Sam Richards 


Sam Richards is a composer, improviser, folklorist, writer, poet and lecturer. In his student years he took part in performances of compositions by Cornelius Cardew directed by the composer and gave many performances of improvised and experimental music in various London venues. After studying composition, improvisation and piano with Alfred Nieman at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama he moved to Devon and became involved in the performance and collection of folk music and oral history, accumulating some 500 hours of recordings from traditional performers. His archive of folk music is now housed at the British Library.


In the late 1980s his interest turned back to experimental music with the theatre piece Fool’s Holiday, performed by Theatre of Public Works in the Westcountry and the BritEsch Festival in Luxembourg. Since then his music has been performed in the UK and Europe as well the premiere of About Time – Voices in San Francisco Library. He taught at Dartington College of Arts and also lectures at Plymouth University.


His writings include the books Dartington College of Arts – Learning by Doing, The Engaged Musician, John Cage as... and Sonic Harvest: Towards Musical Democracy; also BBC Radios 2 and 3 documentaries including one on the composer Morton Feldman; and articles for Oral History, the Folk Music Journal, fRoots, Contemporary Music Review, Proof, The Wire and the New Statesman.


Since 2016 he has been interviewer and composer in the Open University project Sounding Coastal Change, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and focussed on the coast and communities of the North Norfolk Coast. In this capacity he has composed Blakeney Marshes for piano and keyboard, and has contributed Norfolk Melodies, semi-improvised piano performance linking a number of traditional songs collected in Norfolk. Norfolk Melodies includes the new song Doggerland.


He and Lona Kozik run the Totnes School of Piano. See


On My Work, by Sam Richards

“There’s a handful of themes that recur in my work: a relation to landscape, large-scale pieces for mixed ensembles of musicians and non-specialist musicians, improvisation and exploratory notations, and relations between composed and vernacular music and song. I add to this a lifelong fascination with the piano and its sonorities, and writing songs.


Composition and improvisation, for me, are a matter of using whatever is available and appropriate to the task in hand. Thus I use a lot of intuition yet will introduce quite a strict system as and when it feels necessary. Likewise, although my musical background includes both experimental and folk music, which in some ways are opposites, I have no difficulty in combining them if the music seems to demand it. I am doctrinally non-doctrinal...”


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