I was glad to revisit New Malden's Coombe Girls School this term. It's been on my mind as the last school I visited before the very sudden Covid shutdown in March 2020. I often wondered what became of the five very talented A-level composers I met in that month. But today's visit, to a new A-level cohort, was very much business as usual, looking at compositions which were just about to be submitted to the examiners - and that's your actual examiners, no TAGs. Exam normality has partly returned, and we can presumably forget those lockdown-era acronyms (famous last words...)
As ever, talking to these young folk gave me the feeling that music itself had rushed forward in the last couple of years, while I was sitting quietly at home. A particularly interesting conversation centred round a thrilling piano 4-hands duet. Its composer insisted the only influence was games music, which is a genre I know almost noting about. But *now* I know that quite a bit of it has been arranged for piano duet - just like Beethoven symphonies in the nineteenth century. And that's what stimulated a teenage student to write a marvellously punchy composition which reminded me of the Rite of Spring two-piano version, and its mad energy.
On reflection I find it interesting that up till quite recently, school composers would describe their music in terms of big movie scores - John Williams and so on. But now, games music seems to be taking over as their idea of central repertory (of course the two are to some extent a continuation of each other.) I recently met a young and successful games composer, an EU-national graduate of the RCM's Composition for Screen course, who told me that the UK was the world centre for his kind of work, because of the heritage of Angel Studios (now being managed by Abbey Road) and because our local musicians are so flexible and quick to sightread. I always think, when people pay this great compliment to our UK musicians, that it's because we pay them so little, forcing them to "flexibly" run from rehearsal to rehearsal. But at least this situation is feeding some energy into a widely-followed area of musical creativity.
Pictured - from Leake Street, Waterloo