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New Music Lab

New Music Lab is a Sound and Music initiative, a week of online workshops aimed at participants under the age of 19. I didn't realise, until being invited to take part myself, that the whole thing is actually programmed and organised by a committee of teenagers (with background assistance from SaM's Judith Robinson and Ayse Koklu.) Having found that out, I felt pleased, honoured in fact, to have shown up on their radar.

The week of Labs had featured excitingly contemporary contributions: for instance a session about the digital platform Ableton, with Mel Uye-Parker; and a visit to the latest community opera devised in collaboration with teenage students by the great Kate Whitley. My own Lab was simply a discussion with three composers, which I found very stimulating, covering a lot of musical topics which I've continued to think about long after the session was over.

Stylistic variety, as so often these days, was the big feature. Kathleen Archbold's vocal solo featured graphic/proportional notation and extended vocal techniques, in a fine recording by Laura Bowler. In a good way it reminded me of some of my favourite works from the 1970s avant-garde. Oliver Close had devised a boldly expressive (what was it?) opera-cantata-music drama, developing the libretto himself. Incredibly, an ensemble of singers had each recorded their parts remotely, with great precision. Maddie Melville-Smith was in the midst of a confident piano concerto with large orchestra. It's rather wonderful these days that Sibelius can give us a good indication of what a score of this size will one day sound like when played live.

As usual when encountering such able young students, I had found myself reflecting on how far on they were in composition, much further than I was at their age. And also marvelling at their equanimity in the face of the disruption their educations have suffered in the pandemic years. They deserve a bright future, with no further disruptions.

Pictured - from my own rather chaotic sketches.




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