Alumni of the Month June 2008

Gordon Ross (1988 Music/Electronics, 1996 PhD Music Composition)

1. How did you get to where you are now?

aom_Gordon Ross While I was completing my PhD in composition at Keele I set up a digital recording studio near Barmouth in Wales. At this stage I was doing well as a composer, commissioned to write a piece for the Proms in 1996, receiving commissions from the Arts Council, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, writing works for BBC TV, Channel 4 and being played on Radio 3 and 4. However, I’d just turned 30 and the only time I talked to people was either in studio sessions, at production meetings etc. I was thinking that there must be more to life than making music and it was beginning to dawn on me that I didn’t have a social life. At that stage (mid 90s) Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) was about to open. I had worked with Jon Thornton (head of sound technology at LIPA) a few years earlier on some very early multimedia projects for Apple computers, so I moved there and became senior lecturer in sound technology and head of research. I was in the Newz Bar in Liverpool in 2004 when a large excited crowd flooded in from the Town Hall. I asked them what they were celebrating and they said that Liverpool had just won the title of European Capital of Culture for 2008. That sounded great so I decided that if there was ever a music job in that project I would apply for it. In 2005 I left LIPA after ten years and became music programme manager for the Liverpool Culture Company. This has been one of the hardest and most exciting jobs I’ve ever done, but it will finish at midnight on December 31st 2008 so I’m about to begin another big change J

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Putting together the programme for 2008, it’s one thing to work on a weekend music festival but putting together and delivering a 366 day festival is something else.

3. And your biggest mistake?

Working on a recording for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra I was 2 weeks into the edit when my computer crashed and destroyed the audio files on the hard disk. I didn’t have a backup. There were only four days to go and I had to reformat the drives, transfer all the audio tracks again and restart the edit. I didn’t sleep for 4 days and got the job finished just in time.

4. What are your ambitions now?

That’s a really good question and one that I’m asking myself quite regularly with the end of 2008 looming ever closer. I will probably continue as a music and events producer, either setting up my own company or working for a production group.

5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

Pay very close attention to the details.

6. What made you choose Keele University?

Because I could study two subjects simultaneously and the music department’s recording studio had a Fairlight CMI sampler which was an amazing instrument back in 80s.

7. How has Keele influenced your life?

My time at Keele made me see clearly that I wanted to work in music and recording.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?

I think my favourite memories are probably walking in the countryside around Keele. During my postgraduate years I lived in a small cottage in Balterley and I loved wandering through the fields around there in the summer. The recording studio was always pretty heavily booked but the midnight to 7am slot was often free so I spent hundreds of nights in the studio working on ideas and recording all sorts of things so that’s probably one of my favourite times too.

9. And your worst?

Riding my Honda C90 late at night into a herd of sheep that had broken out of a farmer’s field and completely filled the road. By the time I’d managed to stop I was right in the middle of a sea of baaing wool. Luckily none of the sheep were hurt and I woke the farmer and we got them back into the field. Actually I think that’s also one of my best memories. So the worst would probably be beginning my electronic engineering course and realising that in the two years since I’d left school I had completely forgotten how to do calculus. That was a complete shock and I felt really embarrassed because everyone else on the course seemed to be completely comfortable with it. I spent the next month secretly working my way through a book called “Introduction to Calculus” when I should have been in the bar.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

I’m from Glasgow and when I was at Keele I discovered that, in the 70s, Stoke people had the second shortest average height in the UK. People from Glasgow had the shortest. Apparently it was to do with the industrial pollution. Can you guess how tall I am?