A ‘satellite symphony’ delivered via an iPhone app, a portable organ that recycles sounds, and a work shaped by the movement of the stars are just three of the contenders for the UK’s most avant garde music award.
The biennial New Music Award, run by the PRS for Music Foundation, has announced its five-strong shortlist today. ‘It’s arguably the boldest and most exciting yet,’ says Sally Taylor, chair of the foundation, likening the competition to art’s infamous Turner Prize. The winner of the New Music Award will be given £50,000; this year the prize pot for the Turner was £25,000.
With a judging panel headed by The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins and also featuring pianist Joanna MacGregor and composer Michael Finnissy, the scrutiny is fierce. This year’s shortlisted works share a common desire to reframe or challenge listeners’ conception of music. Instrument-maker Terry Mann aims to create ‘automatic musical instruments’ to be played by members of the public, while Robert Jarvis hopes to use the movement of the stars around the celestial North Pole to create music.
The other shortlisted pieces are by Blue Hippo Media, collaborators Marc Yeats, Ralph Hoyte and Phill Phelps, and members of art group Liminal. David Ross’s work Eye Tones, which proposed turning the London Eye into a giant musical instrument, has had to be withdrawn after the judges felt that it would not be ‘deliverable’.
Previous winners include Jem Finer (formerly a member of Irish folk band The Pogues), whose Score of a Hole in the Ground was inspired by Japanese suikinkutsu water chimes. Tuned percussion instruments were suspended, creating music when struck by falling water.