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Blog Category: british composers

The Political Power of Music

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The Political Power of Music

“The Noise of Time” by Julian Barnes is a novel about the life of Dimitri Shostakovich.

When I was reading it I was interested to be reminded how composers were used by Stalin and the Communist Party in an attempt to control the direction of new music. Stalin applied the notion of “socialist realism” to classical music, which demanded that mediums of art convey the struggle and triumph of the proletariat.

Musicians who hoped to gain financial support from the party were obligated to join the Union of Soviet Composers, a division of the Ministry of Culture. New works were then expected to be presented to the Union of Soviet Composers for approval prior to publication and that is how the Party hoped to control the direction of new music.

It is fascinating that in the 20th century the power of new music was considered to be so great as to be a threat if it was not controlled by the Party.

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Sir John Manduell dies at 89

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Sir John Manduell
Sir John Manduell CBE 1928 – 2017

There was a time when the name of John Manduell would simply have been impossible to escape were you a musician or composer connected to the British music scene. The catalogue of John’s positions of leadership in major musical institutions is unparallelled and the legacy of his influence will continue to be felt and recognised long after his passing.

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Managing Your Concert

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Concert Concerns?

“How do I find and book the venue, promote the concert, print the event material, pay the musicians and still raise funds for the charity I want to support with my concert?”

Impulse music consultants This was the basic content of a telephone conversation we had recently with a musician who was taking advantage of our free half hour consultation.

The musician concerned had sorted out the important elements which was the repertoire and the performers but just did not have the time or mental space to cope with doing anything else and the concert is only a few weeks away.

We helped take the pressure out of the situation as well as ensuring the concert has the best opportunity of not only covering its costs but providing a good amount of profit for the very worthy cause it is supporting. We are supplying them with our knowledge and expertise by creating a plan that they will now put into action for themselves. This includes advice on collaborating with the charity and the venue by asking the right questions and working through a checklist of relevant items, as well as a ‘critical path’ which details what action to take when. Our service also includes one to one follow up over the phone to be a sounding board and support, with the aim of helping them to create the maximum amount of publicity and income with the least amount of stress.

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Contemporary composers: pretentious and tuneless

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covered ears

A recent poll carried out by YouGov for the Symphony Hall Birmingham revealed that over 80% of those asked are of the opinion that classical music must change or wither.
Among views collected was this observation that the music of contemporary composers does less than nothing to draw in new concert-goers.
OK, so since when was a pile of bricks, or half a cow in formaldehyde or an unmade bed not unpretentious and out of tune with Joe public?

How about contemporary theatre – that can be shocking or incomprehensible; and who hasn’t described contemporary dance as angular or inelegant.

What is the purpose of contemporary art and the role of contemporary artists if it is not to refect, challenge and celebrate contemporary life?
Or, do the arts exist only to entertain, provide distraction and blot out the real world?

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Sheeran takes solo performance to new levels

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The thrilling, vibrant talent of the solo artist

Ed Sheeran at Glastonbury
There are very few solo artists who can totally captivate an audience for one and a half hours in front of a capacity house and that is what Ed Sheeran did at Glastonbury in June. I was fascinated to see the final part of Glastonbury on BBC 2 for which Ed Sheeran was the headline solo act on the Pyramid stage. This is an artist who is used to holding the attention of capacity audiences of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium for a sell-out run on several nights!

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Yellow Lounge Live

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Yellow Lounge hits high note for young audiences

I was reading an article in BBC Music Magazine about classical performers increasingly thinking beyond the traditional concert halls in order for classical music to be heard by new audiences.

This thinking is not particularly new of course as musicians have always had to be inventive about how they present and market their music to audiences and has certainly been the case for the 40 years of my professional career.

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Proms 2016 Panoply – where are the women composers this year?

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David Pickard - Proms Director

David Pickard

The announcement of the 2016 BBC Proms season brought forth a panoply of comment and observation. Here are a few choice entries, editorials and utterances to get your interest piqued.

David Pickard is the new Proms Director and as incoming incumbent he largely inherits what has already been prepared and put into place by outgoing Proms Director, Roger Wright, and perhaps more significantly Interim Proms Director, Edward Blakeman.

 

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Farewell to Max

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SirPeterMaxwellDavies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

I have known Max for years – well, about 35 years, and, albeit through intermittent contact, that is still time enough to absorb a sense of the man, the musician, the communicator.

Too often styled as an ‘enfant terrible’ of the contemporary classical music world, his compositions are, to a large extent, far from the ‘difficult’ that commentators loved carelessly and lazily to use in pejorative description or parlance of avoidance, when in truth it was rather too difficult for them to take the time and trouble of better acquaintance.

Max was ever his own person – outwardly mild and congenial, inwardly robust, opinionated, fearless and frank.

A recent interview about his 10th symphony (think how many composers never got past number 9!) had him putting his work as a composer in the ‘upper end of civilised society’. Who dares, these days, from the world of contemporary music, to make such a claim?! Good on you, Max.

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Young Composer Voices in Cambridge

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10th November saw An Evening of New Music curated by young composers Jay Richardson and Alex Woolf, under the aegis of Young Composers’ Network*. Jay is reading Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Alex is in his final year at St John’s College, Cambridge. Both already have impressive CVs which include performances with national orchestras and broadcasts on national radio.

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Remembering Benjamin Britten

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Although we are now firmly in 2014 and have left the Britten centennial year behind, I didn’t want to head in to the Richard Strauss 150 years, or indeed even the William Lloyd Webber 100 years celebrations without a final reflection on arguably the UK’s greatest and certainly the most influential 20th century composer.

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A giant among composers

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That’s an epithet that can apply in so many ways to Sir John Tavener – a giant of stature, a giant of thought, a giant of spirituality, a giant of musical concept and, apart from his own self-confrontation where he could be brutally judgmental, he was always a gentle giant.

I say was, of course, because he died only a few days ago on 12th November.  “Peacefully at home” is recorded in the public obituaries, but he was still writing with full force and I somehow think that he will not necessarily have gone gentle into that good night.

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Apples and Pears

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I was responding recently to a composer whose beef was that the Establishment (do we still use that term?!) continues to favour musical styles which are dissonant, complex and impenetrable and continues to disregard musical styles which are consonant, discernible and accessible.

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RIP – RRB

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tutti talk is our latest email strand and this is the first edition.

We know music is your passion – it’s our passion, too which is why we want to share with you the thoughts, ideas, events and opportunities that we hope will interest you.

The first thing to let you know is that tutti has just launched a facebook page.  It’s really easy to find but here’s a link for your first visit – www.facebook.com/tutti.co.uk.

Just in this first week, we have gained nearly 500 followers and are connected through our friends to nearly 15,000 people.  We’d love you to visit the tutti facebook page and like us.

Looking back to 2012, we saw the loss of three immensely fine composer – Elliott Carter at 103, Jonathan Harvey, 73 and Richard Rodney Bennett at 76.  They all made unique contributions to 20th and 21st century music and I’m pleased to say we have examples of their work at tutti.

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Composer’s Legacy

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I cannot even guess how long it is since I wrote a blog – too busy writing for everything else but something happened this week which nudged me into scribbling a note today! I heard at the beginning of the week that a friend and colleague of mine the composer, Graham Whettam had died last Friday. I first got to know Graham in the 1980s when I was performing a series of concerts featuring British Music and one of those pieces was the Whettam Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano. There were some tempo markings in the music which I did not think made sense. As a performer, I have never been able or even tried to compose music but I have always been deeply immersed in the performing of music as a creative art. Perhaps this needs a bit more explaining – I mean that the composer envisages what they think the music should sound like but the realisation of the composition only comes to fruition when it is performed. Many composers with modern technology can indeed get a very clear picture of how it should sound but adding the individual performer is what is the final part of the composition (I suspect some composers may disagree with this!) The final bit of the jigsaw (for the peformer) is communicating the work with the audience – the ambience of the hall, the acoustic, the instruments being used and the audience will all influence that. And so it was, back in the 1980’s that I came across the work of Graham Whettam and rather than play the music at a tempo marking which for me seemed far too fast for the interpretation, I gave him a call! That call led on to me performing the Sonatina frequently from Music Clubs to the Wigmore Hall and recording it for radio 3 and this in turn led to two new commissions – Impromptu for solo clarinet and Graham whettam’s second clarinet concerto which was dedicated to me and written in memory of my sister Jennifer who had tragically died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 33. I also performed and broadcast Graham’s first clarinet concerto as well as giving numerous performances of other arrangements of his music. As I have mentioned previously my performing career then came to an abrupt halt in 1993 when I had a road accident which stopped me performing professionally.

Hearing that Graham had died brought an era to a close but as his widow Janet said to me – he has left his music legacy for us to enjoy. Try listening to Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone in their recordings of Graham Whettam’s music for solo piano and piano duet for sale on tutti.co.uk.

Geraldine Allen

passionate about composers

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Four years ago, I was instrumental in setting up the British Composer Awards – an annual event which celebrates and rewards the music of composers living and working in the UK. Last night I was a guest on BBC Radio 3 to talk about this year’s nominations which are wonderfully eclectic. Major establishment composers such as John Tavener are on the list alongside people who up to this point have never raised a blip on the composing radar. This year too there is a fascinating left-field nomination for Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame. There is a mindset (which the Awards are beginning to unstick) that classical composition is a very narrow, insular and elitist field. As they say in popular language – this is SO not true! Open your ears and eyes! Classical music no longer has stereo-types, it is no longer possible to pigeon-hole it, some would say it is no longer possible even to define it and, yes, that has definite value: classical music is as diverse as the composers who write it – it is defined by their voices. Take these three entirely different composers (unashamedly one is me!!) Sarah Rodgers – lyrical contrapuntalist (ooh, aah yeah but no but!) Graham Fitkin – dramatic minimalist (his music has passion) Timothy Salter – visceral expressionist (hang on to your gut!).

You can hear a short extract of all our music by clinking on the links. Do you like what you hear? Let us know – someone out there, make a comment, please.

Have a great day.

Sarah Rodgers

passionate celebrations

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Good morning!

As I have been composing professionally for the last 23 (ouch!) years, a fair bit of my time is taken up with composer business and most of this has been conducted (pun not intended) through the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain and then the organisation into which it evolved about 7 years ago, the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. This august institution has a membership of around 2,500 (mostly British) composer and songwriters. It looks after the interests of British music writers and celebrates their work. So, today I am off to the Gold Badge Awards at the Savoy in London – a lovely occasion where accolades are given to teh people who support music writers, rather than the composers and songwriters themselves – so, musicians, producers, promoters, publishers, technicians, even inventers and thinkers – all the people without whom composers & songwriters wouldn’t get their music out there! Maybe, one day, tutti will get a Gold Badge for all the work it does in promoting the music of contemporary British composers and their performing champions. Here are just three to tantalize you! – John McLeod Graham FitkinTimothy Salter.

Well, I’m off to put on my best bib and tucker and have some fun!

Sarah Rodgers

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