Mellers, Wilfrid 1914–2008

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Mellers, Wilfrid 1914–2008

(Wilfrid Howard Mellers)


See index for CA sketch: Born April 26, 1914, in Leamington Spa, England; died May 16, 2008. Educator, critic, composer, and author. Mellers was an educator and composer who saw music as a universal function of society and a universal form of communication, important and serious in all its forms. His interest in music and musicians was so inclusive that it could not easily be subdivided. In more than twenty books and reams of criticism he explored the work of classicists from Beethoven to François Couperin, contemporaries from Percy Grainger to the Beatles and Bob Dylan, American music, women vocalists, religious music, and the relationship between music and the natural world. His interests were unbounded by genre, by geography, or by time. This was the theme of his writings and the substance of his university lectures. Mellers spent more than ten years as a tutor at the University of Birmingham before joining the music faculty at the University of York in 1964, shortly after the institution opened its doors. He created classes that blended lectures on folk music, jazz, and poetry into an offering called "Musica Poetica" while founding the university's music department. This was only the beginning; under his guidance, the music education curriculum took on a flavor that seemed interdisciplinary in scope. Mellers was less celebrated as a composer, but some of those who knew his music felt it deserved a wider audience. His music, like all of his work, drew inspiration from the ends of the earth, including America, where he visited the University of Pittsburgh for a few years in the early 1960s. Mellers retired from teaching in 1981, but he continued to write and compose for the rest of his life. In recognition of his contributions to British music and education, he was decorated a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982. Mellers's writings include Caliban Reborn: Renewal in Twentieth-Century Music (1967), The Twilight of the Gods: The Beatles in Retrospect (1973), Between Old Worlds and New: Occasional Writings on Music (1997), Singing in the Wilderness: Music and Ecology in the Twentieth Century (2001), and Celestial Music? Some Masterpieces of European Religious Music (2002).



Times (London, England), May 20, 2008, p. 53.