CATEGORIES

Feature

For our 30th Anniversary, we're taking you behind the scenes and introducing you to the people that help us and guide us in our work, our Board of Trustees. First, we're meeting Jackie Newbould, who joined our board in 2015.

 

JackieMusic has been a central part of my life ever since I was conscious of hearing. It was recordings that brought me to it at a very young age. My parents would worry later on that I should ‘go out to play’ more - I did that too, but would be content to listen for hours to their old record player: all sorts - dance bands, musicals, some classics, and my favourite Peter and the Wolf was the one l learnt the word ‘again’ for. Didn’t understand many other words then, the music told the story. Some years later I found myself lucky enough to own a violin, play it well enough to get into youth orchestras and ensembles, playing my way through all kinds of repertoire opening up worlds for me.

More years later I found myself even luckier to be Executive Producer for one of the best ensembles in the land - Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. During the early years of BCMG, NMC (and its Blue Sheep) was also emerging onto the scene - a very fruitful and happy relationship between the two organisations producing some precious, treasured recordings of the most remarkable music of our times. 

I love NMC’s philosophy: highest recording values, no compromises, dedication to composers of all ages and at all stages, grasping new technologies, tirelessly seeking out ingenious ways to engage as many of us listeners as possible - young and not-so-young - in the huge tapestry that is new music today. And if you fancy looking back a little for some context from the past, they do that too: they never delete so you can be sure to find that thing you’re seeking in their catalogue, and their charitable status gives them artistic freedom. No other recording company is able to achieve for contemporary music what NMC can. It was started by a composer and places composers at its heart: everything emanates from this, with a highly skilled and committed management team sharing that vision. You simply can’t get recordings of this quality and of this variety anywhere else. Their work is unique. And they may be based in London (in a tiny office in the East), but they reach all over the UK and far beyond. 

When asked to become a Trustee it was the greatest honour. My experience at BCMG has given me tools to support them in bringing contemporary music to a wide audience in interesting ways, and through advocacy. Before I joined as a Trustee I was aware their remarkable ventures were borne out of shoestrings. Now I have a closer view I am even more in awe of their achievements and in such tough times for all arts organisations. If I was a millionnaire NMC would be tops for me, but I don’t have to be one to give and make a difference. That’s a fine feeling.

 

If you'd like to support our work, you can do so by donating to our Anniversary appeal here or becoming a Friend here. Every little helps and no contribution is too small! Thank you.

Feature

For our 30th Anniversary, we are delving into our archives and sharing with you some of our Friends Newsletter articles from the past 30 years. First up, an article written by Tansy Davies, Richard Barrett, Richard Ayres and our former designer Francois Hall on choosing titles.

 

Tansy DaviesTansy Davies:

I always have this idea that thinking up the title is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing a piece, but when it comes down to it, that’s not always the case. For me titles mostly come at the very end of the process - a bit like the icing on a cake. But I like to think that any new title has actually been growing in my subconscious all the while I’ve been composing the piece, and it’s just a matter of digging down deep to find it, after I finish composing the notes.
 
When I do arrive at the point of actively seeking the title, it always feels like a good moment to take a step back from the piece and take time out for reading and research areas that, on some level, I think the piece is about. This always leads to interesting discoveries, even if I don’t find the right title for a few days.
 
It’s very important not to be lazy about choosing the title, after all it’s the face of work - the part that most of the audience will come across before hearing a single sound. I think a title should carry within it some message or essence of what the music’s about; that could mean simply choosing a word just because of the way it sounds - because in the composer’s mind the sound of the word somehow resonates with the sound of the work.
 
Perhaps a title is an introduction that can capture the imagination and set the tone for a listening experience, or an advertisement that doubles as a poem.
 
The title track of my NMC album spine is indirectly named after the segmented way in which ancient fauna Trilobites are known to have grown. Although they were in fact invertebrates, some had sharp vertical spines as a form of protection. Musically the piece was made out of a string of notes that form the harmonic backbone of the piece, but the directness, look, and simplicity of the word itself were my main reasons for naming the work spine
 

Richard BarrettRichard Barrett:

A title lends a certain kind of image, a certain colour, to a composition even before the music is heard. In my case, just as the music is the way it is in order to encourage listeners to find their own pathways through it, perhaps differently on each hearing, and to create their own experience rather than hearing about someone else’s, a title might be thought of as evoking some kind of memorable idea but perhaps a different one for each (potential) listener, rather than telling them unequivocally what the music is ‘about’. 
 
A title can thus be thought of as a very brief poem, forming a connection between the world of language and the world of music. It’s an opportunity to say something about the music, however fleetingly and obliquely, which is one reason why I couldn’t imagine ever using a generic title like ‘symphony’ or ‘string quartet’ although obviously another is that I’m not attached to the forms and traditions implied by titles like that.
 
The choice requires as much sensitivity and depth of thought as musical composition. (This extends to deciding whether a title begins with a capital letter or is all lowercase or perhaps all capitals.) If you’re making a statement about the music it’s good to choose the words carefully, and if the statement consists of only one word that’s even more important. Sometimes it comes into being before any composing has been done, sometimes during the process, and sometimes at its end or later. I think that in the end I always know when the right one has been found, even though on finding it I might not yet know why! Often I change my mind several times during the course of work, and then eventually return to the original one.
 
In the past, my titles have often been literary references, especially to the work of Samuel Beckett and Paul Celan, but in recent years, this has decreasingly been the case as my range of reference has widened. I don’t believe that any music is ‘abstract’, and conversely that nothing is ‘extra-musical’.

 

Richard AyresRichard Ayres:

What’s the title Richard? You will have to call it something. OK, I must call it something, I must call it something, I must call it. Ah! "Something" - I can call it that! That would be a little bit juvenile I suppose, and there is also a chance that the piece might, in reality, deserve the title, "Nothing Much about Anything at All". Best not to tempt fate …

 
I could call it "BANG CRASH ATOM SMASH". That would make it sound exciting, and it would perhaps attract a younger audience. It is bouncy, I use a bass guitar, and both the flutes are amplified, but it isn't exactly death metal. I might also alienate the older audience, there are many more of those, and they are the people with disposable income. 
 
"Fractal Transfiguration 4." No. This piece is in waltz time. Could be ironic, but no. How about, "Elegy for a Dead Child". That would certainly add an aura of profundity and tragedy. The "oompah oompah" section could be subtitled "reminiscence of innocence lost". No. This piece is far too joyful for such a gloomy title. Ah! "Ode to Joy". Richard, concentrate!
 
I just don't understand! Why does every piece have to have a title stuck on to it? When did this start? Mozart? Beethoven? Schumann? I bet it was someone strange like Schumann. I could Google it to make sure, or, I could just spend the time thinking up a title.
 
Pffff … Something about gemstones perhaps? Or colours? Ah! "Vivid Purple". No - this piece is neither vivid, nor purple. 
 
Ah! It is a given that any title will inevitably influence how the audience will listen to the music, so my title could describe every note in great detail, including its pitch, instrumentation, volume, whether or not it is kind to its neighbours, its breakfast preferences, its blood group. Richard, concentrate!!
 
Opus 48? No, too ‘museal’. Well, why not just No.48 then? A bit banal perhaps, but practical. Functional. Yes. No.48, a functional title.
 

Francois HallFrancois Hall:

Just looking through some cover designs I can see that titles are sometimes an important element to my design approach, as they can often lead to an image interpreting the title. A title can also help narrow down the options and focus on just one element from the group of recordings to represent the whole feel of the disc. However, I find it much more interesting and challenging when I am able to read about the works and pull meanings and interpretations from texts by the composer.
 
Richard Ayres' NONcertos as a title didn’t say enough to me but listening to and reading the texts about the music helped to create the visual landscape that I used on the cover. Similarly, the title spine only made sense when reading the notes written by Tansy Davies and listening to the music - then I was able to research ideas. The cover then begins to make sense, as a whole. With Dark Matter, going through Richard Barrett's notes helped to pinpoint the themes given that it is such a large subject. It’s easy to become too engrossed, especially when learning something new and inspiring! (I have a ridiculous library of old books on random subjects that I hope may come in useful one day!) Whoever thought that Saturn emitted a sound, which can be downloaded from NASA? I didn’t! The visual interpretation appears on the cover of Saturn by Edwin Roxburgh. In this case, the title sparked the idea and went somewhere I didn’t expect to go!
 
The title is the signpost, from which you can go directly to your destination, or you could take the scenic route, stopping off and enjoying the scenery - which is my preferred option (especially if there are some nice pubs along the way!) 
 
NoncertosspineDark MatterSaturn
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!

News

We're celebrating our 30th Anniversary in style by launching our 30th Anniversary Appeal.

 

As a registered charity, every year we raise almost £40,000 from our generous individual donors, which represents 14% of our income, supporting all aspects of the work we do. We’re setting ourselves an ambitious anniversary target by aiming to increase this amount to £50,000 during 2019.

Your support enables us to make new music accessible to the widest possible audience worldwide. A donation of any size will help NMC enrich cultural life for new generations of listeners and composers, and all donors to our 30th Anniversary Appeal will be invited to an end-of-year anniversary party.

 

There's lots of different ways that you can donate:

  • You can donate online here
  • You can download our form here and return it to us by post
  • You can text 'NMC' to 70085 to donate £3*

We'll keep track of our target with our faithful sheep. Help us to fill our sheep-bank and don't forget to spread the word!

 

NMC Sheep bank

 

 

*This costs £3 plus the cost of one standard rate text message.

Feature
Freya

Described as “at once intimate and visionary” by BBC Music Magazine, Freya Waley-Cohen’s music has been heard in the Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, Barbican Centre, Sage Gateshead and New Mexico Museum of Art; and at the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Dartington, Ryedale, Santa Fe, St Magnus, Tanglewood and Spitalfields festivals.

Freya held an Open Space Residency at Snape Maltings from 2015 to 2017; is Associate Composer of contemporary-music series nightmusic at St David’s Hall and of Reverie Choir; and will be a featured artist at this year’s Dartington Festival. She is a founding member and artistic director of Listenpony, a concert series, commissioning body and record label that programmes classical music, both new and old, alongside a variety of other genres including folk, jazz and pop, in beautiful and unusual venues.


Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?
I always feel a little insincere making a list of my top pieces. I suppose this is partially because what I love to listen to is constantly changing and can become a bit like a false freeze-frame of time, representing what happened to pop into my head at that moment.  I also listen in a way that mixes in old and new, pop and classical - and therefore it feels even stranger to separate out the contemporary music and choose some top composers. If I had to pick a favourite composer, I’d say Messiaen.

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?
The first piece I had performed was at the Walden School, which is a composition course for teenagers that happened to be 5 mins away from my step-Grandmothers house. They have a festival week at the end of the course and all their students’ pieces get performed by professional players. I was 11 the first year and I wrote a little viola duet with three movements. It was all handwritten and I wasn’t exactly the tidiest teenager, so I think that it is lost to time now (thankfully!).

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?
I worked in a nursery school for a year. My main duties were taking three and four year olds, in groups of 8, to swimming lessons, sports lessons and drama lessons, as well as entertaining them with stories, colouring-in, puzzles and sometimes biscuits in between lessons.  With any situation including very little children there are a million funny and beautiful little moments as well as a certain amount of madness and chaos.

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

If I had to pick three, I would say I’d love to meet Sappho, so that I could hear her lost songs and poems, Harriet Tubman, because I can hardly think of anyone whose bravery could be more inspiring and important, and Hildegard von Bingen, if only to find out how she managed her time so as to achieve in so many different fields in just one life time!


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a piece for the LA Phil’s green umbrella series for John Adams to conduct, alongside a trio for viola da gamba, cello and clarinet for CHROMA ensemble, and a string quartet for the Albion Quartet which will be premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival this summer.

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?
At the moment my dream project would be ‘dance-cycle'; a set of loosely interconnected short stories shown through dance (and, of course, music). I’d love to collaborate with a choreographer associated with a different genre of dance for each story - so those choreographers would be my dream collaborators at the moment - and I’d need to get the writers of the short stories I have in mind on board with the project too!

Feature

A composer of music of “high drama” and “intense emotion” (BBC), “at once, ingenious, hypnotic, brave, and beautiful” (Festival Internazionale A.F. Lavagnino), Eugene Birman (b. 1987) has written for symphony orchestras (London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra), choirs (BBC Singers, Latvian Radio Choir, Eric Ericsons Kammarkör), and leading ensembles and soloists (Maxim Vengerov, Maurizio Ben Omar, etc.) across four continents in venues ranging from London’s Southbank Centre to Carnegie Hall to above the Arctic Circle. His highly public career, with appearances on CNN, BBC World TV, Radio France, Deutsche Welle, and others, is characterized by a fearless focus on socially relevant large-scale compositions covering the financial crisis, Russian border treaties, and more. Commissioners and partners for Birman’s work extend beyond the concert hall to major international bodies such as the European Union, the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and the Hong Kong SAR, as well as through prominent fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the US Department of State’s Fulbright Program (2010-11). Most recently, he was awarded the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, leading to a season-long residency at the Southbank Centre and world premiere with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall, and appointed the sole Artist-in-Residence of the 2018 Helsinki Festival, Finland’s biggest yearly cultural event.

Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?
I'd rather turn the question around a bit and name five pieces of art from all genres that inspire me. If so, Alexander Zeldovich's 2011 film "Target", the self-described "audio-visual terror futuristic opera" band IC3PEAK from Russia (recently arrested, I believe), the Korean poet Pak tu-jin, João Guimarães Rosa's novel "Grande Sertao" (even in its English translation, since I can't read the Portuguese), every single block of my neighbourhood in Hong Kong (Sham Shui Po), and, if pressed to name one piece of music that's recently a 'favourite', it'll be anything on Toivo Tulev's new 'Magnificat' album recently released on Naxos for which I wrote the booklet notes. That's six, actually - but more is always better.

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?
It would have been in Moscow surely in 1993 or 1994 when I was five or six years old, or perhaps even earlier. The first composition I ever had published was 'Birds Concerto' in 1994, for two violins. I'm sure we performed that at some point.

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?
Why only prior? They continue. I was a wine taster and consulted in import, I started an online food delivery company in Estonia in 2012 that has been dominant in the market for years, I've written columns for Forbes and contributed to published research in finance and activist private equity for Columbia Business School, and that's just off the top of my head. Life is long, one can never do too much!

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

Two firefighters and whoever designed the lift would be ideal. We'd be short on conversation but we'd all be out to where we really need to be - creation!

What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a twenty-seven-minute violin concerto, the first movement of which was already premiered by Maxim Vengerov a couple years back; the full version finally gets done next year. It's been a seven-year project that's spanned my professional compositional career, in many ways. And the next is a commission for the Orquestra Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal with two solo singers on the subject of Fernando Pessoa's brilliant poetry and prose. And somewhere in between there are two big vocal-research projects based around Russian propaganda and air pollution, respectively (luckily not all at once).

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?
I get to collaborate with some incredible people and am particularly looking forward to a project I can't speak publicly about yet, but it covers film, travel, science, history, music, and art installation all at once with the greatest people I know. Living between Hong Kong and the UK, currently, has put me in touch with a wide constellation of genius artists and thinkers who work increasingly in multi-disciplinary ways. For me to fit into that, and even to facilitate it increasingly, is the best part about this job.

Feature

In 2008, Austin Leung was awarded a half scholarship to study at the University of Hong Kong, majoring in Medical Engineering. In his second year of study, he occasionally joined the University choir, which served as an enlightenment and the start of a musical journey for him. Deeply inspired, he started learning and practicing music for around six hours a day. Two years later, he acquired his first ABRSM Grade 8 certificates in both violin and music theory. Leung’s composition is distinctive for its integration of contrasting musical materials in the same work, ranging from tonal, expressive melodies to brutal contemporary ‘noise’. Such a compositional approach echoes Leung’s philosophical belief that the world is united yet also diverse. If the most contradictory musical materials can combine perfectly in the same piece, then humans, regardless of background or culture, should be able to coexist in the same world without discrimination, prejudice and war. Such a message is especially important in this era and Leung believes that music is one of the most effective platforms to deliver this message.

 

Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.






 

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?

George Crumb: Makrokosmos IV

George Crumb: Vox Balaenae

Qigang Chen: Iris Dévoilée

Unsuk Chin: Rocana

Yoshimatsu: Kamui-Chikap Symphony

 

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?

My first composition was performed in 2014 at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. It was a 10-minute piece for sinfonietta conducted by myself and performed by my friends.

 

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?

I worked as a technical assistant at a company that sells ceramic glass (thanks to my engineering degree!), which is usually used on induction cookers.

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

Maybe just one... I would like to ask Jesus what he thinks about the recent world (although he had probably foreseen this long ago…) Is it meant to be?

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a commission by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?

There isn’t anyone specific that I would like to work with, but recently I have been imagining collaborating with art forms like drama and animation etc.

While music is usually said to be relatively abstract, I see a lot of potential in collaborating with art forms that have the capability of delivering some concrete messages. 

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