Now here’s a thing. Not far behind the London Ear, which had its first incarnation in March, another new music festival for London: the London Contemporary Music Festival. Not long ago it was easy to gripe about the lack of really adventurous new music programming in London. But now? This is starting to look like a sea change.
LCMF takes a different line from the Ear, and if they both survive into future editions there’s no reason they couldn’t be complimentary. Whereas the Ear focused very much on neglected works and composers of a – for want of a better expression – late modernist bent, LCMF is casting its net deliberately wider, to incorporate sound art, experimentalism, music theatre, dance/electronica and improv as well as more ‘conventional’ new music from the classical tradition. Such eclecticism is often a sign that the curators are actually playing things safe, but in most of the programming here that doesn’t look to be the case.
Spread over two weekends from 25 July to 4 August, the festival crams a lot in. Here are some highlights that grabbed my attention:
- the first visit of the Glenn Branca Ensemble to the UK for nearly a decade
- an 8-hour ‘drone day’, featuring performances by Tony Conrad, Charlemagne Palestine, Jem Finer and Jennifer Walshe, and music by Conrad/Walshe, Brian Eno, Finer, Palestine, Eliane Radigue and La Monte Young
- the world premiere staging of Gerald Barry’s opera La Plus Forte
- the unlikely pairing of Lachenmann and Morricone
- Philip Corner’s Piano Activities
- Bernard Parmegiani’s Violostries and De natura sonorum
- Lucier’s I am sitting in a room and Reich’s Pendulum Music
But really there’s lots more.
(I’m gonna say it because otherwise someone else will – there are some weird typographical things among the festival’s materials (“Xannis Zenakis”? “X is for Henry Flynt”?). But quibbles aside this looks like an outstanding operation.)
The whole thing has been put together by Sound Four and Bold Tendencies, and takes place at BT’s venue on floors 7 to 10 of Peckham Car Park. I’m not sure how they’ve done it (although securing Dow Jones among the festival’s sponsors won’t have hurt), but every event is free. Madness.