Genre is becoming a dirty word. This blog site is dedicated to ‘new music’ – it’s got to be new (obviously), and it’s got to be challenging in some way, developing new ideas or finding fresh expressions in old ones.
I think by its very nature, new music pushes against genre boundaries – sometimes it reimagines existing genres in ways that redefine them, or hybridises different styles; other times it falls between the cracks altogether. Just listen to the breadth of artists like Matthew Bourne – Moog synths, looped samples, pensive pianos…maybe even a bit jazz.
Genre labels are sometimes useful in iTunes or Spotify, but for those of us making original music they’re barely fit for purpose.
I teach on the postgraduate programme at Leeds College of Music where, from September 2016, we’re running a new MMus course called Creative Musician. In the spirit of cross-genre creativity, my colleague Andy West and I have experimented with how the course is put together.
We’re trying to help students challenge genre barriers so that they can make music that expresses something different, something new – so our course is open to musicians making music in any style, so long as they’re willing to listen to, and work with, each other.
In an effort to help our students expand their musical approach, we’re also encouraging them to explore a wide range of skills, thinking about how they produce, promote and manage their music, as well as composing and performing it – so, whilst they can choose to specialise, our course also allows students to flexibly divide their time between composition, performance and music production.
The scene for new music is also becoming increasingly artist driven. In that sense, genre, as a set of one-size-fits-all categories, imposed from above by record labels and powerful producers, is becoming less of a necessity. It’s really positive to see localised projects, artist collectives, independent records, apps, gigs, exhibitions, installations and more on a personal, D.I.Y. scale.
By doing away with arbitrary genre labels and prescriptive guidelines, I believe our Creative Musician course will help our postgraduate students maintain their independent creative integrity, and allow them to push boundaries irrespective of their musical backgrounds. We want to help them be successful artists, who will enrich the cultural scene in Leeds, Yorkshire, the UK, and beyond.
If you’d like to find out more about our MMus Creative Musician course, you can join our Online Experience Evening this Thursday 19 May between 5:00-6:00pm where I will be discussing the specifics of our postgraduate programme via a live webinar.
Jake Thompson-Bell is a composer and Principal Lecturer for Postgraduate Studies at Leeds College of Music.
MMus Creative Musician is open for applications until 31 August 2016. For more information, visit: http://www.lcm.ac.uk/study/postgraduate