Lindsay Cooper
Bassoon, Oboe, Piano

Born : March 3rd, 1951 - Hornsey (England)
Died : September 18th, 2013 - London (England)
Bands : Comus (1971-72), Henry Cow (1974-78), Feminist Improvising Group (1977-82), National Health (1978), Mike Westbrook Orchestra (1979-83), Maarten Altena Octet (1981-84), David Thomas & The Pedestrians (1982-85), News From Babel (1983-86), Lindsay Cooper Film Music Orchestra (1984-), Oh Moscow! (1987-94)

A Short Bio:

Ever since joining Henry Cow in January 1974, Lindsay Cooper established herself as one of the leading creative forces on the European new music scene. She also kept close ties with the Canterbury scene, collaborating with Hatfield and the North, Egg, National Health, Steve Hillage and many others, including many projects with her ex-Henry Cow colleagues.

Lindsay Cooper was born in Hornsey, North of London, in 1951. At age 11 she started taking piano lessons, but after a couple of years she became fascinated by the bassoon, the instrument played by her teacher's son who was a member of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. From then on, she concentrated on the bassoon and studied classical music. From 1966 to 1968, she was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, before entering the Royal Academy of Music in London, subsequent moving to New York to study there for one year. In the meantime, she had started taking part in various recording projects, in the fields of film soundtracks and classical music.

At the age of 20, Cooper decided to leave the classical world altogether and joined a progressive rock band, Comus, where she stayed for one year, until August 1972. During her brief spell with that group, she learned to play the oboe and flute, although she never really liked the latter instrument. In 1973, she was involved in a project with the Ritual Theatre and through this came into contact with the musicians from Henry Cow. When Geoff Leigh left Henry Cow, Cooper replaced him.

Her stint with Henry Cow was however very short, and she left in August 1974 after recording Unrest with them. Before long, she was to rejoin, remaining involved in the band's recording projects, notably both albums done with Slapp Happy. During that period, she played on Steve Hillage's Fish Rising, Comus' To Keep From Crying, Egg's Civil Surface and Hatfield and the North's The Rotters' Club, was in the theatre band for "The City", a rock musical for which she was also the musical director, and started playing jazz with Lol Coxhill, Derek Bailey and Evan Parker. Eventually, she rejoined Henry Cow.

Late in 1977, Lindsay Cooper formed the Feminist Improvising Group, a loosely-structured, all-female band which also featured Maggie Nichols, Georgie Born (who had replaced John Greaves in Henry Cow), Irene Schweitzer and Sally Potter. This coincided with her starting playing soprano saxophone.

Henry Cow's final effort, Western Culture (1978) featured a whole side of Cooper's compositions. The reason for that was that the band had split, from a creative point of view, between Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson's instrumental material, and Fred Frith and Chris Cutler's songs which ended up as the first Art Bears album. After the break-up of Henry Cow in September 1978, Cooper briefly joined National Health (along with Georgie Born), then led by her long-time friend Dave Stewart, but left when the latter called it a day and joined Bill Bruford's band.

From 1977 to 1982, Cooper was a member of the Feminist Improvising Group, alongside the likes of Georgie Born, Maggie Nicols, and Irene Schweitzer. In the early 80s, she kept busy on the live front as member of the Mike Westbrook Orchestra and ex-Pere Ubu David Thomas' group The Pedestrians. From 1982 she led her own group, the Lindsay Cooper Film Music Orchestra. She wrote many scores for films and TV, including The Gold Diggers (1983), directed by Sally Potter, and also several compositions for dance and theatre including Face On (1983), a dance show by Maedee Dupres.

Of particular note in her work in this period was News From Babel, a band project with Cutler, harpist Zeena Parkins and former Henry Cow vocalist Dagmar Krause. On the band's two albums, Cooper wrote the music, and Chris the words. The group's two albums, Work Resumed On The Tower (1984) and Letters Home (1986), was in the vein of Henry Cow's best work of the mid-seventies.

Her song cycle Oh Moscow was performed live around the world from 1987 by a band featuring Sally Potter, Phil Minton, Hugh Hopper and various drummers among whom Marilyn Mazur, Chris Cutler and Charles Hayward; it was recorded live at the 1989 Victoriaville festival in Canada. In 1991, an album of her contemporary dance pieces, Schroedinger's Cat, was released. In 1992, she premiered her Concerto for sopranino saxophone and strings in London, and her Songs For Bassoon and Orchestra was performed in Bologna.

Sadly, by the late 1990s, and until her death in 2013, Cooper retired from performing and, ultimately, from composing as well, when the severity of her multiple sclerosis (first diagnosed twenty years prior) gradually reduced her physical ability. Even communication with the outside world eventually became nearly impossible.