PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 – Celebrating Scotland’s compositional talent
January marks the beginning of an eventful and inspirational year for Britain with the arrival of the London 2012 Olympics, however, this sporting event signals even greater excitement and triumph for Scotland thanks to the outstanding achievements of three Scottish Music Centre composer members, Sally Beamish, Anna Meredith and Oliver Searle, who were selected for PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12, a UK-wide commissioning programme consisting of twenty new pieces of music, each of 12 minutes in length, celebrating the talent and imagination of the UK’s musical community as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Sally Beamish’s new work, Spinal Chords, for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, sets a text by Melanie Reid who broke her neck and back in a horse-riding accident in April 2010, ultimately leaving her paralysed. Melanie’s weekly Spinal Column in The Times is an inspirational account of how she deals with raised and dashed hopes of recovery and how she in turn has been inspired by the many young people on her ward, many of them injured in sporting activities. Sally’s piece therefore, reflects the positive spirit of Melanie and the many other people, including Paralympians, who display such a life-affirming attitude in the face of adversity.
“This is a commission that has made me think quite differently. Melanie Reid’s title idea – Spinal Chords – brings to mind the function of chords within a structure – the importance of harmony as the backbone of a piece. The link to sport, and the Olympics, has opened up all sorts of possibilities and exposed me to a world I know little of.” Sally Beamish
Anna Meredith’s HandsFree enables the National Youth Orchestra, in groups of 16 to 160, to share their thrilling musicianship and creative inventiveness without their instruments, through clapping and beatboxing. Set for flashmob style performances in cities nationwide and as a surprise opener/encore to NYO concerts, Anna shaped HandsFree through workshops with members of the orchestra.
“I’m getting more and more into the immersive and curated side of the music I’m writing. This is a brilliant chance to try something out on a big scale and also a challenge in terms of what’s possible for the players to memorise that still sounds exciting and unexpected.
I’ve been lucky enough to tutor the amazing composers of NYO during their 3 annual courses for a couple of years now so I know first hand how jaw-droppingly good the performers are. I’ve been itching to get my compositional hands on the orchestra!” Anna Meredith
Oliver Searle’s Microscopic Dances, part of the Technophonia project, was written for a new kind of ensemble bringing together cutting edge music interfaces used by Drake Music Scotland – Soundbeam, Brainfingers with Notion software and the newly developed Skoog – played by young disabled musicians and a group of their peers on more conventional orchestral and electronic instruments. His music challenges and inspires the young musicians to combine their individual talents to achieve a unique team performance, a 12-minute musical event that will stir their audience and stimulate them to think again about what is possible, as well as how we define musical instruments and performing musicians.
“I am extremely excited to be involved in such an unusual, but far-reaching project such as Technophonia. I was unsure as to what the final outcome of the project might sound like, but part of the fascination of being a composer, for me, is working in a way I have not considered before, being out of my comfort zone and being uncertain as to what the result of the process may be.
Music psychologists tell us regularly about the fantastically complex series of procedures that your brain goes through on its way to performing music. We must interpret pitches, rhythms, dynamics and articulations from a page of music, itself a type of complex language, then begin to realise these through a number of miniscule muscle movements, making decisions about the attack and sustain of each individual note, before moving to the next one. With or without sheet music, we are looking at others around us, perhaps focusing on a conductor/director, using our ears to decide when to join in with other musicians, altering our pitch by the smallest of microtonal increments and balancing our sound to produce a musical performance. These tiny movements and processes (many of which are only barely noticeable, or often completely invisible to the human eye), seem to me to be a number of microscopic dances between our neural processes and motor skills.” Oliver Searle
Fiddler and composer Aidan O’Rourke is also flying the flag for Scotland with his work TAT-1, commissioned by An Tobar – The Tobermory Arts Centre. Renowned both as a founder member of Blazin’ Fiddles and Lau (3 times winners of the Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards), and for his superb solo releases Sirius and An Tobar, he has also featured on more than 80 albums by other artists, most recently guesting on the latest solo album by Idelwild’s Roddy Woomble.
Starting from the loose theme of bringing the world closer together, as the Olympics does, his new piece is inspired by the first transatlantic telephone cable which ran from Oban (Aidan’s home town) on the west coast of Scotland to Newfoundland. For many years this cable carried the “hotline” between Washington and Moscow!
“This opportunity opens my composition work to a much wider audience. Until now this work has been heard mainly within Scotland. I will be creating most of the new material on the remote west coast of Scotland and am excited by the juxtaposition of it then being performed in London during such a major international event.” Aidan O’Rourke
For more information about New Music 20×12, performance listings and details of all 20 composers involved, please visit: http://www.prsformusicfoundation.com