Corey Mwamba


The year doesn't matter

Sound And Music has taken a look at itself. Its recently published data shows that the artists who do talk to the organisation tend to be white, male, university educated, and not classed as disabled. This in itself is not surprising. It is encouraging to note is that they want to do something about it. But what they want to do about it is also not surprising, and less encouraging.

I make new music. I have been making new music for twenty years. And I have done so with very little contact with Sound And Music. This is not to say that they have no use; it's just that I have never thought that what they do is something for me. I have seen the term "new music" be equated with "contemporary classical" (or rather contemporary Western chamber/orchestral), and my face and aesthetics have not fit in that box. This is not down to lack of skill or experience on my part; and Sound And Music makes no public definition of "new music"; but those are my feelings. I wonder whether other people feel the same way.

Does this mean that to access Sound And Music, I need to be mentored and coached as per their new Pathways programme? Perhaps: the other perspective may be that Sound And Music needs spread news of its other programmes more widely. The reason why people aren't accessing Sound And Music is not that they don't understand what a mentor is (why is this explained so laboriously?), it's that Sound And Music is not selecting these people. Going through the lists of New Voices is a clear indication of this.

The idea that white male "able-bodied" university-educated composers are just better at new music is obviously ludicrous. So setting up yet another basic development programme to increase take-up of diverse artists is borderline insulting — because it's 2016, and the assessment of artistic skill and experience should be able to allow for a wide range of paths. In some cases, we actually are as good as we say we are. It is now for Sound And Music to do the hard work of examining themselves deeper than statistics and to apply proper rigour and care to its own processes of selection. This will require a bit more thinking, and lot more listening before doing.

comments (1)

Corey Mwamba

22nd Apr 2016 | 9:48am

And in what is a clear sign that Sound And Music are really committed to this, they have contacted me to talk about it. This is a vastly positive step and a clear case of listening.

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