Writing about music is difficult. It’s hard enough for those who are musically sensitive, good writers of prose and in possession of an encyclopedic knowledge of the art – let alone ordinary mortals such as composers and critics.
Despite this, too much new music consumption is through newsprint rather than through the ears. The hype, gossip, analysis and information can be put into perspective by listening to a recording. But then we run into the problems of the conventional record industry – marketing, promotion, distribution and categorisation. Unknown Public was devised to sidestep some of these problems, and Points of Departure is the debut issue of our quartelry magazine of creative music. The name of our publication honours the unknown but substantial audience that would like to engage with all kinds of new music. Every three months, subscribers will hear an entertaining, stimulating compilation of contemporary music thwack through their letterboxes. Each issue will feature at least 60 minutes of music – a sequence of recordings loosely grouped under umbrella titles such as Pianoforte, Soundtracks, Chain of Fools and Contemporary Dance. Some issues may be deliberately eclectic, while others will pursue a style, school or method of working. The tracks may take many forms: complete pieces; edited versions of longer works; excerpts from works in progress; atypical oddities from established figures; the only available recording of a new composer. And there will be the odd deleted (or hard-to-find) masterpiece, such as Mortuos plango, vivos voco, this quarter’s electroacoustic classic by Jonathan Harvey. Perhaps UP can help extend the performing life of new music commissions – whether big expensive operas or small self-financed events. Our inspiration for the project comes from Granta, the literary periodical that has provided a splendid platform for new writing over the past decade.
We aim to provide a similar platform that enables composers to reach beyond the big cities, academic institutions and commercial ghettos. UP’s music and information will be available wherever there is a postal service. © 1992