The Rambler

Modern composition. Blogging the music that others won't tell you about.

Help crowdfund volume of David Burge’s writings


I have been alerted to an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund a book of the Keyboard Magazine columns of pianist David Burge (1930–2013). A great champion of new music for piano, Burge wrote more than 100 monthly columns for Keyboard Magazine (originally Contemporary Keyboard) between 1975 and 1989, in what must comprise a rich document of its time.

The campaign, organized by Burge’s widow and their granddaughter, is seeking $7,000 dollars to research, produce and print 500 copies of the book. At the time of writing, 30% of that has been raised, with three weeks to go. Contributions come with a range of perks, including a CD of no longer available recordings by Burge, copies of his autobiography, and copies of the final book. Please visit the campaign page for more details.

Forty years on what strikes me about Burge’s first column, a copy of which is reproduced below, is how undated it seems. Not only for its theme – that serious pianists (all performers) have a responsibility to contemporary music as much as to the historical repertoire – which probably needs saying almost as much now as it did then; but also for its language, which seems to me a model of clarity, unburdened by pretence or trendiness. A complete book of Burge’s writings strikes me as valuable not only to pianists and those interested in contemporary music, but also to students of musical criticism and writing.


Martin Arnold in London this week


Have you got tickets for Apartment House at the Wigmore Hall yet? You should – a great line-up, including world premieres by Luiz Henrique Yudo, Egidija Medekšaitė, Leo Chadburn and Martin Arnold.

Arnold, who is a wonderful composer, will also be giving a free lecture on his music at Goldsmiths College tomorrow, from 6pm.

Marc Yeats: the anatomy of melancholy

The following post is a guest contribution from composer Marc Yeats, regarding an exciting project to record all of his piano music – much of it so far unheard.

I’ve been writing piano music since 1997 and over the years have built up a substantial catalogue of works, many of them hugely ambitious and virtuosic beyond normal pianistic expectations. I have dedicated many of these pieces to prominent international pianists but across the years, due to a number of factors mainly around the music’s enormous challenges, only a tiny handful of the pieces (often the least frightening and shortest of them) have been performed live and none recorded. I certainly haven’t set out to write piano music that most pianists dread!

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Now, for the first time in an amazing collaboration with Ian Pace I have found a pianist who not only enjoys and can meet these challenges but actually wants to perform my work because of the very nature of the music itself.

Ian Pace is a phenomenal pianist; a man whose musicality and intellect I have admired for many years. I have heard him fearlessly play some of the most challenging music of our time with huge flair, passion, insight and musicality.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, not least because even I haven’t heard the majority of these pieces yet!

See more about the project campaign here:

So that’s our story. This is new, wild, never before heard or recorded piano music. You can be with us every step of the way as part of this unique journey simply by Pledging. Be a part of it and access our memorable insider exclusives.

You can Pledge here:

Why am I doing this, why crowdfunding?

Freedom. Freedom to make things happen without going through our normal cultural gatekeepers whose decisions so often result in a ‘no’ to way too many amazing projects. Freedom to appeal directly to audiences and fans, and engage new people directly in what I’m doing and bring them on the journey with me so we can make stuff happen together. And of course the freedom to have a viable alternative to deliver projects in the future. Additionally I’m thrilled I can be a bit of a pioneer with this initiative and with the help of Sound and Music share with other composers the learning and experience that results so the that whole new-music community can benefit. And last but not least, an opportunity to make my own piano music recording project with Ian Pace happen; now, that’s REALLY exciting!

What’s it all about? The wider context

Sound and Music has teamed up with PledgeMusic to launch Compose. Create. Engage, a new crowdfunding campaign with five British contemporary composers.

According to the organisations, the initiative is designed to test whether the crowdfunding model will work for contemporary classical artists in the same way it does for acts working in rock and pop.

The project was created in response to Sound and Music’s annual Composer Commissioning Survey. This revealed the traditional commissioning structure to be inadequate and unsustainable.

Susanna Eastburn, Sound and Music’s chief executive, said: ‘Opening up new avenues for composers to engage directly with audiences who can support them in creating and sharing adventurous new music is something that is very important to Sound and Music.

‘In fact it feels more relevant than ever, given that the creative imagination of composers significantly outstrips what the traditional arts infrastructure can offer them. It’s very exciting for us to be working on this with PledgeMusic, as well as five such different and imaginative composers.’

Five composers have been chosen to take part in the scheme. They are: Alex McLean, an interdisciplinary artist working with pattern and code; Bobbie-Jane Gardner, a composer, arranger, producer and music leader; Jacob Thompson-Bell, a contemporary classical and experimental music composer; myself, Marc Yeats, a sound artist, composer and visual artist; and Shaun Blezard, leader of improvisational collective, Some Unicorn.

Visit the Sound and Music website to find out more.

Good reports about MacRae’s The Devil Inside

I’m seeing good things about Stuart MacRae’s The Devil Inside, premiered over the weekend by Scottish Opera: “as the darkness slowly encroached on the final scene, there was a truly chilling end as a final transaction was made and the last wish granted … a wonderful ghost story, just the thing for a dark winter night.”

Quite a success for SO’s Five:15 project, which launched several years ago with the aim of nurturing new operatic talent by pairing writers and composers, and starting small – so avoiding the in-at-the-deep-end feeling of many composers’ opera debuts. MacRae and writer Louise Welsh produced Remembrance Day together in 2009. This was followed by Ghost Patrol in 2012, like The Devil Inside a co-commission with Music Theatre Wales. Let’s hope The Devil Inside makes it south of the border soon; and that Scottish Opera’s model of gently blooding young composers on the operatic stage, which has been so successful here, is repeated elsewhere.

Update: MacRae has written to tell me that The Devil Inside will be touring the UK throughout February and April –see here for more details. Hurrah.

An earlier version of this post gave the opera’s title incorrectly as the Devil Within. Apologies for that.

Follow My Score! Shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Score Follower/Incipitsify commissioning project has been announced: the three composers and piece on the list are:

Martin Iddon – Ampelos

Elena Rykova – 101% mind uploading

Julio Zúñiga – 24

The winner of the $1850 prize will be chosen by a public internet vote.

To cast your vote, simply watch all three videos, then click YouTube’s “like” button under your favourite.

Here, in full, are the complete rules from Score Follower:


• The finalist with the most likes by 1 Feb 2016 @20:00 ET will be commissioned $1,850 to write a new piece for Dal Niente.

• Please watch all videos before voting

• Do not vote multiple times under different google accounts

• Vote for one or two candidate(s)

• Dislikes will not be counted against the finalists’ scores

• If we detect that somebody has purchased likes for one of the videos, we will either zero-out the likes by re-uploading the videos, or even disqualify the composer in the case of multiple offenses. If we suspect suspicious activity, we will post screenshots of our analytics.

As far as we know, this is the first time that a composer will be commissioned based on YouTube likes.

There is a significant amount of money, and an attractive commission opportunity at stake, which makes the following concerns legitimate:

What happens from here on out is more like a lottery, or a popularity contest… or a testament to one of the finalists’ abilities at ‘winning the internet.’ Nevertheless, they have been selected to participate in it by a renown jury. We have talked with the finalists about this issue, and they understand these terms.

Our project format was meant to be an internet-equivalent to the Grawemeyer Award—a three round process starting with pre-selection by the program committee, which is then narrowed down by an international jury to three finalists, who are then chosen by an audience that has listened to live performances of the works. A Likes Campaign was the only feasible internet-equivalent to an audience-choice award that we could imagine, and whether or not it seems fair, it was really important for us that we turn to the internet community and crowdsource the commissionee. Living in a post-internet world, we figure that we must take the good with the bad, and accept the quirks/flaws of the internet, for this project at least.

All of this being said, we plan to do everything in our power to make this process as fair and transparent as possible.

We have put out four videos in sequence onto the channel, Score Follower: the three finalist videos first, and a separate video containing annotation links pointing to the videos to ensure that A. none of finalist videos are unfairly promoted by YouTube itself, which tends to push most recent content, and B. there is something that presents the works simultaneously that we could promote.

If there are any other aspects of this process that you believe could be improved in the name of fairness, please email us at incipitsifyq [at] gmail [dot] com

Luc Brewaeys, 1959–2015

News has been circulating today of the death of Belgian composer Luc Brewaeys, at the age of 56. He had been suffering from (and mostly beaten) a series of cancers for some time. His remarkable and attractive music can be enjoyed via this portrait CD on ReR Megadisc:

… and via a number of YouTube videos, of which this with accompanying score of his 1997 recorder and piano duet Les Méandres de la Mémoire seems a very good place to start:

Tempo goes from strength to strength


Another new issue of Tempo drops through the door, and this one looks even more of a must-read than those before it. At last we have a substantial article on the music of Laurence Crane, here written by one of his long-time champions, Philip Thomas. Luke Nickel writes on collaboration and performance in Eliane Radigue’s Occam Ocean. And Martin Iddon contributes an essential and provocative article on Johannes Kreidler’s Fremdarbeit that casts it in an entirely new light.

Add to that a symposium on composition, performance and research, following on from John Croft’s much-read article ‘Composition is Not Research’ of last year; an interview with Anton Lukoszevieze; and the usual exemplary reviews section and you have quite an issue.


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