Response to Open Letters to Sound and Music and Arts Council England

Sound and Music & Arts Council England logosOn 27 March, two open let­ters [1, 2] to Sound and Music and Arts Council England were made public, cri­ti­cising both or­gan­isa­tions for their activ­ities since the former of these was founded from a merger of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the British Music Information Centre, Sonic Arts Network and the Contemporary Music Network in 2008. The let­ters, signed by various re­spected com­posers and mu­si­cians at various stages in their ca­reers, have pro­voked lively de­bate, but the un­der­signed are con­cerned both by its tone and by cer­tain as­sump­tions made by the let­ters’ sig­nat­ories. It has also been alarming to see well-known mem­bers of SAM staff and board, whose own work covers not­ated in­stru­mental music as well as elec­tronic and elec­troacoustic mu­sics, per­son­ally de­scribed in derog­atory terms in the en­suing debate.

Both let­ters cri­ti­cise Sound and Music’s pro­mo­tion of sound art and other music, de­scribing these areas as ‘fringe activ­ities which have little or no con­nec­tion with the main­stream’. In so doing, the sig­nat­ories ap­pear to as­sert that not­ated, con­tem­porary com­pos­i­tion should re­ceive a spe­cially priv­ileged status within Sound and Music’s activ­ities, whilst at the same time failing to ac­know­ledge the con­sid­er­able amount of work the or­gan­isa­tion has in any case un­der­taken in this field. In a time when mu­si­cians and com­posers in­creas­ingly work across genres and media and defy simplistic cat­egor­isa­tion, it is di­visive and un­helpful to seek to sep­arate any one strand of con­tem­porary music and sound from others or to plead for spe­cial treat­ment. Indeed, not­ated con­tem­porary com­pos­i­tion is it­self a ‘fringe activity’, in the sense of being a small minority pur­suit. But minority pur­suits per­ceived to have wider sig­ni­fic­ance and po­ten­tial should be en­cour­aged and sup­ported; part of the pur­pose of public sub­sidy is surely to do this, whether for not­ated con­tem­porary music, sound art, or any other forms of music.

As Sound and Music them­selves re­cog­nised in their re­sponse to the re­cent de­bate, the trans­itional period since the merger has been a dif­fi­cult one and in many ways the or­gan­isa­tion is still finding its feet, a task made more chal­len­ging by the 42% funding cut from Arts Council England last year. In dis­cussing how to se­cure a pos­itive fu­ture for and greater aware­ness of British music both at home and abroad — a task in which Sound and Music has an un­doubtedly vital role — the mu­sical com­munity should be as open-minded and sup­portive as pos­sible of all their col­leagues, and be pre­pared to em­brace pos­sib­il­ities for widening the range of cre­ative work pro­duced, rather than re­stricting it to that already firmly es­tab­lished. It is by working to­gether and in­ter­acting with each other, rather than ghet­toisa­tion or jealous guarding of lim­ited con­cep­tions of new music, that we will build a stronger and more suc­cessful com­munity, and make pos­sible that which is genu­inely ‘new’.

Martin Butler, com­poser, Professor of Music, University of Sussex; former Chair, SPNM
Rolf Hind, pi­anist, com­poser, Professor of Piano, Guildhall School of Music and Drama; former Artistic Director, SPNM
Andrew Hugill, com­poser, Professor of Music, De Montfort University, Associate Researcher, Université de la Sorbonne
Ian Pace, pi­anist, writer, Lecturer in Music, City University London
Mariam Rezaei, com­poser, im­pro­viser, per­former
Chris Swithinbank, com­poser

Ximena Alarcón, New Media artist, Research Fellow, CRiSAP
Newton Armstrong, com­poser, im­pro­viser, Lecturer in Music, City University London
Simon Atkinson, com­poser, aca­demic
Brendan Ball, trum­peter, member of Ensemble 10.10
Richard Barrett, com­poser, per­former
Andrew Bowie, Professor of Philosophy and German, Royal Holloway, University of London, jazz sax­o­phonist.
Neil Boynton, com­poser, artist, aca­demic
John Butcher, im­pro­viser, com­poser
Michael Casey, com­poser, com­puter sci­entist
Philip Clark, mu­si­cian, writer
Tansy Davies, com­poser
Julio d’Escrivan, com­poser
John Levack Drever, com­poser, aca­demic
Tim Ewers, com­poser, Director of Studies for Music, Kingston University
Nick Fells, Head of Music, University of Glasgow
Jerry Fishenden, com­poser, tech­no­lo­gist, aca­demic
Ian Gardiner, com­poser, Lecturer in Music, Goldsmith’s College
Mark Gasser, pi­anist, Lecturer in Piano and PhD Candidate, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Dan Goren, com­poser, per­former, dir­ector of Source Music Services
Orlando Gough, com­poser
Tom Haines, com­poser
Tom Hall, com­poser, Senior Lecturer in Creative Music Technology, Anglia Ruskin University
Phil Hallett, former Director, Sonic Arts Network
Louise Harris, com­poser, Lecturer in Music, Kingston University
Roddy Hawkins, Early Career Research Associate, Institute of Musical Research
Björn Heile, Senior Lecturer in Music, University of Glasgow
Ron Herrema, com­poser
Kathy Hinde, audio-visual artist
Bennett Hogg, Lecturer in Music, Newcastle University
John Kieffer, writer, cur­ator, former Creative Director, Sound and Music
Josh Kopeček, mu­si­cian
Leigh Landy, com­poser, edu­cator
Becca Laurence, freel­ance pro­ject man­ager and cre­ative edu­ca­tion­alist
Anton Lukoszevieze, cel­list, dir­ector, artist
John Lunn, com­poser
Nigel McBride, com­poser
Eliza McCarthy, pi­anist
Scott McLaughlin, com­poser
Annelie Nederberg, com­poser
Carola Nielinger-Vakil, flautist, mu­si­co­lo­gist
Katharine Norman, com­poser, writer, sound artist, Honorary Research Fellow, De Montfort University
Aki Pasoulas, com­poser, edu­cator
Jeremy Peyton Jones, com­poser, aca­demic
Eleri Angharad Pound, com­poser, harpist
Amber Priestley, com­poser, sound de­signer
David Prior, com­poser, sound artist, Associate Professor, University College Falmouth
Lauren Redhead, com­poser
John Richards, mu­si­cian
Sam Richards, im­pro­viser, pi­anist, com­poser, writer, Lecturer in Music, Plymouth University
Robin Rimbaud scanner, com­poser, artist
Samuel Rodgers, sound artist, im­pro­viser
Lee Scott, com­poser, PhD stu­dent
Stacey Sewell, PhD stu­dent, University College Falmouth
Andre Shlimon, com­poser, per­former
Jack Ryan Smith, mu­si­co­lo­gist
Michael Spencer, com­poser, Lecturer in Music, University of Leeds
Neal Spowage, artist, mu­si­cian
Tim Steiner, com­poser
Marcel Swiboda, Lecturer in Cultural Studies, University of Leeds
Philip Thomas, pi­anist, Reader in Music, University of Huddersfield
Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, Reader in Composition and Studio Director, University of Huddersfield
Craig Vear, com­poser, re­searcher
Oliver Vessey, com­poser, per­former
Nina Whiteman, com­poser, singer, co-director, Trio Atem
Jerry Wigens, com­poser, im­pro­viser, per­former
Ian Willcock, artist, aca­demic
Marc Yeats, com­poser
Alistair Zaldua, com­poser

Supplementary Signatories

Panos Amelides, com­poser
Kerry Andrew, com­poser, per­former
Iain Armstrong, com­poser, sound artist, im­pro­viser, co-director SOUNDkitchen
Peter Ashton, teacher, com­poser, per­former
Adam Asnan, com­poser, per­former
Jovana Backovic, composer/performer
Michael Bassett, Creative Producer for Music & Sound Art, ICIA University of Bath
Sam Belinfante, artist
Mike Blow, artist and re­searcher, Sonic Art Research Unit, Oxford Brookes University
James Bulley, com­poser, sound artist
Duncan Chapman, com­poser, sound artist
Stephen Chase, com­poser, per­former
Li-Chuan Chong, com­poser, sonic artist, im­pro­viser
Yiannis Christofides, com­poser, sound artist and re­searcher
Jonathan Cole, com­poser and teacher
Sarah Dacey, singer, com­poser, teacher
Andrew Deakin, com­poser, Co-director of Octopus Collective, Cumbria
Daz Disley, sound en­gineer, fa­cil­it­ator, soft­ware de­veloper
Jason Dixon, com­poser
Graham Dowdall, mu­si­cian, com­poser tutor at Goldsmiths
Lawrence Dunn, com­poser
Kevin Flanagan, com­poser, im­pro­viser
Philip Flood, former trustee, spnm
Owen Green, com­poser, im­pro­viser
Andrew Hall, com­poser, per­former
Damien Harron, Senior Lecturer, Leeds College of Music
Andrew Hill, com­poser, re­searcher
Joseph Hyde, com­poser, media artist, aca­demic
Simon Katan, au­di­ovisual composer/performer
Peiman Khosravi, com­poser
Visa Kuoppala, com­poser, im­pro­viser
Duncan MacLeod, com­poser, Lecturer in Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Paul Mann, con­ductor
Ruaidhri Mannion, com­poser
Will Montgomery, mu­si­cian, journ­alist, aca­demic
Hilary Mullaney, com­poser, aca­demic
Peter Nagle, com­poser
Ed Perkins, au­di­ovisual composer/performer
Xenia Pestova, pi­anist, Lecturer and Head of Performance, Bangor University School of Music
Mark Pilkington, com­poser, PhD stu­dent
Jeevan Rai, com­poser, sound artist, im­pro­viser
Colin Riley, com­poser, former trustee of spnm, Senior Lecturer, Brunel University
Jez Riley French, com­poser, mu­si­cian, artist
Stuart Russell, com­poser, per­former, sonic artist, co-director of Colchester new Music
Tim Rutherford-Johnson, writer, mu­si­co­lo­gist
Matthew Sheeran, com­poser
Josh Spear, com­poser, mu­si­cian
Ian Stonehouse, Head of the Electronic Music Studios, Goldsmiths, Univ. of London
Jamie Telford, com­poser, per­former
Richard Thomas, cel­list, sound re­cordist, former Bmic and SAM staff member
Peter Todd, new media artist, pro­grammer, re­searcher
David Toop, com­poser, writer, cur­ator, Senior Research Fellow at London College of Communication.
Bill Vine, com­poser, per­former, sonic artist
Lisa Whistlecroft, com­poser, sound artist, former elected Director and Company Secretary of Sonic Arts Network
Tony Whitehead, sound artist
Paul Whitty, com­poser, Professor of Composition, Oxford Brookes University
Trevor Wiggins, mu­si­cian, re­searcher, editor
Sean Williams, music maker, sound artist
Daniel Wilson, com­poser
Mark Peter Wright, artist
Reynaldo Young, com­poser, im­pro­viser, dir­ector of the Cardboard Citizens New Music Ensemble

This entry was written by Chris, posted on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 6:07 pm, filed under News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Microbiography

    Chris Swithinbank is a British-Dutch com­poser who works with both acoustic in­stru­ments and elec­tronic sounds. He is cur­rently a stu­dent at Harvard University with Chaya Czernowin.
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