Goodbye Twentieth Century?
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
24 & 25 November 2005
Schedule from the 2005 Symposium
Research suggests there’s a growing interest in contemporary composition amongst those who follow alternative and countercultural rock, pop and electronica. At the same time, musicians and composers are increasingly pursuing projects that reject or push conventional ideas of genre. The symposium aims to explore the implications for promotion, programming, recording and commissioning – giving life to new music.
Many universities now teach pop music, orchestras are collaborating with record labels (e.g. London Sinfonietta with Warp), ‘arts’ venues are presenting rock gigs and night clubs are hosting string quartets. There seems to be fruitful potential in more work exploring this borderline, but the question is whether the institutions – media, venues, distribution chains etc. – are set up to respond to it. So,
- Who is the audience for experimental music, and what are they looking for?
- How do labels and promoters reach them?
- What connections can be made between contemporary composition and other experimental music practices?
- What are the ‘issues’, if any, that have to be resolved for partnerships between organisations working from different genre traditions to work together?
- What are the issues facing non-Classical experimental musicians?
Session 1: Connecting with the audience: Promoters, venues and festivals
Thursday, 24 November 2005, 14.30-16.30, Town Hall, Reception Room
Introduction: Ed McKeon (Sound Circuit / London Sinfonietta) & Tom Service (hcmf)
- Research presentation
Paula Whitehouse (Sound Circuit’s Marketing Consultant) presents key findings from Sound Circuit’s research, including the largest ever data analysis exercise for new music in the UK: over 24,000 attenders of new music from over 400 events and nearly 20 promoters.
- Audience Development Case Studies
Alison Atkinson (Marketing Manager, London Sinfonietta)Sheralyn Bonner (Marketing Consultant, hcmf)
- Panel discussion
Chair: Guy Morley (Brighton Dome & Corn Exchange)
Panellists: Tamsin Austin (The Sage Gateshead), Juha van ‘t Zelfde (Amsterdam Concertgebouw) and Matthias Osterwold (Maerzmusik, Berlin)
Most venues were built when genre distinctions were clearer (fixed seating vs standing, location of the bar, acoustics, blocked / socially-stratified seating etc.), so how do you programme and present work that pushes against these conventions?
When promoting to audiences for these events, do you target them according to genre?
Are some audiences more generous than others – will contemporary classical attenders take a risk with something that looks like fusion, or are countercultural rock / electronica audiences more likely to take a risk with something that has a classical edge to it?
Do you need different print / promotion for each audience? What about handling their expectations – the obvious things like drinks in policy, lighting in the auditorium, providing programmes etc.?
Session 2: Post-rock, post-Classical, posteverything? Views from the record industry
Friday, 25th November 2005, 11.00-12.30, Town Hall, Reception Room
Chair: Chris Cutler (ReR)
Panellists: Chris Craker (Sony BMG), Hannah Vlcek (NMC), Tony Morley (Leaf) and Cathi Gibson (Rough Trade).
Do we need a new language or way of communicating to potential audiences that doesn’t rely on genre definitions?
If you have to package new music that sits in this border territory, how do you do it?
Who do you market it to and how?
Is distribution too fixed on genre categorisation?
Do the high street chains dominate the market and make it difficult to carve a niche?
Is it hard to find good media coverage / radio airtime that fits the music?
Session 3: “Dancing about architecture”: talking about music in the media
Friday, 25th November 2005, 14.15-15.15, Town Hall, Reception Room
Chair: Tom Service (Artistic Director, hcmf; The Guardian)
Panellists: Andrew Kurowski (BBC Radio 3), Andy Hamilton (The Wire), Ben Watson (author on Zappa and Marxist Esthetix), and Maija Handover (mhpr).
Why is it that so much media is fixated on genre – is that just what people expect and look for, so that’s what the media provides?
Are there too few writers and presenters who are comfortable or sufficiently expert in reviewing / talking about music from different traditions? Is it a problem?
Does the reliance of most mainstream media on national recognition of the artists they cover create a self-fulfilling prophesy that only those with large marketing budgets can break in to?
Plenary: What’s next? Musicians in their own words
Friday, 25th November 2005, 15.30-16.45, The Hub
Chair: Ed McKeon (Sound Circuit; London Sinfonietta)
Panellists: Chris Cutler, Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner, Anna Meredith, Sam Hayden
If your track record is in electronica / improv, are you taken seriously as a composer by musicians used to someone from a ‘classical’ background?
As a composer, are you taken seriously by improvising musicians / in non-concert venues?
Do you have to perform your own music? (Philip Glass Ensemble, Michael Nyman Band, Bang On a Can, Steve Martland Band, Gavin Bryars Ensemble etc. are all vehicles for particular composers)
Are you much more limited in where you can perform / get your work performed?
If the benchmark is on musical integrity, where do you draw the line?