Born in Glasgow in 1950 and educated at Knightswood Secondary School, Bill studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with W.T.Clucas and Frank Spedding, winning a number of prizes and gaining DRSAM in both performing and woodwind teaching. He then studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Academy of Music with Alan Hacker and Harrison Birtwistle.
Bill has written many works for the clarinet, but his output covers a wide range of instrumental, orchestral, electronic and vocal forces. Commissions have been from such diverse organisations as the BBC, Paragon Ensemble, St Magnus Festival, Musica Nova, Capella Nova, Mayfest, the STUC, Glasgow University, RSAMD, Moving Music Theatre, McNaughten Concerts, Theatre Cryptic and the Jim Henson Organisation. Equally diverse are the genres explored, from concert works through music for theatre, dance, movement, film and television and including a number of works designed for use in music in education.
After the early influence of the European avant-garde, in particular Karlheinz Stockhausen, a period of reflection in the middle 1970’s led to the re-establishment of a tonal idiom. Apart from an enduring attachment to the music of Leos Janacek, the two main inspirations of his music are traditional gaelic music and jazz; these can be found combined in An Rathad Ur for jazz saxophonist and orchestra, although the influence of one or the other of these musical streams is seldom far away in any of his works.
Among his works from the later 90’s are: incidental music for a film An Iobairt (The Sacrifice), (Scottish BAFTA Award for Best Music, 1997) scripted by Aonghas MacNeacail, who was the librettist for the opera An Turus (The Journey), and Heave Awa’ House, commissioned by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. The opera was commissioned by Paragon Ensemble, Scotland and premiered by them in 1998. Further collaborations with Aonghas MacNeacail have been Àirc an dualchais (Inheritance Ark), commissioned for the opening of the Museum of Scotland in November 1998 and Na thàinig anna a churach ud (All that came in that one coracle), commissioned for the opening of Arainn Chaluim Cille (the new campus for the Gaelic College on Skye) in 1999.
More recent works include a work for Solo Cello and electronics, commissioned by Glasgow University, a Song Cycle based on settings of the eighteenth century Scots poet Robert Fergusson for Tenor and Harp, commissioned by the Northlands Festival and the initial steps in the development of a second opera (in English) with Aonghas MacNeacail.
From Scottish Music Center