Article on Sound and Music
An article by Shoël Stadlen in the November 2008 issue of new notes magazine, looking at the merger of the British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Network, Sonic Arts Network and Society for the Promotion of New Music into a brand new organisation, Sound and Music.
On Sound and Music As you’ve been hearing over the last year, spnm is in the process of changing, taking part in a merger to create a brand new organisation for new music and sound in the UK. Joint executive director SHOËL STADLEN gives a preview of the new organisation, Sound And Music. On 1 October, spnm legally merged with the British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Network and Sonic Arts Network to form a new organisation, Sound and Music. As many of you will know, the build-up to this point has been quite a long one – we have been considering the merger since 2004 – but the day itself was fairly low-key, with little changing overnight. The day after, several of us from the spnm office attended a day of events we had programmed at the newlyopened London venue, Kings Place, with some excellent new works by shortlisted composers – all of which 02 new notes • was reassuringly familiar. And this is part of the point of the new organisation: it will build on the core work of each of the four organisations, so our work discovering, supporting and promoting composers – through the annual call for works and the Shortlist – will continue. showcasing their music and giving them the contacts and confidence to flourish. The organisation has played a highly significant part in the development of many of the UK’s leading composers over the last 65 years, and we are committed to ensuring that this work continues. property, and we aim to launch Sound and Music fully in spring 2009. In the meantime we will begin working as a single organisation and will continue to deliver spnm’s planned programme of work, including running our annual Shortlist call, which you will find advertised in this issue of new notes. Why merge? Of course, we will be giving the new organisation a full launch in due course, and hopefully we will gain a significant amount of attention for new music and sound around this. There is still a fair amount of work to be done to get to that point, including finding and moving into a single november 2008 We spent a good deal of time determining whether a merged organisation provided the right future for spnm, for composers and for new music. spnm has a fantastic 65-year heritage discovering composers with talent early in their careers, There are many reasons why a new, larger and better-resourced organisation is likely to present the brightest future for composers and for new music in general. spnm's limited resources have meant that it has had to focus its efforts on supporting composers at the beginning of their careers. The new organisation will continue this crucial work, but will also be able to engage with composers throughout their careers. It will also be better equipped to promote twentyfirst-century composers who, typically, may submit their notated work to spnm but may also have several other sides to their work – for example as improvisers or as installation artists – which they consider equally important but for which spnm is unable to cater as fully. It is very exciting to look forward to an organisation in which we will be able to keep up with, and fully cater for, the composers with whom we are already working. Then there are the obvious benefits of a larger organisation. The new organisation will have significantly greater resources than we or any of the four individual organisations currently have. The impact the new organisation is able to achieve, in terms of raising the profile of new music and sound, is likely to be significantly greater than we are currently able to achieve as spnm and as four separate organisations.One of our main aims in creating and planning this new organisation is to get more people engaging with new music and sound – discovering it, listening to it, learning about it, appreciating it, reading about it, being inspired by it, taking part in it, creating it. The merger may be perceived by some as a funding- and funder-led initiative. It is certainly the case that an important part of the merger is the creation of an organisation that is robust and better resourced than we are currently; this will benefit new music and sound in the UK immensely. However, while Arts Council England initiated early discussions in 2003-4 between many music organisations (around the property initiative at Kings Place) and played an important role in getting dialogue going, we have taken our own course independently, with the four organisations deciding that what was required was not simply a property solution but a full merger, firstly testing this proposition and then drawing up the blueprints for what the new organisation would look like. We have done an enormous amount of research and consultation in the course of the processes of testing and planning, ranging from consultations with small groups of composers, performers and organisations to the largest survey of its kind carried out in the UK to date – to which you may well have responded – building our knowledge of people who engage with new music and sound. We are continuing to build our knowledge about new music ‘engagers’ (the terminology grates, but what we mean by this is not only audiences, but also creators, promoters, people who read continued on page 4 >> november 2008 • new notes 03 publications, download music, etc.) and are also now focusing on how we can best develop new engagers. The research we have done and are continuing to do in this area is of great importance for the sector as a whole, and we aim to make the findings publicly available so that they can benefit everyone. About the organisations we are merging with Some may know BMIC, CMN and Sonic Arts Network well, but for others one or more may be unfamiliar, so I’ll include a very brief overview here. Bmic is a resource centre for new music from the UK, part of an international network of music information centres, focused around its large collection of 20th- and 21stcentury scores and recordings. Bmic also represents the music of around 50 British composers through its New Voices and Contemporary Voices schemes and promotes an annual autumn concert series, The Cutting Edge, some of whose concerts then also go on tour. Contemporary Music Network has been based within Arts Council England and is leaving in order to join Sound and Music. CMN works with producers in order to put on highprofile tours of new music events across all genres, ranging from contemporary classical music to folk, jazz and dubstep. Meanwhile Sonic Arts Network focuses on all art created with sound, and also sound and listening in themselves beyond the boundaries of art. Sonic Arts produces two high-profile annual festivals, Expo and Cut & Splice, which change location each year, and runs the education and participation project Sonic Postcards, which encourages people to engage with their sonic environment creatively. If you don’t know their work, I’d encourage you to visit www.bmic.co.uk, www.myspace.com/cmntours and www.sonicartsnetwork.org to read more and head to one of their events over the next few months to get a sense of the range of work Sound and Music will represent. What will Sound and Music actually do? Our overall aim is simple – to enable people to create, discover and experience new music and sound. To achieve this, we will be creating a programme that consists of four areas of activity: live events, information and resources, venue and community, and learning and participation. Live Events In live events we will create a yearround, UK-wide programme showcasing new British work as well as new music and sound from around the world. Events will range from oneoff events to series curated by an external artistic director (continuing spnm’s practice), from small-scale to large-scale tours, and from events produced by Sound and Music itself to events produced by other partners. Bringing together our existing programmes of live events will give us a very strong start. Even in the first year, while we are planning bigger things for the future, our programme of events will include the Cutting Edge events at the Warehouse in London this autumn; the Cut & Splice festival, which takes its inspirations from Stockhausen’s From the Seven Days; monthly events in the Sound Source series in London, featuring Carl Stone, People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz, Annie Gosfield, Nicholas Brown, Anton Lukoszevieze and others; upcoming national and regional tours by Murcof and Oren Marshall, by pianist Matthew Bourne, and by the Kill Your Timid Notion festival; showcases of newlycomposed works in partnership with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London; Cutting Edge Tour events around the UK; the Fertiliser festival which will brings innovative and experimental music from a different country to the UK each year, focusing on Poland in 2009; Raga Mela, featuring new works by shortlisted composers for the BBC Concert Orchestra; the Expo festival in Leeds; and then next autumn we start with The Cutting Edge and Cut & Splice again. We will also continue, and develop, a broad range of partnerships, including composers in residence in an ever-increasing number of organisations. Looking beyond the first year, we want to add some major new initiatives that take us beyond the sum of our parts and which would not have been possible as four smaller organisations, helping to attract public attention to new music and sound in the UK. You’ll hear more on these ideas as we work them up. Sound and Music: timetable to launch Celebrating spnm’s history 1 October 2008 Legal merger We are currently putting together a digital exhibition celebrating spnm’s history. If you would like to share any memories or experiences of your involvement with spnm, please please conact Tim Scudder on email@example.com or 020 7407 1640. The exhibition will be hosted on the spnm and Sound and Music websites. autumn 2008 - spring 2009 Transition from four ‘departments’ into a unified organisation January 2009 www.soundandmusic.org fully functional Spring 2009 Full launch spnm members transferred to Sound and Music membership 04 new notes • november 2008 Information and Resources One of the big gains of creating a larger organisation is that we will finally be able to create a comprehensive UK listings service for the sector that is free to those who want to list their events, and free and open access, online, for those who want to receive listings. There will be premium options available, but basic listings will be free. This will create simple but significant changes for the sector: you will be able to upload your events to a single, central listings hub, which will be accessed online and through publications by many thousands more people than through any of the sector’s current listings services. Sound and Music will have a publishing programme that will build on two strong existing publications, new notes magazine itself, and the Sonic Arts Network CD Series. We’ll be defining exactly how these will develop later this winter. We will also continue Bmic’s Collection of 20thand 21st- century scores and recordings, which will be available for viewing online, download and, where possible, physical access. Online Venue and Community We are creating a landmark new website at www.soundandmusic.org, which will be fully functional in January 2009. This will be the entrance point to new music and sound in the UK – the first port of call for people around the world interested in finding out what is being created in this country. This will be not simply a promotional platform for our activities but also a genuinely creative space where we will host projects which could not take place anywhere other than online, and also projects which can reach more people, and more regions across the UK and the world, by being online rather than offline. As with our live events, we will invite guest artists to curate projects and initiatives online. In addition, the site will host an enormous knowledge network, consisting of articles and information directories, both provided by us or authoritative sources and contributed by users of the site. And finally the Sound and Music Community will be an online platform where you can create your own profile, develop your interests and contacts and promote yourself. Learning and Participation This is likely to be one of the largest areas of growth for the organisation. We want to increase significantly the number of people participating in new music and sound and enable them to develop their participation through their course of their lives. We will build on our existing projects – the composition Summer School for under18s, the Sonic Postcards participation project and the Expo Youth programme – and create new opportunities for people of all ages and at all levels of ability to discover, participate and create, ranging from giving people their first experience of listening creatively to programmes of support and development for both emerging and more established composers and artists. What happens now? As I mentioned above, we still have some work to do before we’re ready for a full launch of the organisation, and although we are telling you about Sound and Music now, we’ll be saving most of our push for public and media attention until the spring. We’re close to achieving something very exciting. I’ve given you a brief overview of what the organisation will do, and I wondered whether I could also introduce you to the ways in which you could get involved with Sound and Music. In the end, though, I’ve realised that these are just so many and various that I’d need to clear the rest of this issue to do justice to them! Where you may have been in touch with spnm to list your events, or to gain support as an emerging composer, the intricate web (a term I’ve borrowed from the title of Liz Johnson’s piece played at Kings Place) of connections you’ll be able to make through Sound and Music will make being involved in sound and music a lot more exciting in the years to come. www.soundandmusic.org will be fully functional in January and Sound and Music will be launched in spring 2009. To get in touch with Sound and Music, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Images: Page 2: Sarah Nicolls performing at an spnm Sound Source event Page 3: Sonic Arts Network’s Spiral event at Tate Modern Page 4: a BMIC Cutting Edge concert This page: an installation by Anne Bean at CMN’s multimedia Powerplant event in Liverpool this October. november 2008 • new notes 05