Michael Zev Gordon
I always get a lift when riffling through the daily mail (most of it junk) to see occasionally arrive a package from Unknown Public (originally in alluring plain brown cardboxes, suggesting secret pleasures).
This month's is a book + CD released for free distribution in association with BMIC.
The details and CD tracklist can be seen and downloaded from http://firstname.python-hosted.com/issues/bmic/
and I shall assume you've done so?
Mostly the tracks are short; some are excerpts from bigger works. Several of them are "minimalist" and easy, undemanding listening. Some of the programme notes are flip and others not very helpful. Graham Fitkin, a lot of whose music is bright and fast, tells us that his quarter hour piece 'closes with a piano coda, which I think questions why I bothered with all the other stuff'; I didn't get as far as the coda...
I shan't try to guide listeners; everyone interested in "serious" or less serious music today, with all its genre overlaps and factions, should acquire this production, which is up to UP's usual impeccable style of presentation.
I found more interesting and rewarding than most of the audio tracks the substantial essays by UP's Editor John L. Walters (who emphasises that this disc is but a sampler of BMIC's New Voices project), Matthew Greenall, Christopher Wagner, Chris Heaton, Ed Hughes and David Lefeber.
The essays attempt to map Britain's contemporary composers in a broad context; the most essential reading is Chris Heaton's "It's very much of its time". In her introduction, former CMN producer Beverley Crew opines that some of the composers featured will form part of the musical canon of the 21st Century, and asks us to decide for ourselves who might be the next Vaughan Williams, Britten or Birtwistle?
Do these featured composers seek to be "greats" for posterity? I doubt it; the emphasis appears to be on working (hard) in a multiplicity of situations and collaborations, all in the "now".
And this collection has wider ramifications as part of the larger BMIC project, with more than eight hours of music by all the composers who took part, most of it recorded by David Lefeber. You can hear brief streamed samples, and download tracks by all 30 of them, from www.criticalnotice.com
Peter Grahame Woolf