London 2012: The New Music Olympiad

While the news this morning carried reports and tweets of the future of Britain’s culture being kettled and truncheoned into silence, one bright sound could still be heard. The announcement of New Music 20×12, or the contemporary music component of the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad (LCO).

I’ll admit, I was rather surprised that such a thing even existed. In fact, New Music 20×12 is an independent initiative of the PRS Foundation, featuring 20 new, 12-minute works that will feature as part of the LCO.

Tom Service has already come out in praise of the initiative and the 20 works selected, and he’s right to. While the main LCO takes such risks as reheated Philip Glass and tepid James MacMillan, the New Music 20×12 goes out on some interesting and genuine limbs.

The range of musical forms encompassed is wide – from big band jazz, to miniature opera to Indian electronica. This might come across as spread-it-out-evenly box-ticking (see also the carefully non-London-centric map of events), but the net is cast wide enough for that not to feel like the case. The best example of this is the piece I’m most excited to hear: Aaron Cassidy writing for the vocal ensemble EXAUDI. That is going to be some seriously hardcore music-making that will make Birtwistle at the Proms sound as controversial as Katy Perry on Sesame Street.

The Cassidy/EXAUDI collaboration may be generating the most excitement in this parish – as well as new works by established names like Mark-Anthony Turnage, Howard Skempton and Sally Beamish – but I’m also looking forward to hearing what the likes of Gavin Higgins, Anna Meredith, Emily Howard, Richard Causton and David Bruce come up with. London 2012 just got better.

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