New Music Biennial: 20 diverse commissions announced for 2014

- 26 April 2013

New Music Biennial 2014: Diverse selection in ‘golden age’ of UK composition

PRS for Music Foundation has announced details of the 20 new music commissions that will make up its UK New Music Biennial in 2014.

The festival is being set up as a long-term successor to last year’s 20×12 scheme in which 20 composers wrote 12-minute works inspired by the Olympics, to mark London’s hosting the games.

The New Music Biennial commissions (full list below) have been chosen after a call for submissions launched earlier this year by the foundation. It invited composers and creative organisations to team up to devise non-site specific projects in any music genre, specifying they should have an ‘international dimension’ reflecting the UK’s musical diversity.

The panel received more than 130 applications and their selections include collaborations with dancers, film-makers, poets, artists and skateboarders as well as musicians. Composers selected to write new works include Gabriel Jackson, Stephen Montague, Piers Hellawell, David Sawer, Arlene Sierra, Dobrinka Tabakova, Samuel Bordoli, Andy Scott and Luke Styles.

Organisations involved include City of London Sinfonia, Tête à Tête Opera, Onyx Brass, Foden Brass Band, Mr McFall’s Chamber, Juice Vocal Ensemble, The Sage Gateshead, Scotland’s sound festival, new music producers Third Ear Music, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Northern Ireland promoters Moving On Music.

The works will be performed individually at locations throughout the UK during 2014, and at two showcase weekends at the Southbank Centre in London (4-6 July) and in Glasgow (2-3 August). The Glasgow event is scheduled to coincide with the closing days of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the city. Radio 3 will broadcast performances of all 20 works, and NMC Recordings will be releasing them via digital download.

Chair of the judging panel, Roger Wright, said: ‘It is always a pleasure to celebrate the diversity and quality of the UK’s contemporary compositional scene. The 20 projects selected by the distinguished panel are wide-ranging and exciting. They promise to offer a stimulating experience, either live or in the radio broadcasts. There were many strong applications for this first New Music Biennial and our task, choosing 20 commissions, was not an easy one.

He said the scheme represented a chance to ‘present something with confidence’ at a time which represented ‘a golden age of composition in the UK’.

The other panel members were Dame Evelyn Glennie; composer and saxophonist Jason Yarde; rock singer Cerys Matthews; composer Max Richter; head of classical music at Southbank Centre Gillian Moore and Svend Brown, director of Glasgow Unesco City of Culture, one of the organisations supporting the festival. The other major partners are Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the British Council.


New Music Biennial 2014 commissions

Niraj Chag commissioned by Arts Depot

Composer Niraj Chag will create a new multi art-form piece that will explore his cultural heritage by taking front pages of newspapers from East Africa, India and the UK, pinpointing a date in history. This commission will incorporate live music, image and dance.


Lau commissioned by Celtic Connections Festival

Experimental folk trio Lau will write 15 minutes of new music for themselves and Elysian Quartet. The group have forged new tracks for their native Scottish music and they will extend this exploration further with the Elysian, perhaps the most respected contemporary string quartet in England today.


Gwilym Simcock commissioned by City of London Sinfonia

This commission fuses the worlds of classical music and jazz, and celebrates the virtuosity of City of London Sinfonia Principal Conductor and Clarinettist Michael Collins with a distinctive new work for Clarinet, Strings, Jazz Trio and Speaker. The project brings together some of the UK’s most exceptional musical talents.


Yann Seznec commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival

Artist and musician Yann Seznec will create a new installation and performance for Edinburgh Art Festival’s common-wealth, a major international exhibition of contemporary art selected from five continents to coincide with the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The work will explore the relevance of ‘commons’: those things we value and hold in common.


Andy Scott & Lemn Sissay commissioned by Foden’s Brass Band

‘A Child Like You’ looks at the world through the eyes of a child in care. Poet Lemn Sissay is one of these children. Award-winning composer Andy Scott will write for Foden’s Brass Band, singer Anna-Clare Monk and harpist Lauren Scott. He will collaborate with Sissay, who will narrate this powerful, thought-provoking and uplifting work.


Matheu Watson & Luke Daniels commissioned by Gael Music

This commission will feature an outstanding international quartet representing four countries from the Commonwealth; Scotland, England, Canada and Australia. The project explores the many drove roads or tracks set deeply into the Scottish countryside and the long-vanished trade of Scottish cattle-droving through its hardy highland cattle drovers and their wider connections to the New World.


Arlene Sierra commissioned by INTER/actions Bangor New Music Festival

Arlene Sierra’s ‘Urban Birds’ brings together three international soloists in a tour de force for three pianos with electronics, sampled birdsong, and percussion. The new work will combine spectacle with refined classical keyboard artistry, juxtaposing harmony, rhythmic drive, and sounds from nature.


Akwasi Mensah commissioned by Jazz re:freshed  

Filmmaker Bunny Bread weaves a tale of guilt and innocence from three distinct perspectives. The accompanying live score guides each unique telling of the story as composer Akwasi Mensah explores how dynamics in music can be used to manipulate the emotions of an audience.


Luke Styles commissioned by Juice Vocal Ensemble

This theatrical new work by Luke Styles will feature experimental vocal trio Juice and Trish Clowes’ jazz/classical ensemble Tangent, performing alongside three live dancers.  Blurring the boundaries between dancer and musician, this evocative piece will retell a Native Canadian folk tale in a playful, highly dynamic way.


Jez Colborne commissioned by Mind the Gap

A gift arrives. What’s inside? Curious? Then follow talented learning-disabled composer Jez Colborne on a musical odyssey to discover what it means to be gifted.


Piers Hellawell commissioned by Moving On Music

Avant-garde composer Piers Hellawell and improvising virtuoso Bourne Davis Kane collide in a shared space; the goal is music created by all of them. Both parties leave behind established writing methods to learn from one another, undermining assumptions about both improvising and the notation of music.


Gabriel Jackson commissioned by Mr McFall’s Chamber

Mr McFall’s Chamber is celebrating historic links by commissioning Bermuda-born composer Gabriel Jackson to set poems about island life by both Scottish and Caribbean poets to music.


David Sawer commissioned by Onyx Brass

Celebrating the group’s 21st birthday, the acclaimed Onyx Brass presents an exciting commission for brass quintet by composer David Sawer in over twenty informal and free outdoor performances across Britain’s historic bandstands, outdoor festivals, and public spaces. The project will bring contemporary music out of the concert hall and on to the village green.


Shingai Shoniwa commissioned by Serious

The Noisettes’ Shingai Shoniwa and acclaimed singer-songwriter/producer David Okumu are coming together to create a new vocal work inspired by the values of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It will be performed by different vocal forces, including community choirs.


Stephen Montague commissioned by sound festival

sound, Red Note Ensemble and Woodend Barn are commissioning Stephen Montague to write a new children’s work for 6 musicians and narrator. It will be based on tales sent in by children from different countries across the Commonwealth and rewritten by award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris.


Samuel Bordoli commissioned by Tête a Tête

Blending skateboarding, choral singing and the unique acoustic of skate parks, Tête à Tête and composer Samuel Bordoli team up with skaters and community choirs to make a real noise in London, Aberdeen and Glasgow.


Dobrinka Tabakova commissioned by The Royal Philharmonic Society

The Royal Philharmonic Society brings Dobrinka Tabakova’s youthful classical music out of the concert hall and in to Ruth Paxton’s bold film-making. ‘My Pulse, My Place’ is a film about the energy and diversity of life in a modern city, unearthing the driving forces behind the mix of international societies and cultures.


Alistair Anderson commissioned by The Sage Gateshead  

A unique musical collaboration between one of the UK’s most talented Steel Pan musicians, the world’s most respected English concertina player, a DJ, clog dancer and youth steel bands from the UK and the West Indies. The project will create high impact performances which will excite audiences in both the UK and Trinidad.


Matthew Herbert commissioned by Third Ear Music

Matthew Herbert will be telling the stories of twenty unique pianos from around the world; from teinways at famous locations, to forgotten out-of-tune family pianos. The composer will sample each piano, document it in photographs and record short oral histories. The composition, for solo pianist, will be played on a simple table, turned into a virtual piano through bespoke soft/hardware created by the Radiophonic Workshop.


Mary Ann Kennedy commissioned by Watercolour Music

‘Aiseag’ (The Ferryboat):.A lifelong fascination creates a journey between the Highlands and Canada’s Gaelic diaspora. Mary Ann Kennedy and Scott Macmillan will work with audio designer Nick Turner and poet Aonghas MacNeacail to create a new work combining electronica, found sound and musicians from both Cape Breton and Scotland.


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