Wales to become full member of ISCM
Tŷ Cerdd is to enrol Wales as a full member of the International Society for Contemporary Music
In March, Arthur van der Drift, Executive Director of the International Society for Contemporary Music visited Tŷ Cerdd. We invited him to Cardiff to discuss our proposal to subscribe to the ISCM as a full national member. This membership brings with it a range of exciting benefits for the composers of Wales. To discuss our proposal we invited to the meeting representatives of Composers-of Wales, Bangor and Cardiff University Schools of Music and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and Arts Council of Wales. Attending the meeting was composer, Mark Bowden who is Chair of ISCM UK. Mark has been, until recently, Composer-in-Residence with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and our meeting was timed to co-incide with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales day of workshops and performances of new Welsh music – Composition: Wales.
Here Mark gives his impressions of the International Society which does so much to promote new music.
Welsh contemporary classical music is flourishing. Today, there is so much exciting new work being generated by composers across the country. The annual BBC National Orchestra of Wales' Composition: Wales project is uncovering a rich seam of orchestral music, whilst the National Youth Orchestra of Wales' Young Composers project provides strong support for young composers interested in writing for instruments of the orchestra. These projects are fantastic, but I feel it is time for contemporary classical music in Wales to seek a wider, international audience.
The World Music Days Festival takes place in a different country each year under the auspices of the International Society for Contemporary Music. It is a fantastic platform for showcasing new work by living composers and for developing international partnerships and networks. This year, I was elected chair of the ISCM UK Section. As a full member of the ISCM, the UK is able to nominate six works for consideration for inclusion in the annual festival; at least one work is guaranteed a performance each year. This provides a great platform for composers to showcase their work.
However, the UK is a large country with lots of composers competing for a small number of opportunities. I believe that the principle of devolution is a good thing and brings benefits to people across the country. Devolving the ISCM activities in the UK will help to foster even more exciting opportunities for our composers. And so, Tŷ Cerdd is leading exciting plans to establish a new ISCM Welsh Section. This venture will bring enormous benefits to composers in Wales and showcase to the world the fantastic talent and creativity we have here.
Once established, composers born, or who live or work, in Wales will be eligible to submit works to ISCM Wales for consideration for the World Music Days Festival. Each year at least one Welsh composer will be featured at the ISCM World Music Days Festival, providing a glimpse of the wonderful compositional activity that we have going on here in Wales. Exciting times, indeed!
Welsh composer John Metcalf was also at the meeting. He has recently been appointed Chair of Composers of Wales. He writes:
New music is enjoying something of a (perhaps overdue) renaissance in Wales. The work of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in the south and Bangor New Music Festival in the north complements the more adventurous recent approach at Welsh National Opera and the ongoing pioneering work of Music Theatre Wales.
In a further welcome development this activity is being well documented and given critical scrutiny by composer Steph Power in the Wales Arts Review which, having itself survived a threat to its existence, is flourishing anew.
Composers of Wales too is regrouping and one of the principal tasks of the reformed organization will be to support and advise Tŷ Cerdd in an application to form a Wales section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). The ISCM has a long and distinguished history. The annual World Music Days has presented many of the world’s leading composers of the last century and showcases in a different country every year the incredible diversity of the music of our time.
Until now Wales has played a relatively small part in all of this. The opportunity to submit the works by Welsh composers is a valuable one. To date those works have had to compete for selection for performance with works from all over the UK. A Welsh Section would guarantee selection of at least one work and submissions could be made as of right in a number of categories. A longer term aim might also be to bring the World Music Days to Wales. This is clearly an exciting development – watch this space!