Stanley Glasser

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Stanley Glasser (1926-2018) was a South African composer.

Also known as Spike Glasser


Born in Johannesburg on 28 February, 1926, died 5 August 2018 in London.


After taking a degree in economics in South Africa, he went to England in 1950 to study music, first with Frankel and then Seiber. In 1952, Glasser won a Royal Philharmonic Society prize, and from 1955 to 1958 read music at Cambridge.


After three years as a lecturer at University of Cape Town, he returned to England in 1963; from 1969 to 1991 he was head of music at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and was appointed to the first chair in Music in 1989. In 1997 he was awarded an honorary DMus from Richmond College, the American International University of London.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

His work includes:

He was also the country's first composer of electronic music in his incidental music to Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones.

Several of his later works incorporate both the techniques of Western popular music and of African folk music, the latter reflecting Glasser's activity as an ethnomusicologist who has worked with the Pedi and Xhosa people of the northern Transvaal and Transkei. In The Chameleon and the Lizard (1970), based on a South African legend about the origin of death, the style is mostly direct and uncomplicated, and a strong element of music theatre is involved. Zonkizizwe (‘All the People’), an ebullient cantata sung in English, Zulu and Afrikaans, is reminiscent of Walton and Bernstein in its rhythmic verve and melodic appeal.

Glasser is the author of The A–Z of Classical Music (London, 1994).


Tucker, 1997;

Stephanus Muller. 2018. "Stanley Glasser: a life of exile and bravely crossing musical boundaries", The Conversation, August 9, 2018[1]

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