Young at Heart?

My latest article is on new music and young performers. It began as a vague idea to point people towards the Park Lane Group’s Young Artists series, which takes place all next week (full details of all the concerts may be found here). I started out with a certain scepticism about the PLG’s approach, and whether it is the best way for new music to be promoted, and for performers to be introduced to it. Some of that scepticism remains, but writing the article and speaking to the performers and composers that I did made me aware at least of the wide diversity of approaches to embarking on a career in new music that people take.

I also became much more conscious of the complex issues that surround youth and new music, whether one approaches the question from a purely financial angle (young performers are cheaper and don’t have as many financial commitments), an organisational one (good young performers can’t turn down high profile work, so a time comes when they can’t commit to smaller groups), a marketing one (should all the promotional budget be spent on chasing a young audience), or an aesthetic one (is writing for young performers different from writing for more mature ones?). There’s a lot more to be explored, and more rigorously, than this initial foray could accommodate. In particular, I’m still very interested in the relationship between a youthful performance culture, and the sort of music that gets composed with those performers in mind (or, conversely, that those performers choose to perform). When performers are asked, such as they are for the PLG series, to play new music, they come up with a range of responses – some of them I think healthy (collaborating with composers of their own generation), some of them less obviously so (dusting off second-rate repertoire simply because the composer fits the new music remit).

Head over to the Purcell Room this week and judge for yourself, I guess.

The article is published in Sound and Music’s INTO Magazine: you can read it online here. My piece is pp.32–37, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff elsewhere in the mag, so don’t be hasty about flipping through. Huge thanks go to all the performers and composers who helped out with email interviews: Tim Benjamin; Hugh Brunt; Christopher Fox; Jane Manning; Darragh Morgan; Heather Roche; James Weeks. Everyone came up with great material, and I’m sorry I was only able to use a fraction of it.


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