hcmf// 40th edition
Graham McKenzie, hcmf//’s Artistic Director, looks ahead to a landmark festival…
It is an enormous privilege and honour to be the current custodian of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and especially so this year which heralds the 40th edition of this important annual celebration of contemporary and new music of the highest international standard.
No-one could have possibly envisaged when the inaugural Festival was launched over a weekend in 1978 that it would grow and develop into one of the leading new music festivals in Europe, renowned across the world for its quality and innovation and that Huddersfield would be host to many of the great composers of the 20th century such as Stockhausen, Cage, Boulez and Messiaen.
To all those who got us here
On behalf of everyone at hcmf// I would like to express my admiration for and say thank you to all those who have contributed to this remarkable journey, especially to the founder of the Festival Professor Richard Steinitz for his incredible vision, to Susanna Eastburn who succeeded Richard as the Festival Director, and to Tom Service Guest Director in 2005.
To all the Board Members and staff past and present, to all the wonderful composers and musicians who have participated over the years, and to all the supporters and funders who have, and who continue to generously contribute the resources required to enable the Festival to continue to grow, develop and thrive artistically. Most importantly of all, let me give special thanks to the wonderful Huddersfield audience which each year turns out in ever increasing numbers.
Edition not anniversary
Many of you of course will have concluded that as the first Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival was held in 1978 that this year is not the 40th anniversary, which will fall in November 2018. Let me clarify therefore that we have made a very conscious decision to mark and celebrate the 40th edition of the Festival as an important milestone.
In 2018 it will be the 41st edition of the Festival, and the first of a new decade, and we will need the focus to be firmly on the future – the next 40 years!
An ever-changing world of music
The world is a much-changed place since 1978. The globalisation of art and culture, combined with the startling developments in digital technology and the advent of low budget airlines, has significantly increased audience mobility, enabling many of us to get our cultural fix just as regularly in Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen or many other European cities as we do in the UK. Through social media, young people now expect to be much closer to the artist, in dialogue with them as equals on a whole variety of issues, and across a range of platforms.
The conditions which led to a sense of mystique about artists in general have been removed, and there is less of a tendency for the artist to be elevated to status of an ‘idol’ or ‘god’. Instead there is more of a sense of the artist and fan being part of the same community. For festivals and programmers, therefore, the challenge to be noticed or stand out is less centred on being able to attract star names. In contemporary music there may never be another Stockhausen or Cage, just as in jazz there will never be another Miles Davis, or another Bob Dylan or Rolling Stones in popular music.
This should not be interpreted as any lessening of quality or invention in music today, but simply a shift in context. I am genuinely excited about a whole raft of current composers and practitioners, and where their music might take us in the coming years.
Looking to the future
Importantly the 40th edition not only provides hcmf// with the opportunity to look back across our history and be rightly proud of our achievements and contribution to British new music, but demands that we look to the future. If the Festival is to continue to be a world leader and world class then we have to anticipate and plan for the challenges that lie ahead. If the Festival is to exist for the next 40 years, then it needs to be embedded in the long term strategic plan for the town of Huddersfield, and the region. The long-standing partnership with University of Huddersfield remains key.
This is not simply about funding for the arts – essential as it is – but rather it is infrastructure which has to be at the top of the agenda. Infrastructure with regard to transport links, hotel beds, and a thriving local service industry – all things vital to a successful Festival experience. Infrastructure in terms of venues capable of meeting the future demands of artists and creators, as well as the expectations of audiences. The 40th edition provides us with the platform to raise and debate these issues, and it is a theme we will be returning to throughout the year.
New works not nostalgia
The 2017 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival will not be a nostalgic affair. While I am delighted to assure that the celebrations will include new works by composers long associated with the Festival, the emphasis as always will be to discover the new, and to challenge and widen the boundaries and definitions of contemporary, new and experimental music.
We very much hope you will join us in celebrating the 40th edition of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
All best wishes