I was shocked and deeply saddened when I learned of the sudden and unexpected death early last Saturday morning (January 30) of my friend Virginia Anderson, clarinettist, musicologist and teacher and the most knowledgeable, thorough and insightful of all writers on English and American experimental music, a subject that she both understood and for which she had a rare passion. She was married to composer Chris Hobbs, who I have known as a friend and colleague for over 50 years.
It was Virginia who brought back to life the Experimental Music Catalogue (EMC) – which Chris founded in 1969 but which went into abeyance in 1981 – with reprints of important anthologies and collections. She and Chris gave it a new energy by creating JEMS (Journal of Experimental Music Studies) to make available the latest research in experimental, systems, minimal and post-minimal music. They also created a substantial archive series of articles and studies from the 1970s and 80s which help to underline the late French critic Daniel Caux’s assertion that there were three major new things in music after the Second World War: the music of John Cage, minimal music and (surprising to some…) English experimental music. As well as running EMC she was active as a teacher, organiser of events and improvising clarinettist
She had just finished a substantial article on my experimental music, a chapter in a new book that is to be published on my work by Kahn and Averill later this year, probably one of the last things she wrote. There is no one who could do a better job. I haven’t seen it, but I’m happy to wait until the actual publication to read it, having complete confidence in her judgment and insight.
She and Chris lived in Leicester, about ten miles away, and I would see them from time to time. Virginia would visit, we spoke on the phone regularly, and I would perk up the moment I heard that laid-back southern Californian accent. She was always upbeat and generous, even when times were tough, and had a tremendous and wicked sense of humour. We shared a passion for good food and was overjoyed when I told her about a wonderful fishmonger in nearby Market Harborough. And even more so when she learned that the fishmonger was Martin Hobbs, and was run entirely by women – chiefly his daughters.
She really was one of the fundamentally good people and I will miss her very much indeed.