English pop group. It was formed in 1977 by Ian Craig-Marsh (b Sheffield, 11 Nov 1956; synthesizer) and Martin Ware (b Sheffield, 9 May 1956; synthesizer). Later Phil Oakey (b Sheffield, 2 Oct 1955; vocals) and Adrian Wright (b Sheffield, 30 June 1956; synthesizer) were added to the line-up. The band's first two albums, Reproduction (Virgin, 1979) and Travelogue (Virgin, 1980), contained industrial synthesizer-based pop (influenced by such groups as Kraftwerk), but were also distinctively melodic and theatrical, as shown in Empire State Human, Circus of Death and The Black Hit of Space. Nevertheless a penchant for mainstream pop was visible in their bizarrely spartan cover of the Righteous Brothers' You've lost that lovin' feelin'. In 1980 Craig-Marsh and Ware left to form the British Electronic Foundation (BEF) and its successful spin-off, Heaven 17.
Oakey recruited Ian Burden (synthesizer), Joanne Catherall and Suzanne Sully (both vocals) and Jo Callis (electric guitar). The album Dare (Virgin, 1981), produced by Martin Rushent, was a commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic and the band's new sound codified British synth-pop in the 1980s: Oakey's warbling, uncertain, but distinctive vocal was set against beautiful synthesizer lines and infectious dance grooves. Don't you want me reached number one in both the UK and US charts and paved the way for a fresh British invasion of America. After Dare, such albums as Hysteria (Virgin, 1984) and Crash (Virgin, 1986) were sporadic and inconsistent, although their UK top ten hit Tell me when (1995) showed that they had lost none of their songwriting skills.
Along with Culture Club, Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran, the group represented the ‘New Pop’, which was characterized by an ironic attitude towards glamour and celebrity and was a reaction to the earnest political position taken by many British new wave bands. With his eccentric presentation Oakey emerged as one of the biggest pop icons of his day. Their employment of film projections in early performances and intelligent use of synthesizers made the Human League one of the most important and successful bands of their time. Later in the 1980s, producers such as Stock, Aitken and Waterman borrowed much from and over-simplified the band's seamless sound from the era of Dare. For further information see D. Rimmer: Like Punk never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop (London, 1985).
Humble, (Leslie) Keith
(b Geelong, 6 Sept 1927; d Geelong, 23 May 1995). Australian composer, conductor and pianist. Following success as a child-prodigy pianist, he studied this instrument with Roy Shepherd at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium (1947–9) and won many awards, including a scholarship to study at the RAM, where his composition teacher was Ferguson (1950–51). Before leaving Australia he was also a swing band pianist of repute, and this association with jazz subtly influenced his later approaches to composition and performance.
He studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris (1952–4), where Leibowitz (with whom he studied privately, 1953–5) and serialism became seminal influences. In the 1950s he became musical assistant to Leibowitz and also toured Europe as accompanist to Ethel Semser, Robert Gartside and others. He always maintained this identification with the lieder tradition both as a composer and as a much sought-after accompanist. In 1960 he became founding director of the Centre de Musique, Paris, which performed a remarkable spectrum of contemporary music, including works by most of the leading figures in American and European new music and music theatre.
Humble returned to Melbourne in 1966 to lecture in composition at the Conservatorium. Armed with a vast knowledge of contemporary music repertory, concepts and techniques, he worked tirelessly to raise the profile of contemporary music in Australia, quickly becoming the acknowledged leader of Melbourne's avant garde. In the early 1970s he was involved in the establishment of the Centre for Music Experiment (University of California, San Diego), and he was founding professor (1974–89) of the Department of Music, La Trobe University, Melbourne, a major locus for the research and creation of contemporary (including electro-acoustic) music until its controversial closure in late 1999. He co-founded and directed the Australian Contemporary Music Ensemble (1975–9), which provided the impulse and model for later contemporary ensembles such as Flederman and Pipeline. His interest in improvisation culminated in his collaboration in the international improvising ensemble, KIVA (1982–90).
Notwithstanding Humble's work with open musical forms, his most intense musical exploration was for a musical language in which deep expressivity is mediated through an extraordinarily precise atonal syntax. His achievement in this respect is heard in, for example, the Eight Bagatelles (1992) and Symphony of Sorrows (1993). As a performer, introspective playing of exquisite sensitivity to the beauty of individual sonorities or textures was often interrupted by episodes of explosive intensity.
Humble has been described by Werder as ‘without question the finest all-round musician this country has produced since Percy Grainger’. His career, which was often a complex multi-layering of contrasting activities, did bring recognition, including the Order of Australia (1982) but, like Grainger, his distinctive ideas about music were more readily accepted overseas than in Australia. Yet his impact on Australian contemporary music development was profound and continues strongly through his music and the many high achievers he has influenced.
ACCJ, Chorus, 1979; Choral pieces for children, 1982; 8 Cabaret songs (W.H. Auden, A.D. Hope, R. Graves, W.B. Yeats), S, pf, 1985–9; Soundscapes, chorus, chbr ens, 1987; Nocturnes (W. T’ing-Yun), SATB, pf/chbr ens, 1990; In pace, chorus, perc, hp, 1991
Statico no.3, orch, 1974; Polysaccharides, pic, E-cl, cl, bn, hn, tpt, trbn, pf, vn, vc, 1977; Molly’s lament, fl, cl, tpt, perc, vn, vc, 1978; arr.: F. Chopin: Etude, op.25/7, vn, vc, pf, 1979; Trio no.2, cl, pf, vn, 1980; A Festival Fanfare, orch/concert band, 1981; 5 short pieces in 2 pts, vc, pf, 1982; Trio no.3, fl, pf, perc, 1985; Ways, by-ways, fl, trbn, pf, cel, perc, vc, 1985; Sonata no.3, pf, 1985; Sonata, perc (1986); Trio no.4, transcr. vn, vc, pf [F. Liszt: Orpheus sym. poem], 1986; Etchings for Perc Qt, 1988; Four all seasons, str qt, 1989; Sonata no.4, pf, 1990; Sonata, fl, pf, 1990–91; Sonata, trbn, pf, 1992; 8 Bagatelles, pf, 1992; Little sonata in 2 pts for vc, 1993; Sym. of Sorrows, orch, 1993
Principal publisher: Universal
‘Creative Music in the Classroom’, Australian Journal of Music Education, no.5 (1969), 11–13
A. Payne: ‘Flair and Sensibility’, Music and Musicians, xii/12 (1963–4), 42
L. Harris: ‘Keith Humble’, Australian Composition in the Twentieth Century, ed. F. Callaway and D. Tunley (Melbourne, 1978), 117–25
J.C. Françoise: ‘In Memoriam: Keith Humble’, PNM, xxxiii (1995), 208–15
J. Whiteoak: ‘Keith Humble, the Music-Maker with a Message’, Aflame with Music: 100 Years of Music at the University of Melbourne, ed. B. Broadstock (Melbourne, 1996), 311–18
J. Whiteoak: Playing Ad Lib: Improvisatory Music in Australia, 1836–1970 (Sydney, 1999), 351–6, 396–412
J. Humble, J. Whiteoak: The Keith Humble Collection Catalogue (Canberra, 1999)
Keith Humble Exhibition homepage