After spending two beautiful days in unbroken sunshine on Arran, I strolled into the Royal Conservatoire sporting a suave Scottish suntan. Only to find out that some hard-working colleagues had not glimpsed natural light for days, while preparing for PLUG no 11. PLUG is a yearly, week-long contemporary music festival wherein all the music (except this year, one single ‘old piece’, my own Airs from Another Planet) consists of world premieres by RCS students. Easily 50 new works were first heard this week, and the overall total for the last decade exceeds 500.
Prior to entering the hall, I had wondered what I would feel about this – maybe too much new music all at once? In fact, it turned out to be the opposite, and the appetite only increased. On getting to the end of 20 new 2-piano duets in one evening (played by 20 different pairs of student pianists, how on earth did they manage that?) I felt I’d like nothing more than to sit down immediately and write one myself.
The variety of music all week was extreme, and there is definitely no ‘house style’. The philosophy seems to be about the freedom to create – first year students in particular undertake whatever projects they wish, and often produce encouragingly strange constructions. No-one ever seems to say the dread words, ‘I’m writing this for my portfolio’. I would describe the atmosphere as having an art school vibe; but no doubt I’m years out of date regarding art schools, which are probably by now full of circumspect, businesslike careerists.
Pictured – Paisley Gilmour Street, gateway to the sun.