Banging the drum for new music
Turning up the bass from left to right are Christopher Austin, Gabriel Prokofiev, Tansy Davies and yours truly. The photo was taken after Saturday's (Oct 9) Snape concert at which Christopher Austin conducted the Azalea Ensemble in Tansy Davies' music. The Azalea Ensemble is a newly formed group of outstanding young musicians mainly from the Royal Academy of Music who specialise in new music. Their principal conductor Christopher Austin, who conducts Boulez-style without a baton, is building an impressive reputation for championing contemporary music including that of Elisabeth Lutyens. Both Azalea and Christopher Austin are names to watch.
Azalea's Snape concert was part of an Aldeburgh residency during which they are recording a CD of Tansy Davies' music for Gabriel Prokofiev's Nonclassical label. Judging by the non-classical microphone positions at last night's gig and the tight sound that Azalea were making, the upcoming release should satisfy even the most perverted bass fetishist. But there is more bass to come, because wearing his composing hat Gabriel, who is the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, is currently working on a concerto for bass drum. He is seen in the photo below with his weapon of choice. The Nonclassical label has evolved from classical club nights presented by the dj/composer/label founder/impressario. The copy on the label's web site is relevant to the debate about classical music's performance conventions:
A new music scene is currently emerging in London… Over the last few years ‘classical club-nights’ have started to become a rare but growing feature in the night-life of London. This has been fuelled by the next generation of classical performers, composers and promoters who are redefining the rules, and breaking out of the constraints of the traditional classical concert hall.'I hear those voices that will not be drowned.'
The audience is never the typical white-haired classical crowd, but that young-generation of music lovers who are searching for the latest exciting developments in music. Each month innovative and virtuosic young classical musicians from the UK blow away audiences with their incredible musicianship and new compositions.
The success of the night partly stems from the fact that it presents classical as if it were rock or electronic music. Bands play through the pub’s PA, everyone has a pint in their hand and perhaps most importantly there are DJs playing throughout the night. Even the most skeptical visitors to the club can’t help but be stimulated by being so close to the high-quality musicianship presented at Nonclassical.
Classical music can be part of everyone’s lives and this night is part of rediscovering its relevance.
* Talking of new music and hitting things, the podacst of my latest Chance Music programme is now available. It features Simone Mancuso playing compositions for wooden percussion by Salvatore Sciarrino, Giacinto Scelsi and John Cage. Listen here.
** Composer and music technology innovator Tod Machover and professor of music and media at MIT presents a new music collabaration with visual illuminaire collective United Visual Artists at Snape on Nov 12. In a bold assertion that the sound still matters the performance uses a state-of-the -art ambisonic sound system brought specially from MIT. Tod Machover is also a participant in the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference at Snape on Nov 6 which runs in parallel with Aldeburgh's new music new media course for emerging professional composers and musicians. TED is a small but influential nonprofit devoted to 'Ideas Worth Spreading': read more here.
Also on Facebook and Twitter. Our excellent value for money £10 tickets for the Tansy Davies gig were bought at the Snape box office. Photos are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
But...youth is a state of mind, no?
I prefer the concert promoter who, when asked whether he wanted "young audiences", replied "I want BIG audiences".
But keeping the balance is also important, and I am aware that a lot of space is being devoted here to questioning classical music's "silly conventions".
Those conventions need to be questioned. But that concert promoter, and all of us, should also remember there were BIG audiences for the public executions that took place at the time of the French Revolution.
As well there might have been - after all, those performances in revolutionary Paris were non-elitist, interactive, engaged with current social issues, and embraced (literally) cutting-edge technology to connect with their audiences...
Tansy Davies is a wonderful composer; great to see her being celebrated here.