December 1999

into the next century...

This century has proved a whirlwind of change and innovation, leaving us gasping at a range of music beyond our wildest dreams. I was reflecting the other day on the things I would like to take forward into the next century and what I would leave behind.

I am certainly taking the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group into the next century, with plans for its continuing growth and development. Since the Group started we have discovered the thrill of commissioning new work and found a way to share that experience with others through our Sound Investment scheme. That’s definitely coming with us. We have learned the importance of composers being at the forefront of everything we do. I hope this happens more and more. Not just in our group and groups specialising in contemporary music, but in all performing organisations. Not just contemporary composers, but all composers. We have revelled in the proliferation of new music groups up and down the country, each with its own character, each finding audiences that some would have us believe don’t exist. That must continue into the next century so that contemporary music groups are as natural as any other part of our musical life.

I do want to leave some things behind. I do not want to hear the word “accessible” again. Nor do I want to hear that contemporary music is “difficult” for audiences. I would like to begin the next century on equal terms with the rest of classical music. Contemporary music is no more or less “accessible” than any other music, nor more or less “difficult”. Prejudice still surprises. Recently I heard someone say, at a prestigious marketing meeting, “ It is important that we find a way to make difficult contemporary music more accessible”. Is this acceptable? Has so little been learnt in the last twenty years? It is time to think positively. Contemporary music requires at least the same opportunities as the rest of the repertoire. There is a persuasive argument for giving it more.

I want to continue to be at live, thrilling, passionate, committed and dynamic performances that make concerts special and treasured events. Equally, I want serious questions to be asked if they are not!

There are thousands upon thousands of people all over Britain who get a tremendous kick out of hearing new work. So, when 2000 is over and all the new commissions have had their Millennium performances, wouldn’t it be wonderful to play them all again in 2001 and to commission as many new ones? Wouldn’t it be brilliant if the concert season planning, across the UK for 2000 / 2001 began with the question “and what shall we commission this year?”

Simon Clugston

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Previous articles:

November 1999
Joanna MacGregor writes

October 1999
obsessed with consuming?

September 1999
spnm welcomes Joanna MacGregor.

July/August 1999
Spectrum 2 - miniatures for piano.

June 1999
Hoxton Hall New Music Days.

May 1999
Bath International Music Festival is 50.

April 1999
Who is Georges Aperghis?

March 1999
On frost, birth and death

February 1999
Keeping busy...

January 1999
Now that's what I call contemporary!

December 1998
Forty years of madness?

November 1998
To plug in or not to plug in?

October 1998
No, honestly it is a cello

September 1998
Composing for film

July/August 1998
New music on old instruments

June 1998
Blue sheep of record companies

May 1998
spnm looks to the future

April 1998
New Music 98 in Manchester