Following the publication of a highly critical open letter sent to Sound and Music and Arts Council England from 255 composers, performers and other music industry figures, a second open letter will be sent today, signed by 90 young composers ‘actively engaged in contemporary music in the United Kingdom’.
It says that the ‘change in focus’ since Sound and Music incorporated the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the British Music Information Centre, Sonic Arts Network, and the Contemporary Music Network in 2008 ‘disenfranchises many of the young composers who had previously benefitted’ from the work of these organisations, ‘to the extent that a large number of young composers have little or no dealings with Sound and Music’.
The letter is signed by 90 composers including Mark Bowden, composer in residence of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and music fellow of the Rambert Dance Company, Charlotte Bray, who held the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Sound and Music apprentice residency in 2009/10, and Steven Daverson, the youngest ever winner of the Ernst von Siemens Composer’s Prize in 2011.
Sound and Music suffered a real-terms cut of nearly 50% in the last round of ACE portfolio funding – announced in March 2011 and taking effect from April – and is currently recruiting for the newly-created post of chief executive. It runs an annual summer school for 75 composers aged 14-19, runs a searchable online database of professional opportunities for composers and musicians, and hosts the Artists’ Toolkit, more than 50 pages of practical advice for composers including sections on ‘Making a Living’, ‘Promoting Yourself’ and ‘Funding’, on its website.
Organiser Ed Nesbit told CM the letter was necessary ‘because we are a group of people who are very seriously affected by the changes that the foundation of Sound and Music has brought about’.
CM will publish a full story in its 7 April edition.
An open letter to Sound and Music and Arts Council England
Before the foundation of Sound and Music in 2008, the organisations that would go on to merge to form Sound and Music provided a very large number of opportunities and resources for young composers. One of these opportunities was the Shortlist, which was run by the Society for the Promotion of New Music, and which provided many young composers with their first professional performances; another was the British Music Information Centre’s New Voices and Contemporary Voices schemes, which were instrumental in promoting composers at various stages in their careers. Together the organisations provided an invaluable infrastructure whereby composers could be discovered, promoted, and given a great deal of help as they made the transition into a professional career. The absence of this is felt by young composers across the country.
Although Sound and Music stated that it would continue to provide the services which its constituent parts had previously provided, these two schemes, as well as a great many more, have been discarded in favour of the promotion of ‘Sound Art’. This change in focus disenfranchises many of the young composers who had previously benefitted from such schemes, to the extent that a large number of young composers have little or no dealings with Sound and Music. Moreover, the change was made without any consultation with these composers.
We, the undersigned, all of whom are young composers actively engaged in contemporary music in the United Kingdom, call for the professional development opportunities which the constituent parts of Sound and Music previously provided to be reinstated. We further request that Sound and Music consult with the most active composers of all ages to develop further new resources for the nurturing and promotion of new compositional talent.
We suggest that this should involve both the organisation of performances of composers’ work in the concert hall and the use of new technologies to raise awareness of that work.
Stephen Mark Barchan
Maria Le Brun
Sasha Valeri Millwood