Composer Frank Denyer's work is marked by his love of lyrical but unconventional melodies and frequent use of microtones. He is also known for his interest in many types of non-Western music, such as Japanese shakuhachi music, Indian music, and the music of the Pokot people of Kenya, as well as his use of unique instrumental groupings and nontraditional and non-Western instruments. Denyer's refusal to write for standard ensembles has limited the number of performances of his music. He has not written for his own instrument, the piano, since he was in his twenties, preferring to avoid traditional instrumental groupings, like the piano trio and the string quartet, since they still carry plenty of baggage left over from the classical tradition.
Born in London in 1943, Denyer's early experiences in music included a stint singing at the Canterbury Cathedral. He founded an avant-garde ensemble called Mouth of Hermes in the late '60s. Around this time, he became friends with Cornelius Cardew, who introduced him to the music of Morton Feldman, which influenced Denyer's later compositions. In 1973, Denyer temporarily stopped performing to do fieldwork in India, and the following year he moved to Connecticut to study in the world music program at Wesleyan University. His compositions up to that point were mostly for conventional instruments, but by the mid-'70s he began writing for unusual ensembles and non-Western instruments such as the shakuhachi.
In the late '70s, Denyer went to Nairobi to study African music. In 1981, he returned to England and became a professor at the Dartington College of Arts, where he was later named professor of composition. He became the co-founder of, and pianist in, the Amsterdam-based Barton Workshop, a group that performs pieces by canonical avant-garde figures like Feldman and John Cage, as well as Denyer's own music. Following the release of his first CD, A Monkey's Paw, in 1991, Denyer continued writing for unusual instruments, including many he himself devised. Finding Refuge in the Remains, which mostly consists of music composed from 1988 to 1993, was released on Etcetera in 1999. Fired City, released in 2002, features later works as well as two pieces that date back to the early '70s.