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Personal Biography

Michael Stimpson was brought up in Hammersmith and Wimbledon. His first degree was in Botany and Zoology, but immediately on completion he turned to music, and more specifically, the guitar. His 20's were taken up with study, examinations, concerts, and teaching, and his first contribution to a book (Cambridge University Press).


In late 1976, on Christmas Day at the age of 29, he entered the most significant part of his life when he contracted a rare neurological virus, Guillain Barrè Syndrome. By the New Year he was in Charing Cross Hospital, London, totally paralysed, soon to be placed on a respirator in intensive care. He was unconscious for four and a half months, suffering intense hallucinations from the continuous morphine (see Tales from the 15th Floor for cello and piano) and when he regained consciousness he found that he had very little eyesight remaining. An operation to place a ventricular shunt in the brain was the turning point for a lengthy recovery, one day being able to move slightly a shoulder, then an arm, until by the end of 1977 he could just walk and contemplate leaving hospital, albeit registered blind.

Options at the time were not spectacular, and so in consultation with a hand specialist and with continuing physiotherapy he began to learn to play again. This culminated in entering the Royal Academy of Music in 1980 (Advanced Course) although by then he had established that a small amount of tremor in one finger of the right hand would make high-level performing impossible. So he commenced a change of direction with a thesis the following year at the Institute of Education, London, carrying out the first research into the levels and character of instrumental teaching in local education authorities in the UK (British Journal of Music Education, CUP). This was written with a large felt-tip pen, two/three words per page, but gradually during the 1980's computers which speak became more commonplace and Michael expanded on his writing. There followed a whole series of articles for various journals, the beginnings of composition (Cafe Music, Ricordi), university teaching, and two lengthy projects for Oxford University Press. Publication of his first book was marked by a short film by the BBC.

By his mid-40's he was missing the creative side too much and returned to study composition, taking his Masters and Doctorate at the University of Southampton between 1993-7. Music software programmes had now reached a sufficient level of proficiency and by working an inch or so from the computer screen, Michael was able to write as he wished. His first major chamber work was Sonata for Piano Trio which was premiered at the Purcell Room by the Dussek Piano Trio.

In 2010, as Michael was finishing his opera Jesse Owens, he was diagnosed with a large brain tumour, an acoustic neuroma, and although the surgeons tried to save his hearing on his right side, unfortunately this did not succeed. Concerned that this would end his music career, Michael has been pleasantly surprised at how the brain adapts from the way he initially perceived sound after the operation,  and has been able to continue working as normal. With very little eyesight the loss of directional hearing can cause problems, and listening is of course in mono, but high quality headphones make a huge difference to his work.


Michael, together with his wife and one-year old son, left London in 1990 to live in the Chalke Valley, near Salisbury. Later,  they established a strong connection with Barga in Italy where he wrote some of his later works.

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