Contemporary Music for All

UK-based, Contemporary Music for All is a vibrant organisation, promoting participation in contemporary music for people of all ages and abilities. It has commissioned a number of new works for amateur performance and has several regional ensembles. COMA runs courses and workshops in improvisation and composition. (See Workshops for details of the 2006 Summer School.) Below we reprint some articles from the COMA Newsletter, to bring you a little taste of the COMA experience.


The CoMa Summer School

A Tutor's Perspective

Students at COMA Summer Schools are singularly blessed in the inspirational quality of the teaching available to them! This year,
the composer, Diana Burrell, will be part of the team. Diana has been involved with COMA, from the start but, clearly her approach is as fresh as ever! Here are Diana's thoughts, as she looks forward to COMA's 10th Anniversary:

That Magic Moment

by Diana Burrell

Why am I so looking forward to the COMA Summer School? I already spend a good part of my life teaching composition, so why, when I could be exploring some foreign city or walking the Dorset coast path, do I want to sign myself up for another week of 'work'?

...Because of that magical moment when someone presents me with a real jewel of an idea, (rough and uncut maybe ) but a configuration of notes, rhythm, or timbre that is so fresh and so special, that in all my years of working in music I can honestly say -"I never thought of that". Now, the felicitous thing is that this lightning-bolt of imagination can just as well strike the beginner composer as the advanced composition student, the retired person as the 5-year-old Mozart (who is he, anyway?). And - as in cooking, where if the ingredients aren't fresh, the meal will be lacklustre however talented the chef - in music, if the source material isn't strong and clear, no matter how experienced the composer, the piece won't 'shine' and the writing of it will become a chore.

So, I want to work with you on your basic musical material, to look at striking moments in other composer's works and find out how they achieve them, and then to chip away at/make vivid/hone and polish yours so that they sing out at the beginning of your piece making it possible to continue.

And then we'll write the piece...

Reproduced, with permission, from the COMA Newsletter

Diana Burrell's catalogue of over 50 compositions includes a series of orchestral works to commissions from the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Symphonies of Flocks, Herds and Shoals), the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square (Viola Concerto written for Jane Atkins), the Bournemouth Sinfonietta (Resurrection), the Northern Sinfonia (Clarinet Concerto) and others.

A CD of her orchestral works recorded by the Northern Sinfonia was the winner of Classic CD magazine's 1998 awards in the Living Composer category.
Contemporary Music for All

CoMa North West at Tate Liverpool

by David Canter

>Telling Tales is an ambitious exhibition at Tate Liverpool, bringing together something of the narrative impulse in contemporary painting, mainly by means of still photographs at an art gallery.
The exhibition provided a challenge for the COMA North West Ensemble to extemporise short pieces inspired by particular pictures during an evening workshop held within the exhibition.

The link between painting and music is enigmatic at the best of times but these markedly still images, typically freezing an ambiguous moment in time, pushed the creative forces of the group to their limits, producing some surprisingly powerful and truly moving (in all senses) pieces of music.

After a lively discussion about the works four instant ensembles were randomly created from the sixteen people present, with four totally different pieces of music emerging.

A duet for clarinet and cello caught the excitement of the voyeuristic artist photographing the contents of hotel bedrooms whilst their occupants were unwittingly away. A cello with cymbals and keyboard explored the emptiness of an American diner captured in a mirrorĀ¹s reflection. The strange scene revealing the distance between two people sitting on a seedy bed with a carnival mask hanging above them was echoed in four voices running the gamut of human emotions. Finally, a viola and oboe drew on folk tunes to respond to drawings of folk myths.

This was the second foray for COMA North West into Tate Liverpool, showing further how the appreciation of contemporary painting can be enhanced by exploring its musical connotations. It has also served to show once again how pictures can be an inspiration for music, presaging great things for the COMA weekend (Sat 26 and Sun 27 October) at Tate Liverpool.

Reproduced, with permission, from the COMA Newsletter

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