Over the past few months, the biting point contributor Thom Andrewes has been working with photographer Dimitri Djuric on the production of a photo-book called We Break Strings: The Alternative Classical Scene in London. The book is an attempt at documenting a particular moment in London’s musical life. Alongside some superb photos taken at music events over the last two years, the text draws on interviews with musicians, composers, curators and promoters to discuss the recent trend in performing new/classical music outside of the more established institutional spaces in London.
The book is being self-published, with the help of Gabriel Prokofiev and Nonclassical, and in order to achieve this we’re now asking for support through Kickstarter. You can check out the project page HERE. This could just mean pre-ordering the book for £20 (UK shipping included), although there are some other rewards available including prints of the photos and tickets to Nonclassical events.
The text of the book is part history, part cultural commentary and part fanzine. As author, I attempt to trace the development of the trend over the last ten years, taking the first Nonclassical gig in March 2004 (just one month before the first Camberwell Composers’ Collective gig in April 2004) as a starting point whose arbitrariness could be debated. I discuss some of the major aesthetic developments that have accompanied this new movement, and attempt to situation them in relationship to the broader cultural, socio-political and geographical context with which this trend is necessarily in dialogue. In four mini-essays, I also extend this discussion to imagine some of the potential that this movement has for articulating not just a musical but a political radicalism and resistance. At the same time, the text is also a celebration of some of my favourite music and musicians, and tells the stories of some of the enthusiasts who have built their own infrastructure to support the performance of their favourite music.
Most importantly though, the book itself – and the story of the ‘scene’ – is an assemblage of interviews from over thirty people who we considered to be involved. In this way, it is a ‘sample’ of London’s musical life. The ‘alternative classical music scene’ we document is a diverse and heterogeneous musical moment, the boundaries of which blur seamlessly with parallel scenes: the mainstream classical and institutional new music worlds, the electronic and electroacoustic music worlds, experimental and improvised musics, noise and drone musics, independent pop and dance musics. The book tries to represent the diversity of aims, motivations, backgrounds and approaches of the various groups and organisations, and yet there is still a feeling of cohesion and community amongst the interviewees.
Interviewees for We Break Strings:
Kerry Andrew, Joe Bates (Filthy Lucre), Joby Burgess, Timothy Cape, Yung-Yee Chen (Nonclassical), Oliver Coates, Sarah Dacey, Nwando Ebizie (Nonclassical), Fred Feeney, GéNIA, James Greer (Nonclassical), Peter Gregson, Edward Henderson, Paul Kilbey, Mark Knoop, Richard Lannoy, Loré Lixenberg, Neil Luck, Sam Mackay (Nonclassical/LCMF), Dave Maric, Elo Masing, Chris Mayo, Leon Michener, Laura Moody, Aisha Orazbayeva, Gabriel Prokofiev, Lucy Railton, John Richards, Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Christopher Stark (Multi-Story), Igor Toronyi-Lalic (LCMF), Serge Vuille, Kate Whitley (Multi-Story) & Patrick Eakin Young (Opera Erratica)