Music and Vision homepage

Now that's what I call 'contemporary'!

Beverley Crew celebrates CMN's innovative 1999/2000 touring season

While swooning over spnm's seriously sexy new image, I've been thinking just how radically perceptions of 'new' and 'contemporary' music have been changing over the past few years. Up until quite recently, if you’d invited a friend to a contemporary music concert, chances are they would have politely declined, secretly conjuring up those old hackneyed images of awkward, hairy musicians shuffling silently onto a starkly-lit stage to create sounds reminiscent of a rusty gate in need of a good oiling. That the audience would consist solely of some two dozen anoraks (always male and most definitely single!), was inevitable. And presuming that any marketing had been done, it would consist of a dull, academically-worded A4 sheet, photocopied so darkly as to obscure the musicians’ photo. Distribution would comprise the local library’s noticeboard.

If this scenario were ever true, it certainly isn’t now. 'Contemporary' and 'new' are increasingly used as terms to encompass musical styles as wide and diverse as jazz, classical, world, electronic and experimental, as well as the more adventurous end of pop, rock and dance music. What’s more, contemporary music audiences actually feature large numbers of women, marketing is tight, focused and appealing – and sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we are allowed to take alcoholic beverages into the auditoria!

It has become second-nature for many composers/musicians to jump effortlessly between music forms, and most are extremely keen to communicate with really diverse audiences. So the organisers of events are able to ever increase their expectations of the broad range of people who are likely to be interested in attending, and the audience itself is having a far more exciting time as a result of this diversification.

So where does Contemporary Music Network (CMN) fit into this picture? CMN, which is funded by and based at the Arts Council of England, has been a major pioneer in producing innovative live contemporary music tours across genres for the past 28 years, showcasing world-class artists to wide audiences throughout the country. We have instigated the first ever visits to this country by the Steve Reich Ensemble, Gil Evans Orchestra, Philip Glass Ensemble, Jan Garbarek Quartet and the Kronos Quartet, to name but a few. We have also championed the huge talent we have here in the UK, creating opportunities for exceptional British artists to develop and tour projects and collaborations with the marketing and press support they deserve. We are delighted that spnm will be striking collaborations with the 1999/2000 tours and look forward to some exciting initiatives.

CMN’s season for 1999/2000 is one of the most eclectic ever, taking us into some new territories. Our programme includes Jazz, Tango, Classical, Brazilian New Beat, Zappa, South African and Cameroonian World/Jazz, Asian Club, Multi-Media Soundcircus, Folk and Japanese Sound and Image Manipulation projects.

Now that’s what I call ‘contemporary’!

For more information about CMN events, please call +44 (0)171 973 6504 or email

Beverley Crew, January 1999

Beverley Crew is Administrator of the Contemporary Music Network (CMN). Her article was first published by spnm in January 1999 'new notes' and is reproduced here with permission.

From contemporary jazz, classical and popular music to that written for film, dance and other creative media, spnm is one of the main advocates of new music in Britain today.

It achieves this through an eclectic annual programme of concerts, events, workshops and collaborations and through its two publications 'new notes' and 'Beat Magazine'. Guest artistic directors add their own special flavour: Stephen Montague for the 1998/99 season and Joanna MacGregor for 1999/2000.

spnm website:
Phone: +44 (0)171 828 9696