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30 Dec  

This December C:T marks its tenth birthday. From 2009–2019 the site has brought its members interviews, contemporary music news, concert listings, in-depth articles, jobs listings and other benefits. Sadly, in a changing world it has been hard to maintain our membership model. Until we can find a way to make the site viable it is, therefore, with regret that we announce that C:T will be closing its doors to new members for the foreseeable future. The site will remain live for now, but will probably close fully some time in the coming months.

 

To all who have visited the site or been members over the years, we thank you for your support.





27 Dec  

Whilst 2020 is likely to be dominated by Beethoven’s 250th, there are also several living composers who have significant birthdays in 2020. These include the 95th of Mikis Theodorakis (29th July), the 90th of Dieter Schnebel (14th March), Harald Banter (16th March) and Jean Guillou (18th April), the 80th of Alvin Singleton (28th December) and, most significantly in a British context, the 60th of Mark-Anthony Turnage. 

 

His birthday will be marked by premieres, including of a new Horn Concerto in January and a new collection of songs for jazz singer Ian Shaw and Psappha in April; a birthday concert at Wigmore Hall in March; masterclasses and featured composer billing in a number of summer festivals. 

 

There are, as always, any number of other premieres and festivals to look forward to. Here, then, is a small taste of what is to come…

 

January

 

13th Tansy Davies/Nick Drake, Cave (Online Concert). London Sinfonietta. Philharmonia Orchestra, Richard Watkins. Southbank Centre, London.

16th Mark-Anthony Turnage, Horn Concerto (Towards Alba) (world premiere). 

19th–4th February Peter Androsch, Die Schule oder Das Alphabet der Welt (world premiere run). Landestheater Linz, Austria. 

28th Composition:Wales Open Workshop. The latest in composition in Wales, as composers worthy of wider exposure have the opportunity to hear their works performed by the BBNOW. Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff.

29th Dimitrios Skyllas Kyrie Eleison (world premiere). BBCSO, Barbican, London.

 

February

 

7th–16th Festival Présences, including a portrait of George Benjamin.

17th Max Richter, Voices (world premiere). Barbican, London.

22nd BBC SO Total Immersion: Anders Hillborg. Barbican, London.

24th Lliam Paterson, The Angel Esmeralda, Scottish Opera, Silk Street Theatre, London.

27th James Hoyle Thymiaterion (world premiere). LSO, Barbican.

27th–27th March Philip Venables Denis and Katya. Performances in Newport, London, Mold, Aberystwyth and Cardiff.

 

Also in March (dates to be announced):

Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, Plymouth, UK.

 

March

 

19th Nico Muhly, Drawn Lines (world premiere). Sadler's Wells, London

22nd Sound Across a Century 1: Impressionism to Spectralism. London Sinfonietta, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. 

24th Mark-Anthony Turnage, 60th Birthday Concert including Owl Songs (world premiere). Wigmore Hall, London.

26th–16th April Fabio Vacchi, Madina (ballet, world premiere run). Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy.

27th Richard Baker, New Work. BBCSO, Barbican, London.

 

Also in March (dates to be announced)

Zeit für Neue Musik Festival

 

April

 

4th–19th Aix en Provence Easter Festival.

11th Marko Nikodijević, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas (world premiere). Bavarian State Opera. Munich, Germany.

25th–15th May Georg Friedrich Haas, Sym-phonie (world premiere run). Staatsballett Berlin, Berlin Germany.

26th Turning Points, a concert featuring works by Tory Takemitsu and others. London Sinfonietta, Kings Place, London. 

30th Mark-Anthony Turnage, Black Milk (world premiere). Psappha, Ian Shaw, Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester

30th–2nd May Jonathan Dove, The Day After. A revival of the chamber opera premiered in 2017. ENO, London.

 

May

 

7th Karl Jenkins, Stravaganza (World Premiere). BBNOW, St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.

8th–24th Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

15th–24th Bath Festival.

15th–22nd Vale of Glamorgan Festival.

20th–23rd Judith Weir, Blond Eckbert. A revival of the opera. ENO, London. 

20–3rd June Bergen International Festival.

22nd–31st St. Davids Cathedral Festival.

24th–19th June Stefan Wirth, Girl with a Pearl Earring (world premiere run). Zurich Opera, Switzerland. 

30th–25th June Michael Obst, Unter dem Gletscher (world premiere run). Landestheater Linz, Linz, Austria.

 

Also in May (details tbc)

The Festival of English Music.

Prague Spring International Music Festival (though not clear that this is taking place this year) 

 

June

 

1st Philippe Brault, Better Ask for Forgiveness But Then, We'll Disappear (I'd Prefer Not To) (world premiere). Norwegian National Company of Contemporary Dance, Studio Bergen, Norway.

3rd–24th Torsten Rasch, The Other Wife (world premiere). Dresden State Opera, Dresden, Germany.

12th–28th Aldeburgh Music Festival

20th Joby Talbot, Everest. BBCSO, Barbican, London.

21st–27th St. Magnus International Festival.

 

Also in June (details tbc):

Spitalfields Music Festival

Gregynog Festival

 

July

 

3rd–19th Buxton Festival. A marriage of opera, books and music, including some by contemporary composers. Buxton, Derbyshire.

4th–30th August Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.

14th–29th Schlern International Music Festival.

17th Matt Rogers, She Described it to Death. Royal Ballet, Linbury Theatre, London.

17th-12th September BBC Proms. Programme not currently available, but there will be premières aplenty.

17th–30th August Salzburg Festival.

19th–23rd Matt Rogers She Described It to Death (world premiere run). Royal Opera, London.

30th–11th July Soundscape. Maccagno, Italian Alps.

 

Other July festivals (dates tbc):

Tête à Tête Opera Festival. Described as ‘our most imaginative opera laboratory’, the festival focuses entirely on new music. 

‘Aix en Provence Festival. ‘Aix en Provence, France. 

 

August

7th–31st Edinburgh International Festival. Programme not yet available, but there is usually a good selection of new music.

10th–22nd High Score Festival. Contemporary music festival and classes. Pavia, Italy.

27th–1st September Presteigne Festival. Artistic innovation, musical discovery and, of course, new works in the Welsh Marches. Presteigne, Powys. 

 

September

 

4th–27th Beethovenfest, Bonn.

 

Also in September (dates tbc):

Oslo Contemporary Music Festival.

 

October

 

Also in October (dates tbc):

Wien Modern. Festival that focuses on contemporary music. Vienna, Austria.

Sound. North East Scotland’s Festival of New Music. Various venues.

Festival 20/21 and Transit. Leuven, Belgium. 

 

November

 

20th–29th Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

 

December

 

Spitalfields Winter Festival. (date tbc)





24 Dec  

This seasonal story appeared on C:T for the first time in 2014. If it seems strange that, in it, I chose Stravinsky as a composer of contemporary music, I can only say I had my reasons—I needed someone whose style had bridged the romantic and modern eras. Despite this, I think the story still makes its point.  I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas!

 

MAHLER'S GHOST

 

   Mahler was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by his agent, the conductor, his understudy and the chief mourner. Scrooge would have signed it too had he been there, for Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

 

   Old Mahler, just as Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach before him, was as dead as a door-nail. The last in a noble line. 

 

   Oh! But he was a choosy man as a listener, Scrooge: melody, tonality, species counterpoint and classical forms! Hard and sharp as flint, with a distain for anything that defied the old norms. The excitement of discovery had little influence on him. No melody without tonic, no rhythm without pulse, no harmony without concord. The bitter wind of change blew and he resisted with scornful word and condescending look. But what did Scrooge care? He knew what he liked. 

 

   Once upon a time – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – old Scrooge sat busy in his house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. 

 

   ‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice from the front door. It was Scrooge’s nephew, who, on being let in, presented his uncle with a small wrapped package.

 

   ‘I have a present for you. Open it!’ 

 

   Reluctantly, Scrooge took the packet and unwrapped it.

 

   ‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’ he said.

 

   ‘Stravinsky a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

 

   ‘I do,’ said Scrooge. “‘Stravinsky! All noise I tell you!’

 

   ‘Come,’ returned the nephew gaily. ‘I promise you, it is not even difficult Stravinsky: these works were written before the death of your beloved Mahler.’

 

   Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ‘Bah!’ again; and followed it up with ‘Humbug.’

 

   ‘Don’t be cross, uncle!’ said the nephew.

 

   ‘What else can I be,’ returned the uncle, ‘when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Stravinsky! You invite me to your concerts of modern Music and you insult me with this present! Every idiot who goes listening to this nonsense should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

 

   ‘Uncle!’ pleaded the nephew.

 

   ‘Nephew!’ returned the uncle sternly, ‘keep to your own Music, and let me keep to mine.’

 

   ‘I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!’

 

   ‘Good afternoon!’ said Scrooge.

 

   ‘And A Happy New Year!’

 

   ‘Good afternoon!’ said Scrooge.

 

   His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding.

 

   Left in peace, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his tie; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his supper. As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing.The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

 

   ‘It's humbug!’ said Scrooge. ‘I won't believe it.’ 

 

   His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, ‘I know him; Mahler’s Ghost!’ and fell again.

 

   The same face: the very same. Mahler with his swept-back hair, severe woollen suit, bow-tie and wire-frame glasses. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

 

   ‘How now.’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ‘What do you want with me?’

 

   ‘Much. I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping your fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.’

 

   ‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the narrow Musical path you tread. Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One. Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’

 

THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

  

    The following night Scrooge lay in his bed when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was, perhaps, the wisest resolution in his power.

 

    The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At length it broke upon his listening ear.

 

    ‘Ding, dong!’

 

    ‘A quarter past,’ said Scrooge, counting.

 

    ‘Ding, dong!’

 

    ‘Half-past!’ said Scrooge.

 

    ‘Ding, dong!’

 

    ‘A quarter to it,’ said Scrooge.

 

    ‘Ding, dong!’

 

    ‘The hour itself,’ said Scrooge triumphantly, ‘and nothing else!’

 

    He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor.

 

   It was a strange portly figure with a white wig. It wore a long navy coat, white knee breeches and socks and buckled black shoes. In one of its delicate jabot and lace cuffed hands it held a piece of brown parchment.

 

   ‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.

 

   ‘I am.’

 

   The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

 

   ‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

 

   ‘I am the Ghost of Music Past.’

 

   ‘What do you want of me?’

 

   ‘Rise! and walk with me!’

 

   It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes; that bed was warm, and the thermometer a long way below freezing; that he was clad but lightly in his slippers, dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that he had a cold upon him at that time. The grasp, though gentle as a woman's hand, was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.

   

   ‘I am mortal,’ Scrooge remonstrated, ‘and liable to fall.’

 

   ‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this!’

 

   As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall and stood in the chancel of a large church. Scrooge's house had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The bulky walls of the building were broken by small arched windows, which let in so little light that it took Scrooge's eyes a moment to adjust. A choir of monks was rehearsing in the gloom.

 

    ‘Good Heavens!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘Who are these people?’

 

   ‘These are but shadows of people that have been,’ said the Ghost. 'They have no consciousness of us. Watch and listen'

 

   The strange sounds filled the building. Scrooge was perplexed. 

 

   ‘What is this Music? It is beautiful in its way,’ he said.

 

   ‘You sound uncertain,' said the Spirit.

 

   ‘I don’t know, it sounds…’ Scrooge struggled to find the right word.

 

   ‘…empty.’

 

   ‘It is organum.’ said the Spirit.

 

   ‘What is that?’ asked Scrooge, who had the feeling that a trick had been played upon him.

 

   ‘A type of Music common at this time. You only need to know that it is different.’

 

   ‘I cannot see how that concerns me,’ said Scrooge.

 

   ‘You stand here at the very source of all you love. It concerns you a great deal.’

 

   Before Scrooge could reply the Spirit had taken his hand. He led him down the chancel steps before motioning him to turn back towards the high altar. 

 

   To Scrooge's astonishment the scene had changed: he now found himself in lavish courtly surroundings. There was a smaller group of singers and an informal audience of eminent personages in various positions of elegant repose. The men sported pointed beards and wide moustaches and wore close-fitting doublets, hose and breeches. Of the women, Scrooge’s eye was drawn to one more splendid than the rest. She sat apart with a pearl headdress, ruff, a finely embroidered blue doublet with a high neckline and matching skirts.

 

   ‘Who is that?’ asked Scrooge.

 

   ‘That is Margherita of Austria, bride of Philip III of Spain.’

 

   ‘And where are we?’

 

   ‘Mantua’ replied the Spirit.

 

   Scrooge listened to the singers and quickly found himself engrossed. The beauty of the voices, the finely wrought counterpoint and, above all, the agonising and exquisite harmonies. Tears came to his eyes.

 

   ‘You are emotional,’ said the Spirit.

 

   ‘I cannot help it, this Music, it…’

 

   Scrooge’s search for a superlative was interrupted by the sound of a chair scraping on the floor. One of the audience had sprung angrily to his feet and was walking noisily from the room.

 

   ‘Disgraceful!’ cried a scandalised Scrooge. ‘Who would interrupt such beautiful Music.’

 

   ‘A man who, perhaps, found these harmonies a little trying.’

 

   ‘Trying! I cannot believe it!’

 

   ‘Believe it you must. That man is Giovanni Maria Artusi. He will soon be writing a book called The Imperfections of Modern Music.

 

   Scrooge was incredulous. ‘Imperfections? I cannot imagine a Music more perfect’ He would have continued but his eye was caught by a member of the small choir, a man in his thirties, who looked as enraged as the man who had stormed out.

 

   ’Who is that?’

 

   ‘He is Claudio Monteverdi.’ 

 

   ‘Of course!’ cried Scrooge, ‘He is the composer. I am not surprised he is angry.’

 

   ‘The path of the modern composer is never easy…’ 

 

   The Spirit looked pleased with himself. Scrooge was beginning to guess the game.

 

   ‘You show me these visions to what end?’

 

   ‘That tastes change,’ replied the Spirit ‘and Music progresses. You found the open harmonies of the organum dull compared to the Music you prefer. Imagine if those monks had been listening to this Monteverdi madrigal. How might they have reacted when even Monteverdi’s contemporaries found it shocking?’

 

   Scrooge thought for a moment. ‘You make a good argument Spirit. I can see that what you say is true but how can I change the Music I like? Modern Music is so difficult, so complicated.’

 

   'All will become clear'

 

   Seeing that the ghost looked upon him with disdain, Scrooge became angry. 

 

   'Why do you mock me?' he exclaimed. 'Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

 

   He was suddenly conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, then, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

 

THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS

 

   Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, Scrooge found his bed the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour of one; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at. At last, however, he began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

 

   The moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

 

   It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. He was looking at a schoolroom, more specifically a Music room. There was a piano and stereo system and several rough lines of chairs. On each was seated a fidgeting and excited child. As well as a large whiteboard, the walls were adorned with posters of composers: a plump and contented looking Bach, a dishevelled Beethoven, a hugely foreheaded Berlioz. There were also some other figures – Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Shostakovich – and also many others he had never heard of.

 

   ‘I am the Ghost of Music Present,’ said the Spirit.

 

   Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

 

  ‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge submissively, ‘conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’

 

   ‘From these children shall ye learn!’

 

   Another figure, a young man, was now in the room. He was putting a CD into the stereo system.

 

   ‘Remember’ he said ‘when you close your eyes to think of the Musical elements: tempo, texture, timbre, dynamics, duration, pitch and pulse. But, also, I want to know what you feel.’

 

   Half-expecting some Mozart or Beethoven – something, he thought condescendingly, that would challenge these young minds – Scrooge was stupefied to hear a score of astonishing complexity and dissonance. 

 

   He recognised the opening words, Kyrie Eleison.  But this was no cheerful Mozart Mass setting; it was a terrible and awesome wall of sound.

 

   ‘Where is the melody? Where is the harmony? I cannot make sense of this,’ opined Scrooge.

 

   ‘Your ears are dulled by the familiar. You must learn to listen anew.’

 

   After a few minutes the teacher faded the Music out. 

 

   ‘Who wants to tell me something about this piece. What about the dynamics?’ he asked.

 

   Twenty hands shot up, twenty posteriors bounced on chairs.

 

   Child 1: ‘Started quietly sir and got louder!’

 

   ‘As simple as that?’

 

   Child 2: ‘No sir. It got quieter again at the end.’

 

   ‘And the texture?’

 

   Child 3: ‘It started thin, there wasn’t much going on, but then there was more and more.’

 

   ‘Ok, good, so how would you describe the things going on? What about the duration of the notes?’

 

   Child 4: ‘Lots of very fast short notes, all at the same time!’

 

   ‘Anything else?’

 

   Child 2 again (smart aleck): ‘No, there were some long notes every now and again’

 

   ‘What about the timbre of the notes? What instruments could you hear?’

 

   Child 5: ‘Well, mostly the quick bits were with singing, but the long notes were played by instruments.’

 

   ‘And the pitch? Did anyone notice what happened at the end?’

 

   Child 6: ‘It got higher’

 

   Child 7: ‘Yes, but that stopped at the end leaving lower sounds underneath’

 

   The teacher took out a pen and drew three shapes on the whiteboard: a rectangle, a wedge shape starting with the widest section and gradually tapering off to a point and a wedge that did the exact reverse.’

 

   ‘If you had to choose one of these shapes to describe the Music, which would it be? Who votes for the first?’

 

   One hand, quickly withdrawn. Disgusted looks from the others. 

 

   ‘The second?’

 

   Not a single hand.

 

   ‘The third?’

 

   Every hand shot up.

 

   Child 2 (again!): ‘But maybe you should also put a little shape at the end to show it getting quiet.’

 

   ‘Quite right too!’ said the young man, well content. ‘And what did you think of the Music? Did you like it?’

 

   Chorus of children: ‘Yes! It was spooky! Scary! Sounded a bit spacey! To infinity and beyond!’

 

   The Ghost turned to Scrooge. ’Do you still think modern Music is too complicated to understand?’ he asked. 

 

   Scrooge felt hot with embarrassment. ‘No,’ he answered simply. 

 

   ‘You listen to Music expecting certain things, especially you expect tonal harmony and melody. As soon as these things are absent you switch off your ears and close your mind. Children have no such preconceptions. They listen without prejudice and so hear without limit.’

 

   ‘How then can I free my mind?’

 

   ‘I have one more thing to show you’

 

   The Ghost took Scrooge’s hand and suddenly found himself high in the air and moving with great speed. It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew's and to find himself in a bright, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that same nephew with approving affability.

 

   ‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Scrooge's nephew. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’

 

   ‘He said that modern Music was a humbug, as I live!’ cried Scrooge's nephew. ‘He believed it too!’ 

 

   ‘More shame for him, Fred!’ said Scrooge's niece, indignantly. 

 

   ‘He's a comical old fellow,’ said Scrooge's nephew, ‘that's the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.’

 

   ‘I have no patience with him,’ observed Scrooge's niece.

 

   ‘Oh, I have!’ said Scrooge's nephew. ‘I am sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always. He takes it into his head to dislike anything written after Mahler. What's the consequence? He misses a whole world of Music.’

 

   ‘But perhaps’, said one of his friends, ‘your old Scrooge is right. Why shouldn’t he listen to what he likes?’

 

   ‘My good man, you entirely miss the point. He is like a child who refuses new foods. I do not object to him listening to what he likes, but I object most strongly to him not trying new things.’

 

   ‘But your analogy does not work,’ his friend protested, ‘one can avoid the taste of new food by the simple act of refusing to put it in one’s mouth. That is childish indeed. Music is everywhere. He cannot fail to have heard some New Music so, even though he avoids it, his opinion is based on real data.’

 

   ‘Ah, but how many of us talk about “the acquired taste” when we talk about those marvellous flavours that we eschew as children. We have to work to acquire them. Once cultivated, life becomes rich indeed.’

 

   ‘Life without the great classical composers before Mahler is not rich enough?’

 

   ‘Simply not as rich as it could be. How can it be when you consider the enormous variety of Music written since that time? Actually, given that there is such a variety, he has even less excuse not to listen to it’

 

   ‘What can you mean?’

 

   ‘Some of our most eminent living composers do not pose a stylistic challenge in the way that he perceives it. Our first reaction when listening to Glass, Adams or Reich is not to bemoan the astringency of the harmonies and the impossible intricacies of the serial method. I am saying that, even given his current tastes, there are marvellous pieces he could listen to today without any great effort. He simply needs to be more inquisitive.’

 

   ‘But that is still an admission that he will never get to grips with more challenging fare’

 

   ‘What I refer to is a gradual opening of the mind. Of course if one begins with Boulez or Birtwistle, there is a possibility that a listener will perceive all the Music of our time as being difficult and stop listening. That is why I tried to give him some early Stravinsky today. The same composer who wrote the Requiem Canticles at the end of his life also wrote Fireworks and Firebird at the beginning. This is a microcosm of Music of our time; there is a multiplicity of styles. If you find some of it bewildering that is not an excuse not to listen, but to find something else, and perhaps try that which bewildered you again later.’

 

   ‘Anyway,' said Scrooge's nephew, becoming cheerful again, 'at least his oddities provide with us with good conversation, so it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say, “Uncle Scrooge!”’

 

   ‘Uncle Scrooge!’ they cried.

 

   ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is.’ said Scrooge's nephew. ‘He wouldn't take his present from me, but may he have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!’

 

   Scrooge was so gay and light of heart, to hear his health so heartily drunk. Neither had the lesson been wasted upon him: 

 

   ‘I do believe that my nephew is right. Perhaps there is something to be gained by being a little more adventurous in my listening habits. I will look into it when I have a moment.’

 

   ‘You feel no urgency?’

 

   ‘Is there any?’ asked Scrooge.

 

   ‘Very much so.’

 

   The whole scene passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by the Spirit; and he and Scrooge were again upon their travels. It had been a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until, as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.

 

   ‘Are spirits’ lives so short?’ asked Scrooge.

 

   ‘My life upon this globe, is very brief,’ replied the Ghost. ‘It ends tonight.’

 

   ‘Tonight!’ cried Scrooge.

 

   ‘Tonight at midnight. Hark! It is already time.'

 

   The chimes were ringing twelve.

 

   Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Mahler, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

 

THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

 

   The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

 

   It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

 

   He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

 

   ‘I am in the presence of Music Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.

 

   The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

 

   ‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is that so, Spirit?’

 

   The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

 

   Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it.

 

   ‘Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear your company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?’

 

   It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

 

   The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.

 

   A churchyard. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation's death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite.

 

   The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

 

   ‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,’ said Scrooge, ‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?’

 

   Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

 

   ‘Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!’

 

   The Spirit was immovable as ever.

 

   Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave the Spirit’s own name:

 

   Music Yet to Come

 

   ‘It cannot be!’ he cried, upon his knees.

 

   The finger pointed from the grave to the Phantom himself, and back again.

 

   ‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no!’

 

   The finger still was there.

 

   ‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if it is beyond all hope?’

 

   For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

 

   ‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘I understand. Finally, I understand. I have always loved and honoured Music. I have fawned and doted upon composers, but never once have I stopped to listen to the Music of my time. I never realised that there was such variety and richness, that I already possess the faculties for comprehending it, if only I tried to be a little more adventurous.’

 

   ‘I will not let Music die. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!’

 

   In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

 

   Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

 

THE END OF IT

 

   Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

 

   ‘I will not let Music die!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Gustav Mahler! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Gustav, on my knees!’

 

   He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.

 

   Scrooge was better than his word. He listened. Oh how he listened! Berg, Boulez, Benjamin; Messiaen, Murail, MacMillan; Stravinsky, Simpson, Saunders. The modern classics and the classics in the making. He bought tickets to concerts and evangelised. The occasional piece he did not like he did not cast aside, granting instead that, perhaps, he had not fully understood it or that a second or third listening might be required. He did not forget the old composers. In fact, his knowledge of the repertoire helped him better understand the Music of his own time. 

 

   Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

 

   He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew his Music, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, God bless Us, Every One! 





13 Dec  

Another year of political turmoil, the deaths of André Previn and Michel Legrand, awards, premieres and festivals. Here’s C:T’s exclusive look back at another year in contemporary music….

 

January

 

C:T kicked off the New Year with an interview with composer Bushra El-Turk. Sad news followed with the death of composer John Joubert, who at 91 had at least lived long enough to hear the first performance of his opera Jane Eyre (1987–1997) in 2016. On 10th we were treated to alternative musician’s view of Brexit from contributor Andrew Glover. Meanwhile an argument was brewing over the EU’s proposed Article 13 legislation, which allowed copyright holders to assert their rights over streaming platforms such as YouTube. On 26th we lost French composer, pianist and singer Michel Legrand, best known for The Windmills of Your Mind.

  André Previn

February

16th February saw the death of Israeli composer Ami Maayani, who, like Iannis Xenakis, had a parallel career in architecture. A few days later we celebrated wins for composers Ludwig Goransson, who won an Oscar for his soundtrack to Black Panther and John Adams, who was awarded the 2019 Erasmus Prize. This month ended with the death of conductor, pianist and composer André Previn, a man of many parts who will nevertheless be best remembered for certain comedy show appearance.

 

March

 

March began with the launch of Scala Radio. A supposed competitor to Classic FM, one of C:T’s users, Rob Kennedy, commented ‘I listened to Scala for 20 minutes and that was all I could stand. It was full of ads, meaningless talk and only light classical music.’ 

 

On 21st we celebrated the approaching birthday of brilliant British contemporary music label NMC with an interview with it Executive Director, Anne Rushton. Meanwhile, the Article 13 controversy was continuing, with Boris Johnson’s arguments against it igniting a Twitter Storm.

 

April

 

On 9th April I tentatively reviewed NotePerformer 3, a new sound set for Sibelius. Having used it a bit longer I can now say that it was well-worth the purchase price.  The middle of the month saw ghastly images from Paris as Notre Dame caught fire. The musical world saw some relief when, a few days later, it was confirmed that the majestic Cavaille-Coll organ had survived.

 

May

 

The beginning of the month saw the announcement of The Ivors nominees (songwriting and screen composition) and a new report into the effects of Brexit on the music profession. We also marked the deaths of Belgian composer Dominique Lawalrée and British-Canadian Derek Holman.

 

June

 

In June C:T previewed the programmes for Tête à Tête, one of the UK’s best new music opera festivals, and the Cheltenham Festival and the BBC Proms, venerable older institutions that also do much to promote new music. We mourned the deaths of two composers on the same day, Dane Ib Nørholm and Swede Sven-David Sandström. Also sad to see was the closure of Borough New Music, which held its last concert on 25th.

 

July

 

At the beginning of the month we covered a second annual report from DONNE, Women in Music, which highlighted gender imbalances in composer concert programming—there was little progress year-on-year. On 4th the musical world erupted in indignation at an anonymous Guardian article that posed the question ‘What is classical music for?’ A few days later I posted a few of my own thoughts about it. On 21st Tom Could pointed out an unlikely link between Boris Johnson and Hans Werner Henze:

The month ended with the death of Australian composer Barrington Pheloung, best known as the composer of the Inspector Morse theme.

 

August

 

On 6th we marked the death of Belarusian composer and organist Anna Korotkina, who was known for her synthesis of the modern and the traditional, most notably through her study of ancient Belarusian Orthodox vocal manuscripts. As the UK political situation remained fraught, UK Music issued no deal Brexit guidance. There was bleak news on 17th, with a report highlighting a continued decline in the numbers of pupils studying music at A-level. Worse was to come, with the death of French composer Julien Gauthier who, horrifyingly, was killed by a bear on a field recording expedition in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada. He was just 44.

 

September

 

On 4th we looked forward to performances of new works by Richard James Harvey and Liz Lane at a special concert marking the 75th anniversary of St Albans Choral Society. There were congratulations on 11th, where we celebrated the announcement of new Sound and Music Adopt a Composer Pairings for 2019/20, and on 18th, when we covered the awarding of the Isang Yun International Composition Award to Heinz Hollinger and Kaija Saariaho. On 26th we marked the death of American composer Christopher Rouse, described by John Adams as ‘One of the few whose music will last.’

 

October

 

On 2nd I previewed a fabulous festival that takes place on my own doorstep, the Transit Festival, Leuven.  There were congratulations for composer Aya Yoshida on 6th, who had won the 2019 Zemlinsky Prize and for young composer Jack Pepper on 9th, who had been named as a Music for Youth Ambassador. Sound and Music released its Can Compose report, which aimed to reveal the barriers faced by young people looking to compose and create their own music. In it, 97% of educators agreed that there should be more opportunities for students to compose their own music. At the end of the month the Ivors Academy announced their shortlist for the 2019 Composer Awards, the Oscars of the British composing world.

 

November

 

As the UK election started to warm-up, on 7th UK Music called upon party leaders to back the industry ahead of the general election. There were two new reports, one from Sound and Music that revealed that their efforts to reflect ethnic diversity in their composition programmes were having mixed results, and another, UK Numbers, which revealed that music contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy. On 20th we marked the death of US composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, who was a noted advocate for accessibility in contemporary music. On 22nd we lost choral conductor Stephen Cleobury, known in the composition world for his commissioning of a new carol each Christmas at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge.

 

December

 

December saw the awarding of the Ivor Novello Awards and congratulations from C:T to all the winners. 

 

This bring us to the momentous events of today. The victory of Boris Johnson in the UK election means the completion of Brexit. Many—though by no means all—musicians will feel disheartened by this news. As we look towards the new year, however, it is important to realise that there are still arguments for us to make. The next year will either see the shaping of the UK’s new relationship with the EU through the forging of a new trade deal or the collapse of negotiations and the renewed prospect of a no deal Brexit. The nature of the deal, or lack of it, will define how easy it will be for musicians to do business with our continental colleagues. So, as the future unfolds, whilst accepting the matter, we must continue to try to shape the manner. Perhaps this will even mark a return to politics as normal. Not before time.





10 Dec  

Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth received the Österreichischen Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunstthe (Austrian Decoration for Science and Art) yesterday. Part of the celebration consisted of a eulogy from Greek composer and conductor Konstantia Gourzi. The award came the day after the world premiere of Neuwirth’s new opera Orlando, based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography.

Orlando rehearsal preview





5 Dec  

Yesterday evening the Ivors Academy announced the winners of the 2019 Ivors Composer Awards.

 

Ivor Novello Awards were presented across eleven nominated categories that included jazz composition, works for chamber ensemble and those written for Amateur or Young Performers. In addition, two composers were recognised for their wider contribution to music through the presentation of Ivor Novello Awards for Innovation and Lifetime Achievement. Of the thirteen composers awarded, all but one was honoured by The Ivors Academy for the very first time, with the majority presented to female composers.

 

Many congratulations to all of the winners, who were as follows:

 

AMATEUR OR YOUNG PERFORMERS

The Salamander and The Moonraker by Edward Gregson

 

CHAMBER ENSEMBLE

Flute Concerto by Dai Fujikura

 

CHORAL

Pocket Universe by Geoff Hannan

 

COMMUNITY OR EDUCATIONAL PROJECT

Convo by Charlotte Harding

 

JAZZ COMPOSITION FOR LARGE ENSEMBLE

Jumping In by Laura Jurd

 

JAZZ COMPOSITION FOR SMALL ENSEMBLE

There is a Crack in Everything by Alison Rayner

 

ORCHESTRAL

The Book of Miracles (Trombone Concerto) by Gavin Higgins

 

SMALL CHAMBER

Leafleoht by James Weeks

 

SOLO OR DUO

Invisible Cities by Charlotte Bray

 

SOUND ART

Aeons: A Sound Walk for Newcastle by Martin Green

 

STAGE WORKS

Harriet (‘Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman’) by Hilda Paredes

 

INNOVATION

Anna Meredith MBE

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Erika Fox

 

 

Ivors Academy Website.





4 Dec  

Industry body UK Music has called upon the British government to recognise the power of music to improve wellbeing and boost the development of young people

 

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher has called on politicians and policymakers to recognise the “transformative” impact that music can have on mental health and wellbeing.

 

In a speech on Monday December 2 at music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins’ Social Value of Music conference, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher outlined the crucial value of music to society and the economy.

 

Quoting the Music’s Music By Numbers report (see here) he revealed the UK music industry now contributed a record £5.2 billion a year to the economy. 

 

Dugher also highlighted findings from the Cultural Learning Alliance, which found that exposure to music enhanced cognitive abilities by 17 per cent.  He also pointed to a study in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine which revealed 96 per cent of patients had positive responses to music therapy.

 

Ahead of the looming General Election on December 12, Mr Dugher urged the next Government to set up an inter-departmental strategy on music and health to focus all the social benefits that music can bring.

 

He added: “This is a vitally important area and something that I and my colleagues at UK Music have already been talking to the Government about. It would be key in mapping out how we maximise the benefits of music for everyone.”

 

Mr Dugher said that “rhetoric needs to be matched by action...including on funding”.

 

In his speech, Mr Dugher referenced the impact of music on health and wellbeing by highlighting

 

-evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing that music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67 per cent of people with dementia.

–Government estimates that arts participation rates in England result in NHS cost savings of £168.8 million due to reduced GP visits.

 

He said “We all know from personal experience how a particular piece of music can calm us, can lift our mood when we’re feeling down or depressed, can help us celebrate and feel good, can give us pause for reflection triggering memories and experiences that define our lives.”

 

Mr Dugher also referenced the impact of music on general educational development by citing a study of 

 

–147 children that found structured music lessons enhanced language-based reasoning, short-term memory and planning and led to improved academic performance.

–608 students that revealed those that played a musical instrument showed greater progress at school and better academic outcomes than those pupils who did not play music.

 

He said “All the evidence suggests that children who are engaged in their education through music, and similarly through other subjects like drama and sport, do better at core subjects like Maths and English.”

 

For more information: UK Music website.





27 Nov  

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis has announced the release of her new book, The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp (Carl Fischer Music), a comprehensive guide and conversational text on composing idiomatically for the harp. The book features 22 detailed chapters on a full spectrum of topics, including technical logistics, chromaticism, notation, context, resonance management, special effects, and more.

 

Kondonassis, one of the world’s most renowned harp soloists, writes, “In many ways, this book has been writing itself in my head for at least two decades. My motivation to demystify the harp is strong; I would even go so far as to call it a mission, but my goal is not merely to provide a set of rules, lists, and practical suggestions. While I have made a concentrated effort to streamline information and highlight those areas that I consider to be the most valuable and important, this volume should not read like a textbook. It should feel more like a friendly, candid conversation with an experienced harpist who wants to make composing for the harp easier and more successful.” 

 

Topics covered in Kondonassis’ book include: 

  • Chromaticism and navigating the harp’s pedal system
  • Physics of writing idiomatic music
  • Practical guidance on register, volume, and resonance
  • Comprehensive index of traditional effects and notation
  • Over twenty pages of contemporary special effects with notation
  • Props, electro-acoustics, and media integration
  • Candid advice on writing for the harp in every context

The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp also features six original illustrations by cartoonist Jeffrey Curnow. Each cartoon was drawn especially for the book and imparts Curnow’s gift of musical humour.

 

As an author, composer, and arranger, Kondonassis has published three books to date: On Playing the Harp, The Yolanda Kondonassis Collection, and The Yolanda Kondonassis Christmas Collection, all published by Carl Fischer Music. She has also published a children’s book, Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters.

 

The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp is available now from Carl Fisher Music





27 Nov  

The death of eminent choral conductor Stephen Cleobury last Friday, just a few month into his retirement, came as shocking news to those of us not in the cathedral music loop.  

 

Cleobury will chiefly be remembered as Director of Music at King’s College Cambridge, where he successfully maintained its world-class choral tradition for the better part of 40 years. Outside Cambridge he conducted the East Anglia Chamber Orchestra (for which he also served as honorary president) and was chief conductor of the BBC Singers from 1995 to 2007 before becoming their connector laureate. He was president of the Royal College of Organists from 1990 to 1992, continuing to give organ recitals throughout his career. Both as conductor and performer he leaves a substantial and highly-regarded discography.

 

He was a great supporter of contemporary music. At King’s he established the annual tradition of commissioning a composer to write a new carol for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. They included such figures as Peter Maxwell Davies, Lennox Berkeley, Judith Weir, Arvo Pärt, Jonathan Harvey, Thea Musgrave and Tansy Davies. As Director of the Cambridge University Musical Society he also recorded Alexander’s Goehr’s The Death of Moses and gave the first performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Sorecerer’s Mirror. 

 

Stephen Cleobury was appointed as CBE in 2009 and knighted this year for his services to choral music.

 

John Rutter: A Tribute to Sir Stephen Cleobury (including insights into the commissioning of the Festival of Nine Lessons Carol)





20 Nov  

Music by Numbers 2019 - industry contributes £5.2 billion to UK economy

 

Industry body UK Music today published its first study reveals the role music plays in the economy. The key findings include:

 

- The UK music industry contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018.

- The Live Music sector made contribution of £1.1 billion in 2018 - up 10% from £991 million in 2017. 

- Employment in the industry hit an all-time high of 190,935 in 2018.

- The total export revenue of the music industry was £2.7 billion in 2018.

- Music tourism alone contributed £4.5 billion spend to the UK economy in 2018 - up 12% from £4 billion in 2017.

 

- Overseas visitors to UK shows and festivals surged by 10% from 810,000 in 2017 to 888,000 in 2018.

 

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:

Our report reveals firm evidence that the British music industry is in great shape and continuing to lead the world.


The figures are hugely encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions of people, music makes an incredible contribution to the UK’s economy.

 

Full story, here.







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