16 Articles by:

Robert Barry

Robert Barry is a freelance writer and composer. His latest book is Compact Disc (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Knees up Mao Zedong

In the 1970s, composer Cornelius Cardew went from avant-garde experiments to songs that aimed to speak directly to workers in struggle. He failed miserably then, but perhaps he’s worth listening to again?

Property Will Eat Itself

The transformation of industrial spaces into clubs and then into flats in cities like Manchester has created a strange ouroboros of self-consuming development.

The War Against Noise

Despite doomed patrician attempts to shut it out, noise can never entirely be avoided — and a level of ‘social noise’ is part of convivial life.

Leaving the Music Industry

Thirty years ago, the KLF staged a dramatic attack on the music business at the 1992 Brit Awards. How political was that gesture in retrospect, and could we see its like again?

One Britain Tunnel Vision

The embarrassing ‘One Britain One Nation’ day for schools, with its notorious song, passed with hardly any participation – but its existence showed a growing revisionism in the concept of ‘British values’.

A Shared World

The German-French duo Stereo Total, whose member Françoise Cactus died in February, made charming, cheap, and democratic music out of the wreckage of post-Wall Berlin.

Repetitive Beats

The Design Museum’s show Electronic showcases how a once-revolutionary music has become bourgeois and clichéd, but contains scattered hints at what was once possible.

Remembering Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone’s melodic writing was among the most distinctive in cinematic history – but beyond these classics, ‘The Maestro’ was also committed to the radical democratisation of music.

Rhythm Knows No Borders

The Home Office’s new rules for touring musicians inflict a harsh regime on musical workers, and try to put borders around sound. It won’t work.

Spiral Scratch

The ‘Scratch Orchestra’ founded in the 1970s by composer Cornelius Cardew was an experiment in democratic music-making, turning the orchestra into the microcosm of a new society.

Pop & Populism

The UK singles chart has long been a barometer of popular desires. Today, it’s telling us that everything is up for grabs.