New Music 20×12

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Skempton; Beamish; Goss; Meredith; Fitkin; Howard; Wolters; Mitchell; O’Rourke; Cassidy; Turnage; etc
LABELS: NCM Recordings
ALBUM TITLE: New Music 20×12
WORKS: Skempton: Five Rings Triples; Beamish: Spinal Chords; Goss: Pure Gold; Meredith: HandsFree; Fitkin: Track to Track; Howard: Zatopek!; Wolters: The Voyage; Mitchell: Our Day; O’Rourke: TAT-1; Cassidy: A Painter of Figures in Rooms; Turnage: Beyond this;


As a live project, 20×12 was a success: delivered by the PRS for Music Foundation, Radio 3 and NMC, it caught the heady Olympic mood with flair, boasting an array of ‘contemporary’ voices from folk fiddler Aidan O’Rourke to jazzer Jason Yarde, distinguished veterans like Howard Skempton to the young Michael Wolters. Each project proved a creatively combustible collaboration: just about every cultural-political box was ticked from street dancers in Hackney, disabled musicians on the Drake Music Project, to prisoners rapping with Mark-Anthony Turnage.

So far, so good. But as recordings, many of these pieces don’t stand up. I think you had to be there, for example, to witness Cutler’s uproarious game of ping-pong with string quartet – or appreciate Bruce’s poignant Fire for community choir and pyrotechnicians. Higgins shows promise in his What Wild Ecstasy but, like Joseph’s engaging Brown Bomber, you miss a vital visual dimension. Narrated works feel thin: Reid’s powerful words compel in Spinal Chords, Beamish’s response is apt but reticent; poet Ian MacMillan carries the day in Carver Goss’s Gold. Fitkin’s Olympic Javelin Train Track to Track strikes a slick balance. With O’Rourke’s TAT-1, Lieuw and Leung’s dated ‘urban’ track XX/XY or Mukherjee’s clunky fusion number 12 minutes seems a long time. Gold medals for Meredith’s exhilarating body percussion piece HandsFree, and Cassidy for thrillingly pushing Exaudi to its vocal limits; Howard’s mini-opera Zatopek! seethes with invention, Searle’s Technophonia reveals an ear-opening imagination while Causton creates satisfying momentum in Twenty-Seven Heavens.


Helen Wallace