Out of the blocks: R3's New Music 20x12 composer partnership
Vanessa Reed, executive director of PRS for Music Foundation, blogs from the starting blocks of New Music 20×12 and invites Radio 3 listeners to join in
January 2012 is a special month for all of us at PRS for Music Foundation and for the 20 organisations and composers who were selected just over a year ago for New Music 20×12. It marks the beginnings of a unique, UK-wide celebration of new music which takes the form of 20 new works, each lasting 12 minutes, written by some of the UK’s most talented and original composers. In addition to an array of live performances which are taking place in every corner of the UK, every New Music 20×12 commission will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and made available to download at NMC Recordings.
Since the corks popped on New Year's Eve which composers have left the starting blocks? Many of us gave Howard Skempton’s New Music 20×12 commission for church bells a ringing endorsement by tuning in to Radio 3 just after midnight on New Year’s Day to hear this pioneering New Music 20×12 commission performed from All Saints Church in Kingston. Howard’s Five Rings Triple is based on a five-part structure inspired by the five Olympic rings and has given the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers their first experience of working closely with a composer to bring a new piece of music to life. You can hear an extract from the piece by following this link.
If our Olympic year is about pushing the boundaries of what we normally do, we hope our New Music 20×12 commissions will be the first of many more unusual partnerships which involve composers and performers of all backgrounds taking risks, learning from each other and creating excellent new music as a result.
On 5th January, before the bellringers had finished their lap of honour on Radio 3’s iplayer, the baton was passed to the National Youth Orchestra which embarked on a very different venture into the unknown. Their piece was dreamed up by composer Anna Meredith who asked all 170 NYO players to abandon their instruments and make sound and music by using only their bodies. Handsfree was premiered at the Royal Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool and performed again the following day at the Barbican in London where standing ovations and four-star reviews highlighted how well this unconventional, theatrical finale went down after a fine rendition of Walton’s 1st Symphony. We’re sure there will be more surprise Handsfree performances throughout this year so watch out for an NYO flashmob near you. You can watch a clip of NYO’s warm up for the event here.
The rest of January sees the New Music 20×12 torch carried by composers working in a range of adventurous settings – to Mark-Anthony Turnage, who is composing with prisoners from HMP Lowdham Grange (19th Jan), to Luke Carver Goss, Ian McMillan and the Black Dyke Band in Manchester (27th Jan) and on to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year on the 29th where Chinatown Arts Space will be centre stage with music by Liz Liew and Andy Leung performed by their urban junk band. To find out about all of the other New Music 20×12 commissions which span chamber opera, jazz, folk, a ballet score and music for table tennis players and string quartet, follow this link.
January’s programme makes up the first leg of the New Music 20×12 tour around the UK. If you’d like to catch the 20 pieces on the road then join us somewhere along the way from the Isle of Mull, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Belfast to Birmingham, Cardiff, Dorset and the Javelin Train between Kings Cross and the Olympic site, amongst other destinations. If you’d rather hear all 20 works in one go, then we’d love to welcome Radio 3 listeners to our weekend celebration of all 20 works at London’s Southbank Centre in London from July 13-15. We hope you’ll choose to do both and we hope you’ll stay the course….
How you can get involved
Come along to one of the live performances between now and mid-August or to our weekend event in July
Listen to Radio 3’s Hear and Now between 21st April and 25th August
Decide which of the 20, 12 minutes you’d like to download at www.nmc.rec.
New Music 20×12 was initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen and is delivered by PRS for Music Foundation in partnership with the BBC, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and NMC Recordings. It has been supported generously by Arts Council England and a host of other composer trusts, patrons and funders from across the UK including Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.