himself in the writing of operas (including Miss Julie), poetry, essays, fiction and painting.

Adrian Wright's book balances detailed analysis of Alwyn's work with a vivid account of his marriages to the musician Olive Pull and the composer Doreen Carwithen, relationships that profoundly affected the course of his career. Using a mass of hitherto unpublished material (including an unexpurgated version of his noted Ariel to Miranda) and interviews with prominent figures in Alwyn's life, the volume places his achievements in the musical context of his time, along the way dealing with his relationship with Benjamin Britten, and such hitherto almost unknown works as Don Juan, The Fairy Fiddler and the radio opera Farewell, Companions.

ADRIAN WRIGHT is the author of the acclaimed Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley (1996) and John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure (1998), and is a contributor to The New Dictionary of National Biography.


September 2008
40 black and white illustrations
364 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843834120
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Related Titles

Table of Contents

Early Closing
The Music of Northampton
A Number of Scotsmen
Union and Exile
A Purpose for Cinema
A War of His Own
Is Your Journey Really Necessary
A Coming British Woman Composer
Towards a Festival
Questions of Inspiration
Ariel to Miranda
The Late Romantic
Symphonic Reflections
Soundless Music
The Other Suffolk Composer
The Blythburgh Operas
The Stillness
Living and Learning
Precious Toy
List of Works


Within these pages is an amazing story about a remarkable man... his major contribution to the new medium of film music, and his ability to write serious art music as well... (the author) grabs and holds the reader's attention. NOTES (U.S.)
Wright provides a direct, detailed chronicle of Alwyn's life...(which) fills in many gaps...the book is an engaging read and should encourage people to explore Alwyn's music. GRAMOPHONE
An intriguing overview of one of England's important composers. FILM SCORE MONTHLY

Also by Author