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To celebrate our 20th anniversary last year we commissioned nearly 100 composers, ranging from the UK’s most highly regarded figures to the younger generation of emerging talents, to write a song loosely themed on ‘Britain’, and scored for single voice or duet and a range of accompanying instruments. The result is the critically acclaimed and imaginative NMC Songbook, a project that composer John Adams declared ‘confirms the robust health and endlessly varied landscape of Britain’s new music’ and which won the 2009 Classic FM Gramophone ‘Best Contemporary Release’ Award.

The songs set texts chosen by the composers and cover a vast array of subjects, from poems by Blake and Byron through to a list of the Kings and Queens of England, extracts from a National Trust brochure, chants from the Leyton Orient terraces, a whisky recipe, and a rant about road rage.


The Songbook Map is an attractive and intriguing way to explore the NMC Songbook. Each song is plotted on the colourful British Isles map above (complete with blue sheep!) with a pin, its position relating to either:

•  The birthplace/current residence of the composer

•  A location connected with the text author or the theme of the song.

Zoom in and out of the map using either the scroll wheel on your mouse or the guide at the bottom right of the map (this helps to access pins in the busy areas). Hover over a pin to hear an extract of the song; find out why we have placed it there then follow the link to the composer’s page on the NMC website to discover more about their work and their position on our innovative Music Map.


"Unpredictable, audacious, exhilarating and continually fascinating, the Songbook is an outstanding project. A Lucullan feast for the ears" INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW

 "The NMC Songbook will remain as a vital document of song composition at a particularly interesting point of development for British music, a point in which the songbook itself will have played no small part" MUSICAL CRITICISM

 “Anyone listening to these discs will find many things to savour…a treasure-trove of delights BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE *****

 “an invaluable overview of British music … beautifully sung and played by more than two dozen top performers” THE OBSERVER

 “One of the most imaginative anniversary projects I have seen” RADIO 3 CD REVIEW

 "Provides a remarkable snapshot of the oxymoronic mongrelism of UK culture ... ranging from high art and literature to the vernacular and the comic" THE WIRE