Composers and artists sign open letter condemning Sound and Music

- 27 March 2012

An open letter which severely criticises the work of contemporary music organisation Sound and Music (SAM) was sent today to SAM and its funding body, Arts Council England (full text below).

It accuses the body of having effected ‘to alienate virtually the entire contemporary music sector’ since it was set up in 2008 to incorporate the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the British Music Information Centre, Sonic Arts Network, and the Contemporary Music Network.

The letter was written by composers Colin Matthews and Nicola LeFanu, who also co-ordinated the letter’s 255 signatories. These include composers Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Julian Anderson, Simon Holt, Oliver Knussen and Judith Weir, as well as performers, conductors, academics and industry leaders including cellist Steven Isserlis and Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly. It is also endorsed by the British Academy of Composers, Songwriters and Authors.

The letter says that ’what is particularly disturbing is the disappearance of the support for young and unestablished composers’, and a further letter with a list of signatories representing this group is thought to be in circulation.

SAM suffered a real-terms cut of nearly 50% in the latest round of ACE funding announced in March 2011. It is currently advertising for a new chief executive, who will be appointed ‘to lead the development of the restructured organisation to meet the aspirations of its key stakeholders from composers, sound and sonic artists and musicians to producers, promoters, publishers, orchestras, educators and consumers’.

CM will publish a full story with a response from SAM in its 7 April edition.
An open letter to Sound and Music and Arts Council England

27 March 2012

In its business plan of 2008, formulated after several years of detailed planning and approved by the Arts Council, the newly created body Sound and Music made it clear that it would both embrace and enhance the functions of the organisations which had been merged in order to form it: the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the British Music Information Centre, Sonic Arts Network, and the Contemporary Music Network. Instead, within a remarkably short time, it abandoned virtually all of the long-established and constructive activities of its constituent parts, largely in favour of a bland and unfocused endorsement of ‘sound art’ and the promotion of relatively fringe activities which had little or no connection with the mainstream. These are far from being areas undeserving of support, but Sound and Music had absolutely no remit to change direction in this way.

Rather than act on behalf of composers and the many musicians who work in the field of new music, it sought to become a ‘producer’ and to lead instead of serve its community. Having dismantled the previous organisations and disenfranchised their extensive membership, Sound and Music went on to alienate virtually the entire contemporary music sector: a recent wide-ranging survey conducted for the Holst Foundation (Provision for New Music, could find no one with a good word to say on its behalf. What is particularly disturbing is the disappearance of the support for young and unestablished composers (and the musicians working with them) which the founder organisations had successfully provided over many years. Equally distressing is the abandonment of any form of Music Information Centre in England, resulting in a significant loss of international status for British music.

In spite of recent severe cuts to its public funding and the resignation of members of both the executive and board last year, Sound and Music’s current ‘New Direction’ document shows absolutely no sign of recognition of or apology for the extent of its failure to live up to its original plans; no indication that it has consulted at all with the new music community it presumes to represent; no reduction in its bloated corporate agenda; nor any desire to take risks. Instead it has, in self-regarding fashion, promised more of the same; and has pledged to continue promoting ‘Electronic and Improvised; Noise and Art Rock; Notated and Modern Composition; Sonic Art; Multimedia and Cross Art Form; Jazz, World and Folk; and Alternative Rock & Dance’: areas of music which have many virtues but are for the most part entirely different from those for which Sound and Music was created.

The undersigned, the majority of whom of whom are actively engaged with ‘Notated and Modern Composition’, deplore the current state of affairs, and call for the reinstatement of the core functions of the founder organisations without delay. The recommendations of the Holst Foundation report offer many practical suggestions for the appropriate support of new music in the years ahead.

Nicola LeFanu, Colin Matthews and over 250 signatories, headed by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and including Julian Anderson, George Benjamin, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Martyn Brabbins, Michael Finnissy, Anthony Gilbert, Steven Isserlis, Oliver Knussen, Paul Mealor, Thea Musgrave, and Judith Weir.
Full list of signatories:
Eleanor Alberga composer; joint director, Arcadia Music Festival
Julian Anderson composer
Dr Tom Armstrong lecturer in music, School of Arts, University of Surrey
Christopher Austin
Peter Aviss composer, conductor, teacher, performer
Joanna Baillie composer, co-director Ensemble Plus-Minus
Richard Baker composer, conductor, former SPNM Trustee
Stephen Mark Barchan composer, conductor, music copyist
Paul Barker composer; professor of music theatre,  University of London
Matthew Barley cellist, arranger, producer, educator
Stephen Barlow artistic director Buxton Festival, conductor, composer
Alison Bauld composer
Sally Beamish composer
Samuel Becker composer, conductor, educator
Luke Bedford composer
Mary Bellamy composer, senior lecturer, Huddersfield University
George Benjamin, CBE composer, conductor
Ed Bennett composer
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE composer
Michael Berkeley composer, broadcaster
Richard Bernas conductor; music consultant, Tate Modern
Dr Mark Berry lecturer in music, Royal Holloway, University of London
Judith Bingham composer
Peter Birkby composer, BASCA member
Sir Harrison Birtwistle, CH composer
David Blake composer
Mark Bowden composer; resident composer, BBC National Orchestra of Wales; music fellow, Rambert Dance Company; director of composition, Royal Holloway, University of London
Rory Boyle composer
Martyn Brabbins chief conductor, Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra; chief guest conductor Royal Flemish Philharmonic; director Orkney Conductors’ Course
Charlotte Bray composer
Julian Broughton composer, pianist, convenor music & creative studies programmes, Centre for Community Engagement, University of Sussex
David Bruce composer, founder of
Alan Bullard composer; member BASCA board and ISM PCS committee; former member of spnm and BMIC
Andrew Burn
Diana Burrell composer, artistic director, Harwich Festival of the Arts
Mervyn Burtch composer, teacher
Tony Burton writer on music; former member SPNM Council
Sulyen Caradon composer, conductor, musicologist, founder of Severnside Composer’s Alliance
David Carhart composer, performer
Gary Carpenter composer; visiting professor of composition, Royal Northern College of Music; professor of composition, Royal Academy of Music
Philip Cashian head of composition, Royal Academy of Music
John Casken composer; emeritus professor of music, University of Manchester
Richard Causton composer
Sam Cave classical guitarist, composer
Sally Cavender vice-chairman and performance music director, Faber Music Ltd
Prof Michael Clarke composer
Symon Clarke composer
Andrew Clements music critic, The Guardian
Nicholas Cleobury conductor
Stephen Cleobury, CBE director of music, King’s College, Cambridge
Hugh Cobbe, OBE chairman, The RVW Trust
Michael Coe composer, conductor
David Cohen Hon FGS
Jonathan Cole composer
Bill Connor composer
Peter Copley composer, performer, university lecturer
Peter Craik former administrator SPNM
Dr John Croft senior lecturer in music, Brunel University London
Gordon Crosse composer
Joe Cutler composer; head of composition, Birmingham Conservatoire
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies composer; former president of SPNM; Master of the Queen’s Music
Tansy Davies composer
Julian Dawes composer
Odaline de la Martinez composer, conductor
Peter Dickinson composer, writer, pianist
James Dillon composer
Marc Dooley head of new music, Peters Edition Ltd
Jonathan Dove composer
Andrew Downes composer; president, Central Composers’ Alliance; former head, School of Composition and Creative Studies,
Birmingham Conservatoire
Paul Driver music critic, The Sunday Times
Duncan Druce composer, violinist, violist
Mary Dullea pianist, Fidelio Trio
Deborah Edwards composer
Brian Elias composer
Helen Faulkner former advisor to and trustee of BMIC
Prof Michael Finnissy chair of composition, University of Southampton
Adrian Vernon Fish Winston Churchill Fellow, composer, broadcaster, cultural ambassador for Greenland
Graham Fitkin composer
Ben Foskett composer
Jenny Fowler composer
Erika Fox composer
Cheryl Frances-Hoad composer
Lionel Friend conductor
Tim Gibson new music copyist, editor
Anthony Gilbert composer; former member SPNM Executive; former member, Contemporary Music Network Planning Committee
John Gilhooly director, Wigmore Hall
Dr Martin Kier Glover senior lecturer in composition, London College of Music, University of West London
Jonathan Goldstein composer; chair PCAM; BASCA member.
Adam Gorb composer; head of composition, Royal Northern College of Music
Michael Zev Gordon professor of composition, University of Birmingham
Dan Goren composer, performer, director of Source Music Services
Prof Stephen Goss composer; head of composition, University of Surrey
Larry Goves composer; tutor in composition, Royal Northern College of Music; composer in residence, Royal Holloway, University of
London; tutor in composition, National Youth Orchestral of Great Britain
Pip Greasley Member of BASCA
Paul Griffiths former critic
Helen Grime composer, lecturer in composition, Royal Holloway, University of London
Graham Hair composer; professor emeritus in music, Glasgow University; visiting professor in contemporary arts, Manchester
Metropolitan University
Geoff Hannan composer
Patrick Harrex composer, member of BASCA
Jonty Harrison composer; professor of composition and electroacoustic music, University of Birmingham
Sadie Harrison composer
Bryn Harrison composer
Dr Martyn Harry university lecturer, Faculty of Music, Oxford University; tutorial fellow in music, St Anne’s College, Oxford; lecturer in
music, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
Sam Hayden composer, reader in composition, Durham University
Malcolm Hayes composer, music biographer, author, writer
Morgan Hayes composer, pianist
Graham Hayter director, Contemporary Music Promotions
John Hearne composer, conductor, music publisher/Longship Music, copyist, translator
Ken Hesketh composer; lecturer in composition, Royal College of Music; hon professor, University of Liverpool
Richard Hill composer, conductor
Alex Hills composer; lecturer, Royal Academy of Music
Linda Hirst mezzo soprano; head of vocal studies, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Prof Nicolas Hodges pianist, teacher
John Holland composer, conductor
Robin Holloway composer
Aaron Holloway-Nahum composer, conductor
Simon Holt composer
Dr Michael Hooper
John Hopkins composer, lecturer, Faculty of Music, Cambridge University
William Howard pianist
Vic Hoyland composer; professor of composition, University of Birmingham
Dr Edward Hughes composer; director New Music Players; senior lecturer in music, University of Sussex
Tom Ingoldsby composer
Steven Isserlis, CBE cellist, writer
Bill Ives composer, singer, teacher, conductor
Edmund Jolliffe composer
Julian Joseph pianist, composer, broadcaster
Matthew Kaner composer
Alison Kay composer; professor of composition, Royal College of Music
Robert Keeley senior lecturer in composition, King’s College, London
Dorothy Ker composer
Matthew King composer, pianist
Steven Kings composer
Oliver Knussen, CBE composer, conductor, artist-in-association BBCSO and BCMG
Joyce Beetuan Koh composer
Edward Lambert composer, conductor
Dr Jolyon Laycock chairman, Severnside Composers Alliance
Adrian Lee composer, music director, music facilitator, publisher
Nicola LeFanu composer, former SPNM Council and Executive Committee member
Prof Erik Levi professor of music, Royal Holloway, University of London
David Lumsdaine composer; EC member SPNM 1965 – 1974; Co-founder (with Don Banks and Anthony Gilbert) SPNM Composer Seminars; Co-director 1967-1974
David Lyon composer, BASCA member
James MacMillan, CBE composer
Stuart MacRae composer
Kevin Malone
Dr Terry Mann George Butterworth Award for Composition, 2000
Jane Manning, OBE former vice-president SPNM
Roger Marsh composer
Christian Mason composer, co-artistic director Octandre Ensemble
David Matthews composer
Colin Matthews, OBE composer; former executive member and deputy chair SPNM; music director Britten-Pears Foundation
Dr Christopher Mayo composer
Gerard McBurney composer; artistic programming advisor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra; creative cirector, ‘Beyond the Score’®
John McCabe, CBE composer; pianist; former president, Incorporated Society of Musicians; former director, London College of Music
Cecilia McDowall
Edward McGuire composer; chair, Scotland and Northern Ireland Region Musicians’ Union
John McLeod composer; former director PRS for Music; BASCA; former council member SPNM
Stephen McNeff composer; former composer in residence, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; trustee, PRS for Music Foundation
Ian McQueen BASCA executive member
Prof Paul Mealor composer
Prof Silvina Milstein composer; professor of music, King’s College London
Ian Mitchell clarinettist; director of Gemini; head of wind, brass & percussion, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance
William Mival head of composition, Royal College of Music, London
Adrian Moore composer
Lloyd Moore composer
Darragh Morgan violinist, Fidelio Trio
Annette Morreau founder/director Contemporary Music Network (1971-1987)
Dominic Muldowney composer
Thea Musgrave, CBE composer
Thalia Myers pianist, teacher
Ed Nesbit composer
Paul Newland composer
Rodney S. Newton composer, arranger, conductor, adjudicator, educator, music consultant
George Nicholson reader in composition, Sheffield University; former member, SPNM Executive Committee
Bayan Northcott composer, writer, Holst Foundation trustee
Brian Noyes composer
Dr Patrick Nunn composer, educator, lecturer in composition Royal Academy of Music.
Tarik O’Regan composer
Tony Osborne composer; lecturer in composition, University of Reading Institute of Education; member of BASCA
Lady Camilla Panufnik founder, LSO-Panufnik Project for Young Composers.
Roxanna Panufnik composer
Dr Hilda Paredes composer
Tim Parkinson composer, performer, curator
Anthony Payne former chair, SPNM
Joseph Phibbs composer
Stephen Plaistow former editor/new music, BBC Radio 3
Geoff Poole composer; emeritus professor of composition, University of Bristol.
Francis Pott professor of composition, London College of Music, University of West London
Andrew Powell chairman, Cyfansoddwyr Cymru/Composers of Wales; BASCA member
Jonathan Powell pianist, composer, writer
Steph Power composer
Dave Price composer, performer
Dr Timothy Raymond composer, former head of composition and contemporary music, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Martin Read composer; head of music, Alton College
Camden Reeves composer
Peter Reynolds composer
Dr Judith Ring composer
Ian Ritchie director, City of London Festival
Jeremy Dale Roberts composer; former head of composition, Royal College of Music
Sarah Rodgers chairman, BASCA [British Academy of Songwriters, Composer and Authors]
Dr Kate Romano director of doctoral programmes & deputy dead of academic studies, Guildhall School of Music & Drama; performer
Colin Rose artist
Gregory Rose conductor, composer
Sir Norman Rosenthal Royal Academy Exhibitions Secretary, 1977-2008
Edwin Roxburgh composer, conductor, former member SPNM Artistic Committee
Clark Rundell director, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic ensemble 10/10
John Rutter composer, conductor
Timothy Salter composer, conductor, pianist
Rhian Samuel composer; professor emeritus, City University, London
David Sawer composer
Prof Robert Saxton fellow and tutor in music, Worcester College, Oxford
Andy Scott member, Apollo Saxophone Quartet; composer; tutor of saxophone, Royal Northern College of Music
Dr Mike Searby principal lecturer, Kingston University
Elizabeth Sharma composer, member of BASCA
Dr Arlene Sierra senior lecturer in composition, Cardiff University School of Music
Paul Silverthorne principal viola, London Symphony Orchestra & London Sinfonietta; Professor of viola, Royal Academy of Music, London
Thomas Simaku composer; senior lecturer, York University
Cameron Sinclair composer, performer
Peter Sheppard Skaervard violinist; leader, Kreutzer Quartet; Viotti lecturer, Royal Academy of Music
Howard Skempton composer
Ed Smith international orchestra consultant
Dr Jeroen Speak composer, academic
Simon Speare composer, teacher
Dr Joseph Spooner
Richard Steele former director of artistic policy, Royal College of Music and executive director, SPNM
Richard Steinitz, OBE emeritus professor, founder and former artistic director, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
David Stoll composer; board director, BASCA; chairman, Classical and Jazz Executive Committee; board director, European Composers’ Forum; former trustee, British Music Information Centre
Prof Peter J. Stollery former chair, Sonic Arts Network
Martin Suckling composer; lecturer in music (composition), University of York.
Giles Swayne composer-in-residence, Clare College, Cambridge
Alan Thomas classical guitarist, composer
Dr Markus Trunk composer
Julia Usher composer, Colchester New Music
Paul Usher composer
Philip Venables composer; promoter, Fourfortytwo agency; former SPNM member
Ian Vine composer
Benjamin Wallfisch composer, conductor
David Ward composer
Duncan Ward composer, conductor, founding trustee WAM Foundation
Huw Watkins composer, pianist.
Liz Webb Liz Webb Management; former administrator SPNM; editor new:notes 1992-96
Judith Weir, CBE composer, former SPNM Trustee
John White head of music, Drama Centre London, School of Performance Studies, Central Saint Martins, composer and  pianist
Arnold Whittall professor emeritus, Kings College London; chair, Holst Foundation
Ryan Wigglesworth composer, conductor
Tim Williams artistic director, Psappha
Trevor Wishart composer
Gareth Wood composer
James Wood composer, conductor, former programme director SPNM
John Woolf, MBE director, Park Lane Group; former administrator, SPNM
Guy Woolfenden, OBE composer; conductor; former head of music, Royal Shakespeare Company
John Woolrich composer
Barry Wordsworth music director, The Royal Ballet
David Wordsworth head of promotion/senior manager Oxford University Press (2003-8); composer manager, conductor
Raymond Yiu composer
Classical & Jazz Executive Committee British Academy of Composers, Songwriters and Authors (BASCA)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.