Keith Potter is an Emeritus Professor of Music at Goldsmiths. He studied at the University of Birmingham, University College Cardiff and the University of York. Dissertations on Roberto Gerhard and Morton Feldman, plus several published articles on these composers, have been followed by a range of research and publications covering many different areas of contemporary music, with a particular emphasis on British and American work.
Active as both musicologist and music journalist, he was the co-founder and, for seventeen years, Chief Editor of Contact: a Journal of Contemporary Music, the 34 issues of which were republished online in 2019. For a decade, he was a regular music critic on The Independent daily newspaper; he currently writes programme notes and profiles for the BBC, obituary notices for The Guardian and reviews for Opera and Tempo magazines.
Keith Potter’s book, Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass (Cambridge University Press), was published in 2000, with a paperback edition in 2002; The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, co-edited with Kyle Gann and Pwyll ap Sion (Ashgate Publishing), appeared in 2013.
Recent research on the American composer, Steve Reich (arising in particular from his extensive work in the Reich collection at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland), has appeared in Tonality Since 1950 (Franz Steiner Verlag), Rethinking Reich (Oxford University Press) and the journal, Contemporary Music Review.
In 2010-13, he collaborated with colleagues from the Departments of Computing and Psychology at Goldsmiths, and from the Department of Electronic Engineering at Queen Mary College, University of London, on a project on information and neural dynamics in the perception of musical structure, including particular reference to minimalist musical compositions. Outcomes of this collaborative project, involving music by Glass as well as Reich, were published in Music and/as Process (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) and the journal, Time and Time Perception: see also Publications, below.
Keith Potter’s own recent conference and seminar papers have focused mainly on Reich. These include presentations on Drumming (Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland, 2010); on It’s Gonna Rain, with John Pymm (Fifth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 at the University of Lancaster, and the Third Biennial International Conference on Music and Minimalism at the University of Leuven, Belgium, both 2011; Cardiff University, Wales, 2013; and Goldsmiths, 2014); on Triple Quartet (Fourth Biennial International Conference on Music and Minimalism at California State University at Long Beach, 2013; and at the conference, “Tonality Since 1950”, at the University of Basel, Switzerland, 2014); a keynote lecture on Reich reception (for a Study Day at King’s Place, London organised by the Society for Minimalist Music, 2015); Music for 18 Musicians (Fifth Biennial International Conference on Music and Minimalism at the University of Turku and the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland, 2015; the 52nd Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, 2016; and at the conference, “Ligeti: a portrait with Reich and Riley”, at the University of Cluj, Romania, 2018); on Come Out and Three Tales (the opening keynote lecture at the conference, “Minimalism: Location, Aspect, Moment”, at Winchester School of Art/University of Southampton, 2016); and on Tehillim (“What You Need To Know – Steve Reich”, a Study Day at the South Bank Centre, London, 2017).
Other invited lectures and appearances since 2005 include a paper on aspects of musical minimalism at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, and two lectures on the music of Steve Reich and participation in a roundtable discussion at Carnegie Hall, New York (both 2006); the opening keynote lecture at the First Biennial International Conference on Music and Minimalism at the University of Bangor, Wales, and a pre-concert talk (with Robert Worby) on Philip Glass's Music in Twelve Parts at the Barbican Centre, London (both 2007); a pre-performance interview with the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, at the Barbican Centre, London (2009); papers on Phill Niblock as well as Steve Reich at all the Biennial International Conferences on Music and Minimalism during 2009-15; a pre-concert talk on John Adams’ music at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, Wales (2017); and conference papers on the Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato, given at Again and Again: Musical Repetition in Aesthetics, Analysis, and Experience at City, University of London, at the Seventh Biennial International Conference on Music and Minimalism at the University of Cardiff, Wales, and at the Eleventh Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 at the University of Huddersfield (all 2019).
In 1989 Keith Potter taught at the University of Redlands, California. He developed the pioneering MMus (later MA) in Contemporary Music Studies, which has been offered at Goldsmiths since 1998. He was organiser of the Second Biennial International Conference on Twentieth-Century Music (Goldsmiths, 2001) and co-organiser of several other conferences at Goldsmiths, including a one-day event to celebrate and commemorate the British composer Cornelius Cardew (2006), and a one-day conference focusing on the performance of minimalist music (2008).
From 2004 to 2007, he was Head of the Department of Music and also a member of Goldsmiths Council. In 2006-10, he was on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Musical Research in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. In 2007-13, he served on the Goldsmiths Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee; and in 2011-17, on the Academic Progress Committee.
From 1982 to 2021, he was a trustee of the Hinrichsen Foundation, also serving on several of its sub-committees, and acting as its Chair (2014-16). A founding committee member of the Society for Minimalist Music in 2007, he was its Chair during 2011-13.
Keith Potter’s present projects include a book and further journal articles on Steve Reich, arising in particular from his research in the archive of Steve Reich’s materials at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland. He is also currently participating in several collaborative research projects, including two at Goldsmiths: one on musical indeterminacy in performance (initiated by David Cline, a Visiting Research Fellow); the other involving the acquisition and preservation for scholarly purposes of various archival materials from British composers and musical organisations (working with James Bulley).
Areas of supervision
Keith Potter has supervised a wide range of research topics in twentieth- and twenty-first-century musics, especially American minimalism. He is, however, no longer able to take on supervision of new research students.
Publications and research outputs
Potter, Keith. 2002. Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521015011
Potter, Keith S.; ap Sion, Pwyll and Gann, Kyle, eds. 2013. The Ashgate Research Companion on Minimalist and Postminimalist Music. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 9781472402783
Potter, Keith. 2019. Sketching a New Tonality: A Preliminary Assessment of Steve Reich’s Sketches for Music for 18 Musicians in Telling the Story of This Work’s Approach to Tonality. In: Sumanth Gopinath and Pwyll ap Sion, eds. Rethinking Reich. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 191-215. ISBN 9780190605292
Potter, Keith. 2017. Harmonic Progressions as a Gradual Process: towards an understanding of the development of tonality in the music of Steve Reich. In: Felix Woerner and Philip Rupprecht, eds. Tonality Since 1950. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 189-207. ISBN 978-3-515-11582-7
Potter, Keith; Wilkins, Suzie and Wiggins, Geraint. 2016. On the Nature of Subjectivity in Music Analysis: some observations on analysing an early score by Philip Glass. In: Lauren Redhead and Vanessa Hawes, eds. Music and/as Process. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 34-55. ISBN 978-1-4438-9491-3
Potter, Keith. 2013. Mapping Early Minimalism. In: Keith S. Potter; Kyle Gann and Pwyll ap Siôn, eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, pp. 19-37. ISBN 9781409435495
Potter, Keith; Gann, Kyle and ap Sion, Pwyll. 2013. Introduction: experimental, minimalist, postminimalist? Origins, definitions, communities. In: Keith S. Potter; Kyle Gann and Pwyll ap Sion, eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 1-16. ISBN 9781 409435495
Potter, Keith. 2001. Entries on 20th-century British composers and other subjects: 'Minimalism'; 'Bedford, David', 'Bryars, Gavin', 'Fitkin, Graham', 'Martland, Steve', 'Montague Stephen', 'Skempton, Howard'. In: Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan.
Potter, Keith. 2001. Four revised articles on contemporary American composers: 'Adams, John', 'Glass, Philip', 'Monk, Meredith' and 'Reich, Steve'; also versions of previously published entries on 'Kagel, Mauricio' and 'Schnittke, Alfred'. In: Amanda Holden, ed. The New Penguin Opera Guide. London: Penguin Books.
Potter, Keith. 1995. 'Cornelius Cardew: some (Postmodern?) reflections on Experimental Music and political music. In: Mark Delaere, ed. New Music, Aesthetics and Ideology/Neue Musik, Asthetik und Ideologie. Wilhelshaven: Germany: Florian Noetzel, pp. 152-169.
Potter, Keith. 1993. The Current Musical Scene. In: Robert P. Morgan, ed. Modern Times: from World War I to the present. Englewood Cliffs, NJ/Basingstoke: Prentice Hall/Macmillan, pp. 349-387. ISBN 0 13 590159 6
Cameron, Daniel; Zioga, Ioanna; Lindsen, Job P.; Pearce, Marcus; Wiggins, Geraint; Potter, Keith and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2019. Neural Entrainment is Associated with Subjective Groove and Complexity for Performed but not Mechanical Musical Rhythms. Experimental Brain Research, 237(8), pp. 1981-1991. ISSN 0014-4819
Cameron, Daniel; Potter, Keith; Wiggins, Geraint and Pearce, Marcus. 2017. Perception of Rhythmic Similarity is Asymmetrical, and is Influenced by Musical Training, Expressive Performance, and Musical Context. Timing & Time Perception, 5(3-4), pp. 211-227. ISSN 2213-445X
Potter, Keith. 2017. ‘New Chaconnes for Old?’ Steve Reich’s Sketches for Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, with Some Thoughts on Their Significance for the Analysis of the Composer’s Harmonic Language in the Late 1970s. Contemporary Music Review, 36(5), pp. 406-439. ISSN 0749-4467
Potter, Keith; Wiggins, Geraint and Pearce, Marcus T.. 2007. An Objective Basis for Music Theory: Information-Dynamic Analysis of Minimalist Music. Musicae Scientiae, 11(2), pp. 295-324. ISSN 1029 8649
Potter, Keith. 2006. Programme notes for works by Steve Reich (Los Angeles Master Chorale/Grant Gershon). Lincoln Center, New York,
Potter, Keith. 2006. Programme notes for works by Steve Reich (London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Xian Zhang). Barbican Centre,
Potter, Keith. 2005. Obituary: 'Carla Hinrichsen; Music Publisher at Peters Music'. The Independent,
Potter, Keith. 2005. Obituary: 'Hugh Davies; Iconoclastic innovator in electronic music'. The Independent,
Potter, Keith. 2002. Obituary: 'Earle Brown: Innovative and Influential Composer.'. The Independent,
Potter, Keith. 2000. Booklet essay for Philip Glass: Violin Concerto, Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten and Company (Naxos 8 554568). Philip Glass: Violin Concerto, Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten and Company,
Potter, Keith. 1996. The pursuit of the unimaginable by the unnarratable, or some potentially telling developments in non-developmental music. Contemporary Music Review, 3-4, pp. 3-11.
Conference or Workshop Item
Cameron, Daniel; Potter, Keith; Wiggins, Geraint and Pearce, Marcus T.. 2012. 'Perception of Rhythmic Similarity in Reich’s Clapping Music: Factors and Models'. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and the 8th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. Thessaloniki, Greece July 23-28.
Cameron, Daniel; Lindsen, Job P.; Pearce, Marcus; Wiggins, Geraint; Potter, Keith and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2012. 'Entrainment of Premotor Cortex Activity by Ambiguity in Musical Metre'. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and the 8th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. Thessaloniki, Greece July 23-28.
Potter, Keith. 2007. '1976 and All That: Minimalism and Postminimalism, Analysis and Listening Strategies.'. In: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Music and Minimalism. Bangor, United Kingdom 11/1/2007.