David Heath was born in Manchester in 1956. He attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied flute, and began to play modern jazz at the age of 17. His first work, Out of the Cool, was written in 1978 following a request from fellow flautist Richard Blake for a piece that would make him sound and feel as if he were playing jazz. It has since been played throughout the world in versions for violin or saxophone as well as for flute. Out of the Cool and subsequent pieces such as Rumani (1979) and Coltrane (1981) are based on the chords and rhythm of modern jazz fully notated and in a classical format.
Not long after completing Fight the Lion for piano in 1982, Heath's work changed direction. His next piece, Rise from the Dark for full orchestra was based on utterly different techniques: rock-based rhythms and extreme harmony - more aggressive and more romantic, sometimes using avant-garde sound against beautiful chord sequences. Subsequent pieces in this style, such as On Fire (written in 1986 for cello and piano) and Berlin Wall for violin, cello and piano (1990), and The Frontier (1989) incorporate funk rhythms, avant-garde and minimalist techniques.
Heath has since written major works for James Galway, Nigel Kennedy and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Galway gave the first performance of the flute concerto Free the Spirit with the Philharmonia and conductor Leonard Slatkin. Heath's violin concerto for Kennedy, Alone At The Frontier, despite receiving a standing ovation from the audience, outraged the American musical establishment at its premiere through the use of a rap choir and a graffiti daubed backdrop. By contrast the piece for Glennie, African Sunrise - Manhattan Rave for solo percussion and orchestra, while received with equal enthusiasm by the public, was also highly acclaimed by the press at it's first UK and US performances.
Between 1993 and 1996, Heath was Composer in Residence with the BT Scottish Ensemble between 1993 and 1996, during which period he composed The Four Elements, The Celtic, The Connemara and most recently The Rage, which was premiered in Scotland during the spring of 1996. In 1994 BBC2 featured Heath as part of their Mad About Music series in an episode named Inspiration. Heath is also a professional flautist who records in a wide range of styles, from a solo feature on Sting's US-released single Mad About You and various solo recordings with guitarist Dominic Miller, Jerry Dammers' Free Nelson Mandela, Michael Kamen, Robert Lockhart and Barrington Pheloung. Heath plays on an early Cooper flute, the `Excalibur', rebuilt for him specially by the renowned maker Albert Cooper.