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10 Feb  

I have always been amazed at the opportunities offered by Ablaze Records. Especially I’ve wondered how they manage to finance such a lavish range of competitions.

 

Well, according to a story over at Slipped Disc, they do it by asking the winning composer to pay for the performance. Composer Nikita Suhih recently won a competition, but was then asked to stump up $19,000 for the performance. 

 

Caveat emptor…





9 Feb  

John Adams, who turns 70 this month, has just given some reactions to political events in the U.S. The interview, with Gabe Meline, can be found, here. Well worth a read…

 

This also come as the Seattle Symphony tonight plays a programme of music from the seven countries whose immigrants were banned from entering the country. From their website: 'As artists and Americans, we are committed to freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas which create an environment of mutual understanding and the capacity for empathy. At the Seattle Symphony, we are inspired to add our voice in the hopes that we can come together through music.'





8 Feb  

  Ashwood Photography London

Christian Morris talks to Philip Sawyers, whose Symphony No. 3 will be premiered by the English Symphony Orchestra on 28th February at St John's Smith Square, London.

 

Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to compose?

 

Almost as soon as I started learning the violin at the age of 13, making up music just seemed a natural thing to do. I was very lucky at Dartington College of the Arts, where I studied for my A-levels, in having an inspirational teacher in the person of Helen Glatz. She held a 'composers' workshop' every Friday and we were encouraged to bring anything we had written, however incomplete, to have played through and given her perceptive observations. It was a marvellously practical way to learn your craft. At the Guildhall I was a first study violinist so composition was not part of the course and I was left to find my own way. I had pieces performed and received various comments from my peers and from some of the composition staff. My most memorable occasion was conducting my Symphonic Music for Strings and Brass and having Rubbra make encouraging remarks about it.

 

You seem to have led a busy professional life after studying at Guildhall. Was there much time for composition? 

 

After the Guildhall I had to make a living and again was lucky in getting a contract with the ROH orchestra where I played from 1973 to 1997. During that time I also freelanced with other orchestras, including the LSO and BSO, and, amazingly, found time to play in some light music and pop sessions as well! The marvellous thing about the ROH was the list of amazing world-renowned conductors and soloists, of whom I have many happy memories. This clearly left little time for composition but, although fellow musicians and audiences enjoyed my music, it was distinctly out of fashion. In the late 60s and into the 70s only the fashionable avant-garde composers following on from Stockhausen and Boulez seemed to get commissioned and large organisations like the BBC seemed only interested in 'cutting-edge' work. This I found hugely discouraging as a mostly 'tonal' composer and that played some part in my drop in output during those years.


Click here to read the rest of the interview. 





8 Feb  

On 25th March at The Barbican is the chance to hear Shostakovich’s piano score New Babylon, which will accompany a screening of the film. This is the first performance of the work as it was originally conceived.

 

From the Barbican website

 

Shostakovich’s spectacular first film score, New Babylon, was written when he was just 23 years old and is, alongside The Nose, his most important early dramatic work. Numerous re-writes of the film were demanded even before shooting started and the directors’ final cut completed in December 1928, when the composer was contracted to join the production. His myriad musical quotations matched a fast cross-cut film to produce a work of astonishing complexity and precision unequalled in silent film composition.

 

However, after two industry preview screenings with the composer himself performing his original solo piano score, the Moscow Sovkino office ordered the removal of over 20% of the film. Re-editing Shostakovich’s score to match proved impossible, parts were incomplete and early performances, a series of debacles, were beyond the abilities of cinema orchestras. Remaining copies of the piano score, destined for smaller cinemas and now unfitted for the re-edited film, were sold off. A rare surviving copy has provided the material for this first public performance.






8 Feb  

A very happy birthday to John Williams, who turns 85 today. 

 

It would be impossible to number the composers I’ve met who have been influenced by him in some way. For me, his film scores were among my first introductions to classical music, even before I knew his name—his soundtrack to E.T. was one of the first vinyl single singles I bought. 

 

It seems that the younger generation are just as enamoured by his music as was mine. Here are a couple of kids fanfaring the master six months ago. His reaction is delightful. 

And here he is talking about the scoring of E.T. Though it’s a relatively well-known fact, it’s worth hearing the part where he describes how, in the final section, Spielberg cut the film to match the music, not the other way around.





7 Feb  

The Konzerthaus Berlin has put out a series of videos in which an orchestra provides soundtracks to everyday events. They're very tongue in cheek, but a lot of fun. Perhaps there are even some real composition ideas in there somewhere...

Here's the first, entitled Currywurst:





7 Feb  

Le Belvédère, the eccentric house in which Ravel spent his last years, has closed its doors to visitors. There is no certainlty that they will reopen.

More from Sanjoy Roy at The Guardian.

 

 

 





6 Feb  

Helen Grime, whose new Piano Concerto will be premiered at Wigmore Hall on 3rd March 2017, has been talking to The Guardian about the music that inspires her, from ‘Bach to Bacharach, and Björk to George Benjamin.'

 

To learn a little more about Grime, also check out C:T’s interview with the composer, here.

 

 

 





6 Feb  

Sounds Like Now, the new magazine dedicated to contemporary music in the UK and Ireland, will, in the first instance at least, be a digital only publication. Dan Goren, the brains behind the new publication, recently emailed all backers of the the magazine:

 

You may well be wondering, given that we’ve not been in touch for some time, how we’re getting on with Sounds Like Now and when you can expect the launch of this exciting new publication.  I’d like to bring you up to date with progress and let you know about some key changes to the enterprise.

 

Launching a quality printed magazine is a major undertaking and towards the end of last year it became apparent that the uncertain economic climate was making it difficult to secure the business investment required to make our plans a reality.  Determined to find a way to deliver we consulted with music and publishing associates and reviewed our plans, concluding that there were two possible routes forward to explore.  The first was to go into partnership with an established magazine publisher, one with the facilities and finances to help bring a new magazine to market.  We discussed the proposal with several publishers of both high profile and specialist music magazines who looked at it in depth. Sounds Like Now was considered a worthwhile and potentially viable proposition, however, given the highly uncertain current economic climate none of the publishers are able at the present time to commit to a partnership on a brand new publication.

 

The second route is to launch an online magazine in the first instance, looking to follow up with a print publication once established.  Re-examining the business model and taking a closer look at existing online magazines we now have a revised plan which in several ways actually improves on the original, with the following advantages:

 

Focussing initially on an online offering we can provide a far more sophisticated and useful promotional and community engagement service

We can focus resources on much needed key content such as professional high quality journalism and a properly edited and maintained UK-&-Ireland-wide events listings

We can create a technically more developed online service operating better on phones and tablets and across social media

We can enhance the offer to other operators in the new music sector such as record labels, publishers and venues.

We will be able to publish more frequently and more responsively, which is especially useful for delivering on our core objective of promoting contemporary music events

The flexible marketing opportunities we can offer via the website, social media and email are more attractive than print both in terms of value for money and reach for performers, venues, agents, record labels, publishers and others.

We will be able to offer much more promotion to the great number of smaller performing groups and venues who operate on very limited financial resources.

Focussing online plays to our own strengths and experience, not least in the setting up and running of Composers Edition.

 

The expanded online offering will include the following:

 

Quality Independent Journalism - sets of articles on performers, composers, trends plus review and critique, issued on a monthly basis and available in full exclusively to subscribers.

 

Events guide - A fully edited guide to all thats going on in contemporary music across the UK and Ireland.  

- Available free to all on the website, through email and social media

- Subscribers will be able to post events for free

- Promotional opportunities through premium listings and event feature articles, with special deals for subscribers

 

New Releases - We'll feature new recordings, sheet music, books, apps and more

 

Offers -  Subscribers will be able to enter regular free sweepstakes for tickets to events and get special deals on products and services.  These will not only be attractive to subscribers but also provide marketing for performers, venues and promotors.  Our TicketSweep service will be particularly geared towards smaller operators who whilst cash-strapped may be able to offer tickets in return for publicity.

 

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our new editor Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Tim is author of Music after the Fall: Modern Composition since 1989 (University of California Press) and the acclaimed new music blog The Rambler. He has written widely on new music for publications in the UK, USA and Europe. Between 1999 and 2009 he worked for Grove Music Online, and was subsequently editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Music, sixth edition.  Many of you will of course know Tim’s work and share in my excitement at having him on board.

 

I realise that whilst a significant proportion of crowdfunders opted for a digital subscription, some might share our frustration at not being able to deliver a printed publication at this time.  Overall, I believe we can serve our objective to celebrate and promote contemporary classical music very effectively through an online start to the life of Sounds Like Now.   We are on course to publish by 1 May 2017 and will be in touch regarding listings in due course.  I am very pleased to be able to share these plans with you and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

Yours sincerely,

Dan Goren





6 Feb  

The Royal Academy of Music recently announced that John Adams will join their staff as a visiting Professor of Composition:

 

John Adams, one of the world’s leading composers, has joined the Royal Academy of Music faculty as a Visiting Professor. His commitment cements a relationship that began in 2012, when he conducted concerts at New York’s Lincoln Center and the BBC Proms in London, in which Academy students performed alongside Juilliard School players.


In 2015, the Academy devoted a day to Adams’ music, during which he was given an Honorary Doctorate, and after which he tweeted, ‘Thrilled to be honored by @RoyalAcadMusic of Music with such pizzazz performances by hugely talented players.’ Most recently, he worked young composers of the Junior Academy and conducted the Junior Academy Symphony Orchestra. As part of his new role, he returns to the Academy in April 2017 to work with Opera Course students, and later in the year with instrumentalists and composers.


John Adams wrote of the new connection: ‘I’m proud and delighted to spend time with the very talented students of the Royal Academy of Music. I’ll be able to spend time with the young composers, singers and instrumentalists in a relationship that is as fruitful for me as it hopefully will be for the students.’


Principal Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood said: ‘John’s involvement with the Royal Academy of Music has always been generous and delightful. We’ve had some memorable times, most recently a day at the end of 2015 celebrating his music and performing Grand Pianola Music under his direction. I’m thrilled that his association with the Academy is strengthened further through this appointment.’


James Jolly, editor-in-chief of Gramophone magazine wrote on the occasion of Adams’ doctorate: ‘Adams has given his time selflessly to young musicians, as teacher, mentor and collaborator, as students at the Academy well know. The buzzing energy that marked out the Academy–Juilliard collaboration in 2012 was extraordinary and went hand in hand with the open-hearted joy those students felt at having forged such an inspirational new musical friendship with their conductor, and profound gratitude for John Adams’ artistic generosity.’

 

The new appointment also builds on the Academy’s international roster of Visiting Professors, which includes some of the world’s finest musicians. Recent additions include pianists Bengt Forsberg and Pascal Rogé, cellist Steven Isserlis and conductors Christian Thielemann, Mark Elder and Oliver Knussen. The role allows students a regular connection with such musicians, who are able both to inspire and mentor them during the time they spend at the Academy. 

 








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