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LCMG Interview

Posted on 29 October 2008. © Copyright 2004-2020 Composition:Today

C:T talks to Phill Cooke of the London Contemporary Music Group

Phill Cooke of London Contemporary Music Group
Tell us about LCMG, how it was formed, and its raison d'etre?

The LCMG was formed in 2005 by myself and fellow composer Adrian Hull; it had been going for a short while prior to that in a more ad-hoc way. We decided to make it a fully professional ensemble and ran it concurrently with our composition doctorates. The raison d’etre of the ensemble is to perform contemporary music, the likes of which most new music ensembles are straying from, and to perform works by both un-established young composers and unfairly neglected composers.

Does the group focus on playing specific types of music?

Not necessarily, though we tend to favour contemporary ‘art’ music in its traditional sense. That’s no to say we wouldn’t do other style or genres if we thought it a relevant project.

How do you go about programming your concerts?

Like most ensembles/orchestras we try to make the programmes as coherent and reflective as possible – we do try and theme some of our programmes, but try not to be beholden to the theme. We usually have one key work which we try to enhance with suitable repertoire – in the case of the Boulez UK premiere we gave last year [Improvisé – pour le Dr K] we chose works that were important to the composer (by the likes of Messiaen and Stravinsky) and a work by Richard Rodney Bennett that was written for the same occasion.

How do you respond to unsolicited work- do you give feedback? Do you ever commission new work yourself?

We set up very early on the LCMG ‘Call for Works’ scheme where any composer, regardless of age and nationality, could submit works to the ensemble for performance. We charge a small handling fee for the process as we keep all the scores on file for future performances. We have had over 300 submissions and have performed many great works by un-established composers. We don’t give feedback, unless it was some issue regarding playability – or legibility - on a work we were thinking about performing.

Do you ever commission new works yourself?

Yes we do. We have commissioned works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Colin Matthews in recent years. This year we have joined with our sister company Arcomis which is an arts commissioning company which specialises in the commissioning of new music, and the demystifying of the process. Through Arcomis we commissioned the Garland for Carter which included works by (amongst others) Saxton, Powers, Hesketh and Bedford. We hope to work closely with Arcomis in the future on more commissions.

What do you see as the role (intended and actual) of new music in the modern world?

That’s a rather large and difficult question, and to tell the truth – I’m not sure of the answer. I’m hoping that one day people will grow tired of the ephemeral and will look for a little more substance in their lives – new music will hopefully be there (whether I will be…).

Is it a good time to be running a new music ensemble?

It’s as good a time as any. A lot of well respected composers and musicians often mention that there is space for a ‘new’ ensemble on the scene – hopefully we can be that ensemble.

What advice would you give to a young composer just starting out?

Listen to as much music as you can – from all different backgrounds and cultures. I would also say that finding a good composition teacher is paramount – I’ve had some great ones and some awful ones. Also, make friends with as many players as you can.

Tell us about the Ensemble's current projects

We are reprising the Carter concert on 5 November at the Holywell Rooms in Oxford. We are adding two new pieces to the Garland – by Ken Hesketh and Arlene Sierra. In February the LCMG will be recording our first CD which we hope to release later that year.

How can people find out more about you?

More information about the LCMG, the ‘Call for Works’ and future plans can be found at

More information on Arcomis can be found at

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2020

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