NMC is a Festival Partner of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
NMC is delighted to be a festival partner this year. hcmf// is a likeminded organisation which shares our same values and commitment to new music and a passion to encourage wider listenership. We have invited hcmf// Artistic Director Graham McKenzie to compile this digital sampler featuring a selection of tracks from our back catalogue.
See below for his notes on each track and why he selected them ...

You can download the sampler for £2.99 by clicking the button below:

HCMF For the FLAC 16 bit version

Mp3 For the Mp3 version


Grooving through old tombs


  1. Chris Newman

 Grooving through old tombs

  2. David Bedford

 Even Now

  3. Donnacha Dennehy


  4. Laurence Crane


  5. Claudia Molitor

 my favourite sound

  6. Sam Hayden


  7. Dai Fujikura

 Sakana (from Okeanos)

  8. Jonathan Harvey

 Timepieces (I)

  9. Howard Skempton

 Kettle's Yard Canon

  10. James Dillon





Graham McKenzie's liner notes ...


Chris Newman: Grooving through old tombs  Michael Finnissy piano

It would be dishonest not to concede that my eye was instantly drawn to the title of this work. It seemed to perfectly describe the task in hand and my great pleasure at being asked to trawl through the NMC archives for this sampler – rediscovering many ‘lost’ classics on route. There is so much material available these days, a torrent of releases across numerous formats, and such a pressure to keep up with the new, that it can be difficult to find the time to go back and listen.  On reacquainting myself with this music however I was struck by just how right in every sense Finnissy performing Chris Newman’s piano music is. There is encapsulated in this short track such theatricality and melancholy – but also such unbridled joy and precision! My mind was instantly drawn to an evening in Oslo during the Ultima Festival watching Michael Finnissy and Chris Newman perform together on a double bill with the Bozzini Quartet. The synergy between both artists was astounding, and the performance virtuosic, with a sense of occasion and theatre that lasted long after the performance ended and well into the night…!


David Bedford: Even Now Mary Wiegold soprano, Composers Ensemble, Dominic Muldowney conductor

I first came to David Bedford’s music through his collaborations with the great British saxophonist Lol Coxhill. The duo released several singles of old vaudeville and music hall songs featuring Bedford on piano and lead vocal and Coxhill on saxophone and second vocal for John Peel’s wonderfully eclectic Dandelion Records label in the early 70s – the whole dusty and scratched set of which I stumbled upon in a ‘part antique – part record shop’ specializing in 78rpm records – one wet Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh. More tracks by the duo appeared on arguably Coxhill’s greatest recording Ear of the Beholder, which I eagerly consumed! The first album to consist entirely of Bedford compositions was Nurses Song With Elephants released in 1972 again on Peel’s Dandelion imprint. On this album Bedford mixed classical ensemble with poems and voices, and on one track twenty-seven plastic pipe twirlers (Peel himself being amongst the pipe twirlers)! It’s a sobering thought as I write this to think that in the last 12 months or so we have lost both Bedford and Coxhill (and before that Peel of course)! In Bedford and Coxhill we undoubtedly witnessed two of the greatest ever exponents of the English avant garde, but who were also able to bridge the perceived gap between ‘art music’ and music making at a roots level working with and inspiring communities. In truth after Nurses Song With Elephants Bedford slipped off my radar – ones loyalties being somewhat fickle in your youth!

Over the years I have become intermittingly reacquainted with Bedford’s work – as a late convert to Roy Harper, and through his works for wind orchestra beautifully conducted by Clark Rundell, including Sun Paints Rainbows on the Vast Waves commissioned by Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 1982, and released by Doyen Records in the UK in 1998.

A continuum throughout Bedford’s work is that he has always consistently written and arranged beautifully for voice. This setting of Ernest Dowson’s Even Now for soprano Mary Wiegold from the early 90s is no exception.


Donnacha Dennehy: Streetwalker   Crash Ensemble

In 2007 in the original sleeve notes for elastic harmonic – a portrait CD of Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy released by NMC and including Streetwalker – Bob Gilmore wrote of ‘a new wave of musical renewal in Ireland, a period of artistic innovation and change paralleling the recent period of economic growth that has transformed the country from one of Europe’s poorest nations to one of its richest.’ While in the relatively few short years since, Ireland has seen the collapse of its economy in the midst of a worsening global economic crises, its artistic currency however remains strong, with composer Dennehy one of its most bankable assets.  In the same essay Gilmore delightfully and perfectly places Ireland’s peripheral culture as being ‘on the edge of Europe and only an ocean away from America’. Gilmore could just as easily be describing Dennehy’s own practice here, and for me that is the intrinsic charm at the core of the composer’s work. Commissioned by WYNC Radio in New York for Bang on a Can All Stars the accessibility of Streetwalker – like
so much of Dennehy’s music – can overshadow the complexity of ideas behind the work. Performed here by the inimitable Crash Ensemble – the group founded by Dennehy in 1997 – Streetwalker’s pounding rhythms and rock guitar leanings are much in evidence from the outset, while repeated listening  reveals its debt to the French avant garde and musique concrète at its core.


Laurence Crane: Sparling   Andrew Sparling clarinet, Alan Thomas guitar

A tribute and testament to two unique and individual voices that continue to light up the British new music scene! Composer Crane’s dedication to the clarinetist Andrew Sparling exists in several versions arranged for various instrumentation but for me this duo with guitarist Alan Thomas is the preferred option. Never has simple and sparing progression sounded quite so compelling and mesmerizing!


Claudia Molitor: my favourite sound   Michael Chance countertenor, George Mosley baritone, Claudia Molitor electronics

Claudia Molitor is a truly original voice! Often working in a multidisciplinary context she has a highly developed visual sensibility. Always inventive, her greatest strength lies in the simplicity of her ideas, and her ability to self edit, continually stripping her work down to the absolute basics – often working and re-working a single idea or motif. To the casual listener there may appear a ‘homemade’ quality to Molitor’s work, but repeated exposure to the artist will reveal the sheer unassuming beauty of her delivery, and the patient perfection at play behind the execution of her ideas.  Here utilizing a single phrase ‘my favourite sound is the one that lives in this city’ Molitor’s use of medieval sonorities and lo-fi electronics remind me of nothing less than the genius of the late, great Ivor Cutler!


Sam Hayden: schismatics  Mieko Kanno violin, Sam Hayden computer

There is a wonderful essay on composer Sam Hayden’s website which discusses in detail schismatics written in 2007, and revised in 2010 for the Violectra electric violin and live computer processing, which clearly and eloquently discusses the ongoing collaboration between the composer and violinist Mieko Kanno and the technical detail behind the development of the work, therefore negating the need for me to try and do so here. Let me instead therefore simply pay tribute to the standard of musicianship on display, and the clear empathy between composer and soloist. Kanno’s playing in this context is simply astonishing, while Hayden takes from the live violin playing to create a soundscape of pure distorted beauty! There can be a density to Hayden’s music which can lead to his work being described as ‘difficult’ or ‘uncompromising’, and while I confess to occasionally feeling ‘pounded into submission’ by Hayden’s compositions, there is a lightness of touch here that will surprise many. Originally a bonus download track only – schismatics may just provide the strongest evidence to date that Hayden is at this moment one of the most compelling voices in the European new music scene.


Dai Fujikura: Sakana (from Okeanos)  Okeanos

When NMC first invited me to curate a sampler CD from their catalogue and archive I knew instantly that I would include a track from one of the label’s latest releases – Secret Forest – a portrait CD of composer Dai Fujikura. This is an astonishingly confident collection of work from a young composer who must now, even at this relatively early stage, be considered an important and original voice. Any follower of Fujikura on Twitter will be aware of the global interest in his work. For me what sets Fujikura apart from his peers, however, is a refusal to be pigeon-holed and the extent to which he is willing to embrace risk. His music is informed by a wide and diverse range of interests and collaborative practice which includes rubbing shoulders with intelligent pop (David Sylvian), live remix (Jan Bang), and the cream of British improvisation (Evan Parker, John Butcher).

In truth I could have happily selected any of the tracks from this consistently superb recording, but in the end I found myself returning frequently to Sakana from the Okeanos cycle, both the version included here featuring the wonderful Kate Romano on clarinet, and the fragile and haunting version for solo tenor saxophone, performed by Masanori Oishi on Fujikura’s own web site.


Jonathan Harvey: Timepieces (I)  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov & Stefan Solyom conductors

One of my greatest ever pleasures in life was the opportunity to work closely with Jonathan Harvey in his capacity as composer in residence in Huddersfield in 2009. Jonathan was already in considerable pain with his back having fallen from the stage in Paris during rehearsals for his opera. He was however patient and generous with his time as we slowly and carefully curated together which of his works were to be presented at that year’s festival. Despite the pain he graciously attended every rehearsal and performance. I still treasure the letter he wrote shortly after the festival thanking me for featuring his work. His feature at Huddersfield came shortly after his residency with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, where the artistic synergy between the composer and conductor Ilan Volkov resulted in arguably Harvey’s most accomplished orchestral writing. When considering this CD sampler I vowed to include one of these recent works for the BBC SSO conducted by Volkov. At the eleventh hour I surprised myself and chose the earlier Timepieces, which uses two conductors (including Volkov) - à la Stockhausen’s Gruppen – to lead ensembles in different tempos. I think the reason being that its jazzy and somewhat light-hearted touch reminded me somehow of a wonderful lunch I shared with Jonathan where we discussed a little-known recording he had made of improvised music, with Frances-Marie Uitti, and we mused whether Jonathan should perform and improvise as part of the programme at Huddersfield!


Howard Skempton: Kettle’s Yard Canon  Andrew Sparling clarinet, Nancy Ruffer flute

Skempton has written numerous more accomplished and important works than Kettle’s Yard Canon, but everything that the composer has penned rewards repeated listening, and the sheer unabridged joy here of the interplay between clarinettist Sparling and flautist Ruffer makes this a must to return to again and again.


James Dillon: birl  Jane Chapman harpsichord

birl: ‘to spin round, to toss (a coin), to spend (esp. on liquor), to carouse, to pour out, to rotate; dance; whirl. (Scot.)’

James Dillon – from the original booklet notes for the CD release of WIRED: Works for Harpsichord and Electronics.


‘Birl is a great wee word! A great wee Scottish word! Like ‘wee’ itself I s’pose’!

Graham McKenzie on commenting on why he selected James Dillon’s birl for a sampler CD from the NMC Records catalogue and archive.




cover photo © Richard Mullany

Image: performance of Bernhard Lang's “TablesAreTurned” at hcmf// 2011 with Philip Jeck www.philipjeck.com



Explore the NMC Music map from the starting point of Donnacha Dennehy, one of the featured composers at this year's festival.


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