PRS Foundation’s new music biennial 2019 announced

Some of the artists visited Hull in December.

PRS Foundation today announces the 19 new works selected for the New Music Biennial 2019, a PRS Foundation initiative presented in partnership with Absolutely Cultured (Hull), London’s Southbank Centre, BBC Radio 3 and NMC Recordings. 

Following its success at Hull City of Culture and London’s Southbank Centre in 2017, this critically acclaimed free festival of new music returns to present a unique snapshot of UK contemporary music, featuring brand new and recently written music by an exciting range of music creators. 

The New Music Biennial 2019 programme includes new music from all genres: classical to chamber music, jazz, folk and electronic to music for kora, gamelan, oud and organ. Presenting and commissioning works of no longer than 15 minutes, the New Music Biennial provides a unique pop-up, accessible way for audiences to discover new music and hear the pieces more than once.

Highlights include two BBC Concert Orchestra collaborations with artists having a major impact on UK music right now: playwright, poet, novelist and spoken word artist Kate Tempest plus composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki. 

Many of the new commissions explore the complexity of modern identities; what it means to be Jewish and British in Brit-ish by Sam Eastmond, youth identities in modern cities by rising jazz star Sarah Tandy and works that play with the musical traditions of east and west by Sona Jobarteh, Arun Ghosh, Rolf Hind and Khyam Allami.  

All of the New Music Biennial commissions share an inspiring sense of experiment – from Klein’s ballet for teenage boys, Clare M Singer’s acoustic electronica to Forest Swords & Immix Ensemble’s sonic city landscape. Please refer to the full list of works below.

The winning compositions were selected by a panel of judges, Chaired by BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey and including Vanessa Reed (CEO, PRS Foundation), Gillian Moore CBE (Director of Music, Southbank Centre), Katy Fuller (Director, Absolutely Cultured) and radio presenters Kevin Le Gendre and Elizabeth Alker. The programme features an impressive array of performance groups and arts organisations with a strong track record in supporting UK composers. This includes Chineke!, London Contemporary Orchestra, Opera North, Metal Liverpool, QuJunktions and many more.

The New Music Biennial pieces will be performed across two weekends on 5 – 7 July 2019 at London’s Southbank Centre and 12 – 14 July 2019 in Hull, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 plus available as a download by NMC Recordings following the festivals. 

Vanessa Reed, CEO, PRS Foundation said: “The UK is home to an extraordinary range of exceptional composers.  Our New Music Biennial gives more people a chance to experience their music as part of a free weekend marathon which takes audiences on a journey through diverse locations and sounds. I’m really excited by the line-up of this year’s New Music Biennial and the fact that this festival will take place again in both London’s Southbank Centre and in Hull as part of its City of Culture legacy. 

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs said:  The contemporary music scene is buzzing and its great to have played a part in choosing those composers who will be part of this year’s New Music Biennial. The panel had a difficult job making our choices, but I think we have made some interesting, arresting and wide ranging choices that will thrill and stimulate both established and new audiences for great music.

Katy Fuller, Creative Director and Chief Executive, Absolutely Cultured said: Following an extremely successful festival in 2017 as part of the City of Culture programme, we’re delighted to continue to work in partnership to bring these incredible composers to Hull’s unique spaces. We’re proud to commission our own ambitious outdoor piece, alongside new commissions from local partners Opera North, Freedom Festival Arts Trust  and J-night. With such a diverse range of genres and performance styles, there will be something for everyone. 

Gillian Moore CBE, Director of Music, Southbank Centre said: Today’s announcement recognises what a wealth and breadth of talent we have to celebrate in the UK’s contemporary composition scene. We’re thrilled to once again be part of New Music Biennial, whose commitment to quality, innovation, and accessibility mirrors that of our own, and we can’t wait to welcome this strong list of winners to Southbank Centre in July to inspire audiences, old and new, with an entirely free weekend of the best new music being written today.

New Biennial is supported by: Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Hull University, The John S Cohen Foundation, The Richard Thomas Foundation, The Radcliffe Trust, RVW Trust, The Finzi Trust, The Bliss Trust and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Full New Music Biennial 2019 programme:

Kate Tempest
Commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra
Kate Tempest is an English poet, musical artist, novelist and playwright. In 2013, she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients and her illustrious writing career has seen her win many awards since, often combining paper releases with music and performances. Her albums Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos have both been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and she was nominated for Best Female Solo Performer at the 2018 Brit Awards. She was Artistic Director of the 2017 Brighton Festival; Kate Tempest comes to the New Music Biennial with an impressive reputation for interdisciplinary work and this collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra will be a rare opportunity to see her hard-hitting work performed by a symphony orchestra.

Sona JobartehSona Jobarteh Ensemble
Commissioned by Yaram Arts
Sona Jobarteh is the first female Kora virtuoso to come from a west African Griot family. Breaking away from tradition, she is a pioneer in an ancient male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries. This commission will integrate West African and European instrumental interpretation; instruments will be paired together in likeness in a unique arrangement that will explore and challenge the capabilities of the instruments from both traditions. 

Jessica Curry – She Who
Commissioned by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
The new commission by Jessica Curry will weave together themes of beauty, humanity and connectivity into an original and innovative 15-minute choral work that fuses the young voices of the National Youth Choir with digital music in a powerful and inclusive celebration of the female experience. Jessica is an internationally acclaimed BAFTA winning composer and co-founder of renowned games company The Chinese Room. Her work has been performed in diverse and high profile venues such as The Old Vic Tunnels, Sydney Opera House, Great Ormond Street Hospital, MOMI New York, The Royal Opera House, and Durham Cathedral.

Sarah Tandy – The Dream Without A Name
Commissioned by J-Night
As one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was writing at a time when a city was experiencing a unique moment in its cultural history. His writing has helped to shape the identity of jazz in the popular consciousness. For this piece, some of his ideas about music, love and city life will be explored within the musical context of the UK scene, where many aspects of that traditional jazz mythology are being creatively re-interpreted, and the pioneering spirit continues to thrive in diverse city environments.  Pianist / composer Sarah Tandy is “one of the brightest sparks on an increasingly lively UK youth-jazz scene” – John Fordham, The Guardian

Arun Ghosh – AMBHAS
Commissioned by Freedom Festival Arts Trust
An extraordinary outdoor project to take place on the Rivers Humber and Thames by Arun Ghosh and involving local participants. AMBHAS is a large ancient ritual Euro/Scando/tribal drum sound combined with wind instruments. British-Asian clarinettist, composer and music educator Arun Ghosh was named as Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year in the Parliamentary Jazz UK Awards 2014 and was PRS Foundation and British Council’s Musician in Residence, China in 2014. 

Conor Mitchell – Lunaria
Commissioned by The Belfast Ensemble

Lunaria (a flower that takes two years to bloom) is a bespoke 15 minute work for 9 musicians and 4 performers that celebrates what is possible within a two year period when artists of many disciplines, across many boundaries make music together. Internationally recognised, Conor Mitchell’s significant output encompasses opera, music-theatre, song cycle, orchestral and chamber work; working with artists as various as Marc Almond, The Pet Shop Boys and NI Opera. 

Roderick Williams
Commissioned by Chineke!
Better known to some as a baritone soloist, Roderick Williams’ reputation as a composer is growing steadily. His Advent antiphon O Adonai has become something of a favourite for choirs on both sides of the Atlantic and his Ave Verum Corpus Re-imagined was awarded the BASCA prize for Choral Composition in 2016. The commission will be a significant new work which Chineke! plans to tour in a jazz-inspired programme to English festivals in 2020.

Claire M Singer
Commissioned by London Contemporary Orchestra
Claire M Singer is a composer, producer and performer of acoustic and electronic music, film and installations. In June 2017 she was a recipient of the inaugural Oram Awards from the PRS Foundation and New BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Her work incorporates the aesthetic of electronics created purely through acoustic means. Following the New Music Biennial, the work will then go on to tour the UK.

Khyam Allami – Requiem for the 21st Century
Commissioned by Opera North
Khyam Allami is a London-based Iraqi oud player and composer interested in how the sound worlds of Arabic music can be placed into a creative relationship with contemporary western classical music. Inspired by the rich history and myth surrounding the oud, this immersive sound installation is created from a collection of broken and decaying ouds, playing acoustically recorded microtonal notes in generative patterns. Together they will generate metamorphosing melodic fragments and fields of sound based on different maqams, the modes of Arabic music. Requiem for the 21st Century is conceived as a powerful, ever-changing requiem for the troubled 21st century and in particular as a commemoration of the civilians killed during the incessant wars across the Middle East.

Edmund Finnis – The Centre Is Everywhere
Commissioned by Manchester Collective
The Centre Is Everywhere is a commissioned work by British composer Edmund Finnis, written for Manchester Collective. Finnis’ work is a response to Richard Strauss’ masterpiece for string ensemble and will be composed for 23 solo string players. In this starkly original new work, Edmund Finnis has painted something beautiful and strange, a music of close whispers and myriad reflections. The Centre Is Everywhere will receive its premiere at the New Music Biennial, and will be taken on tour by Manchester Collective the same year to venues in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, and London. Following the tour, both works will be recorded and distributed, digitally, and on vinyl.

Forest Swords and Immix Ensemble – Trespassing
Commissioned by Metal Liverpool
Having achieved critical acclaim for his trio of releases, Dagger Paths, Engravings and Compassion, and subsequently toured the world to capacity audiences, Barnes’ attention has shifted towards the creation of more bespoke, multidisciplinary practice. Barnes will work alongside the team at Metal, and Erased Tapes’ signees Immix Ensemble to develop Trespassing. This work will be a conceptual work exploring the ‘future sonic landscape of cities’, a deviation from his typical points of inspiration rooted in the ancient past. This 15 minute work will be performed by Barnes and the ensemble, made up of 6 ‘world class’ traditional instrumentalists.

Klein – Rehearsal
Commissioned by Qu Junktions
Rehearsal will be a new 15 minute ballet piece with live audio-visual elements. This piece will be an extension of elements from Care, the musical Klein presented at ICA in February 2018. The project will be scored, casted and directed by Klein, with dance choreographed by Samuel Kennedy and Scout Creswick. The cast will consist of teenage boys with no prior experience of ballet or dance performance. The result will be a live dance piece with original music performed by Klein, and live visuals created by Josiane Pozi.

Aidan O’Rourke, Kit Downes and James Robertson – 365: Stories and Music
Commissioned by Edinburgh International Book Festival
This piece is about storytelling: about how to tell stories without saying too much. James Robertson wrote a story every day for a year, each exactly 365 words. What began as an exercise became a valued ritual and a captivating collection of tales, from the supernatural to the philosophical. Aidan O’Rourke applied the same discipline to composition: a tune a day in response to Robertson’s stories. The music is rooted in Scottish folk fiddling with Kit Downes on harmonium adding jazz and French impressionism. The performance intertwines tunes with the words that inspired them. A series of fleeting, vivid vignettes.

Sam Eastmond – Brit-Ish
Commissioned by JW3
Brit-Ish is a pun. Brit in Hebrew means covenant/partnership, and Ish means Person. At a time when nationalism and ethnic identities are being placed into opposition, this project explores what it means to have a hyphened identity in 21st century Britain. An identity that is a partnership of Jewish heritage and British culture. With all the complexities of coming from a community that has been here since medieval times, and yet are often identified as immigrants. This project forges a new diasporic Jewish identity with a piece of music informed by diverse Jewish legacies infused with a contemporary sensibility.

9Bach – Yn dy Lais – In Your Voice
Commissioned by FOCUS Wales
Alternative Welsh folk group 9Bach (Realworld) , winners of Best Album at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for TINCIAN, will collaborate with acclaimed drummer Andy Gangadeen to explore miscommunication and misinformation in a bilingual, multimedia, and genre defying piece, with special guest.  Andy is a well-known Musical Director and session musician having worked with musicians as varied as Massive Attack, Chase and Status and Jeff Beck, he is also the brains behind The Bays. Andy has been brought in to add an electronic slant to the bands distinctive and evocative sound. The composition will contain words sung in the Welsh language. Woven purposefully in to the sound, the audience will hear a spoken word piece performed in English which will voice an interpretation (or feel) of the song’s meaning.

Rolf Hind – Tiger’s Nest
Commissioned by Southbank Centre
This will be the London premiere of Rolf Hind’s Tiger’s Nest for Southbank Gamelan Players and soloists (two prepared pianos and percussion). Rolf Hind has worked closely with living composers across a broad range of styles: from John Adams and Tan Dun, to Ligeti and Lachenmann; Xenakis and Messiaen, to Simon Holt and Judith Weir. He appears regularly at new music festivals throughout Europe and he is in demand as a soloist. Further afield he has made numerous appearances: including with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and others.

Liam van Rijn and Joseph Bird (Numb Mob) – Where to Build in Stone
Commissioned by Serious
Where to Build in Stone is an audio-visual work inspired by the shapes and sounds of the city of Hull, originally commissioned by J-Night for Hull Jazz Festival 2017. Performed with a combination of electronic instruments and arrangements for strings & woodwind, the piece is a haunting and vivid soundscape embroidered with evocative melodies. The visual counterpart explores Hull over the course of a day, telling the story of the city through the things that are everywhere and overlooked; the familiar seen from an unfamiliar perspective.

Shiva Feshareki – Dialogue
Commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra
Turntable artist Shiva Feshareki describes Dialogue as a “sonic sculpture between electronic and acoustic sound.” Honoured with the BASCA British Composer Award for Innovation, expect live-sampling of the orchestra through hyperphysical electronic improvisations that perceptually bend time and space, in duet with resonant orchestral soundscapes. Described as the most “cutting-edge expression of turntablism,” Feshareki exists at the intersection of many artistic scenes, experimenting with electronic & club music, concert & orchestral, fine art and free improvisation. 

In addition to the pieces above, Absolutely Cultured in Hull will be working with award-winning Dan Jones to create a site-specific piece, continuing its focus on outdoor works which transform the urban environment for large audiences. This work will also come to Southbank Centre alongside additional free participatory events which will be presented throughout the weekend. More details to be announced.

For more information about the New Music Biennial visit 


For further press information please contact: Maija Handover at Sound UK,, 07939 568053

[Rebecca Aspin – Absolutely Cultured]