Giles Swayne, who studied piano with Gordon Green, Phyllis Lee and Vlado Perlemuter, began composing at an early age, encouraged by his cousin Elizabeth Maconchy. In 1968 he won a composition scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied with Harrison Birtwistle, Alan Bush and Nicholas Maw, and between 1976 and 1979 visited the Paris Conservatoire regularly, to study with Olivier Messiaen. In 1980 his CRY for 28 amplified voices was premiered by the BBC Singers under John Poole. It was hailed as a landmark, and has been performed twice at the Proms and many times worldwide.
He has written over 150 works of all kinds. The Silent Land for cello and forty-part choir, premiered at the 1998 Spitalfields Festival, was described by The Times as ‘a masterpiece’. After the premiere of HAVOC at the Proms in September 1999, The Independent commented ‘Swayne is a master’.