From Friday 7 to Sunday 9 July, Southbank Centre played host to New Music Biennial; a thrilling showcase of contemporary classic music. Produced in association with the PRS for Music Foundation, the weekend festival featured free performances of 20 compositions, from music creators pushing the boundaries of new UK music.
Guiding us through the weekend’s mesmerising mix of music is Cristiana Ferrauti, a participant in Southbank Centre’s New Music Journalism Workshop.
Explosion. If I was to choose a single word to describe New Music Biennial at Southbank Centre, explosion would be the most appropriate. Explosion of sounds, of instruments, of people, of players and of singers; explosion of emotions on the faces of those in the audience.
I set myself the challenge of seeing as many of the 20 free performances as possible, and eventually found myself drawn into all of them. Each time I stepped in an auditorium thinking ‘I’ll just stay for the first part then go’, I would inevitably find myself enwrapped in the whole hour, hooked in by the desire to listen to, and try different genres.
I found the most striking part to be the discovery of the stories weaved into the music. Though we may appreciate the creativity which goes into a composition it can be hard to go beyond the sounds of the strings or the keys to understand what lies behind a piece. Here though, with the composers giving that insight first-hand, it was possible to discover a further, more human, layer to the music.
Hullucination by Sam Lee was perhaps the most moving of the festival performances, with the touching words of old Hullensians resounding above the noise of people coming and going in The Clore Ballroom.
Similarly enchanting and resonating were the delicate mix of whistles and orchestra within Mica Levi’s Everlast. And, the impressive, oscillating movements of the great bells in Ray Lee’s Ring Out will stay with me long beyond the festival weekend.