Seen&Heard Editor: Marc Bridle                              Founder Len Mullenger: Len@musicweb-international.com

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S&H Book Review
CHANGING PLATFORMS (30 years of the Contemporary Music Network)
CMN & Unknown Public, 2001. (PGW)



Here is an essential review, and well merited celebration, of a central strand in the recent history of the new music scene in Britain during the last thirty years, compiled in a brilliant collaboration between the CMN and Unknown Public.

It explores some key concerns of Seen&Heard in its first two years under my Editorship. At the outset we pleaded for readers' suggestions to replace the outmoded 'classical music' title, which suggests backward looking stuffiness, and might put off web surfers who shared our commitment to new music and younger musicians.
The Contemporary Music Network has been taking that same commitment all around the country with its tours, and from the 70's one rarely missed CMN concerts, enticed by their colourful posters. So this book is a nostalgic trip, but far more.

It is about live music at its liveliest, and an interview with Beverley Crew describes the nuts and bolts of selecting artists and programmes and setting up the tours. The early monopoly of 'classical music' has given way to eclecticism and the shift away from the philosophy that only 'classical' music qualifies as serious, and she finds that young 'classical' composers share her own eclectic tastes, with references in their music to pop, jazz & world music 'likely to fly over the heads of those "mature critics and academics" who deplore CMN's later diversification'. Change is of the essence in concert promotion and, indeed, has been in the development of Seen&Heard.

This is a substantial read, which focuses thought on many crucial issues for the future of live music at a time when there are grounds for hope, but not for complacency. In nearly fifty pages of small print, Chris Heaton surveys the scene from 1895 to 1970 before embarking on a detailed review of 1971-2001. Reading about the 70s & 80s was engrossing because 'I was there' for most of those concerts, which are listed in their entirety. There are essays and interviews with luminaries of the time, including Annette Morreau, who devised CMN and was its founder-director for 17 years and Richard Steinitz (just retired as director of the Hudderfield Festival, which he founded 1978).

The listing brings back memories, and many of them are revived in sound on the two CDs incorporated, every track annotated in fullest detail. For me, there is Birtwistle (Jane Manning in her prime), Max Davies (Fires of London), Reich (Drumming) & Stockhausen (Mantra) from the '70s; in the '80s, Michiko Hirayama singing Scelsi, Adrianne Csengery's devotion to Kurtag; in mid-'90s John Adams Road Runner, escaping minimalism before he 'softened' again with the El Nino opera! There are several anecdotes, my favourite the PhilipGlass Ensemble's first UK tour (1975) - apparently so few attended the concerts that it would have been cheaper to fly the entire audiences from all venues to USA & put them in a posh hotel instead!! That reminded me of hearing the Kronos play three Sallinen String Quartets at RAM in the mid '80s before an audience of no more than a dozen of us, very shortly before they made the big time and gave up playing such programmes.

In compiling the fully documented CDs, Chris Heaton sought to reflect in a historical context the diversity of music toured and some of the more unusual and significant tours. He did not seek to reflect his own tastes and the compilers of the book recognise that they could not please everyone. My fondest CMW memory is of the juxtaposition of the 'classical' Roger Woodward with the wild, sustained jazz-set of Cecil Taylor (dreadlocks and bright yellow socks, no shoes), both exciting but - if a contest had been intended? - the jazzman was the clear winner for at least one of Beverley Crew's "mature critics". When planning tours, Crew is 'on the look out for truly exceptional concerts - - the buzz one feels on the journey home after an extraordinary live event'. That Woodward/ Taylor juxtaposition - I can still See & Hear the 'buzz' - came back to mind last month as my reference standard, whilst attending the two jazz improvisation sessions in the Lucerne Piano Festival; nothing there approached the sheer excitement of that great CMN evening in 1987.


Peter Grahame Woolf


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