classical music, contemporary

classical music, contemporary
   During the 1980s and 1990s there appeared to be much diversification in the styles of music being produced by classical composers. Many who might previously have been identified as working in the western tradition explored different idioms, including jazz, rock and folk music, to a greater extent than before. Boundaries became blurred, leading to the identification of ‘crossover’ styles (a title not all were happy with), typified by the work of Django Bates, Frank Zappa and Elvis Costello with the Brodsky Quartet. Record labels such as ECM typified an across-the-board approach by recording meditative music by Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich through to jazz-influenced Pat Metheny. The rhythmic ideas generated by such as Americans Steve Reich and Philip Glass and the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen are mirrored by the work of British composers such as Graham Fitkin and Michael Nyman, whose film music attracts the attention of a wide public. Other successful film/ television composers include George Fenton, Carl Davis, Geoffrey Burgon and Barrington Pheloung. Established composers who are still producing challenging works include Sir Peter Maxwell- Davies and Sir Harrison Birtwistle (of the ‘Manchester School’); there was much media debate on the inclusion of Birtwistle’s piece ‘Panic’ in the traditional Last Night of the Proms line-up in 1995.
   Many composers of similar standing are not well publicized. The Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) and the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music ensure that they are heard and supported. Historically, composition was maledominated, with women, including Judith Weir, Sally Beamish and Diana Burrell, only gaining wider recognition during the 1980s and 1990s. Many composers are ‘in residence’ with orchestras or education establishments, mutually beneficial schemes enabling the composition of new pieces. Certain soloists and ensembles work especially hard to ensure a platform for new works. The London Sinfonietta and BBC Symphony Orchestra have for many years been performing and commissioning new pieces, as has soprano Jane Manning, whose ensemble Jane’s Minstrels promotes contemporary British music. Contemporary Music Network (CMN) tours enable those further from London’s ‘hub’ to experience new music.
   Music improvised live and music generated from improvisations has had increased influence over many performers, mainly those working in cham-ber-sized groups. Bass player Barry Guy epitomizes a growing ‘holistic’ approach, having worked with performers as diverse as the Academy of Ancient Music and free improviser Evan Parker.
   See also: classical music
   Further reading
    Morton, B. and Collins, P. (1992) Contemporary Composers, Chicago and London: St. James Press (biographies/works of 500 composers).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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