Hello, and welcome to 5:4 – a blog devoted to the most interesting, innovative and impressive music of our time
My name is Simon Cummings, and i’m a composer, researcher and writer based in the Cotswolds. i began 5:4 in 2008, in part due to the paucity of informed, intelligent and meaningful discussion of new music both in the press and online, but also as a way to explore and share my passion for contemporary music. You won’t need to read many articles to get a pretty clear idea of the kinds of music to which i’m most drawn; my taste is extremely eclectic, but my chief interests lie at the vanguard of classical, experimental and electronic musics.
For the most part, 5:4 goes wherever i feel like taking it, depending on which particular whim i’m presently entertaining, but you will find a number of regular items on the blog:
- Reviews of newly-premièred pieces occur prominently, usually together with an off-air recording in FLAC format. Throughout the summer, all of the premières at the BBC Proms concert series are featured, and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival receives special attention in late November. A summary of all the contemporary pieces reviewed on 5:4 can be found on The List.
- Thematic series – focussing on a particular theme or person.
- Reviews of new CDs and digital releases – to submit your music for review, see ‘Get in touch’ below.
- Retrospectives of particular composers, bands, works or albums.
- Mix tapes, each exploring a particular theme.
- Best of the Year lists, summarising the albums and EPs that have impressed me most in the previous 12 months.
As stated at the outset, 5:4 is a celebration of interesting, innovative and impressive music so, for the most part, music i personally dislike is not usually discussed here. However, if and when music of more questionable quality occurs as part of a larger review or series of articles, that fact will not go unnoticed. Far from it. i think these lines of Berlioz (from his Memoirs) sum things up nicely:
…I can at least say that never for any consideration whatever have I been put off expressing in the most ungrudging terms what I feel about works or artists that I admire. […] Indeed, the sole compensation that journalism offers me for all its torments is the scope it gives to my passion for the true, the great, the beautiful, wherever they exist.
However, i would reiterate the word ‘celebration’, and reiterate it strongly, and draw on the words of the wonderfully-named Anton Ego, from the Disney film Ratatouille:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.
That, above all else, is the purpose of 5:4.
With regard to the sharing of off-air recordings, pieces that are readily available to buy are not generally shared here, unless the performance is especially significant or noteworthy, or if the work is of historical importance. As for the rest, i believe it is fundamental to an ongoing and worthwhile engagement with new music that it should be heard, and by as wide an audience as possible. Otherwise, what meaningful, lasting impact can music make? and, indeed, what meaningful, lasting contribution can criticism make? To quote Hans Keller, from the preface to his 1987 book Criticism:
…although I was happy about my own criticisms when they contributed insight, I was unhappy about them when I could not see the concrete purpose of unfavourable remarks, general or specific, critical of works or of performances: whom did one serve, and how? The artist would be depressed by public exposure, and as for educating the public, that could only happen realistically, specifically, if listeners could hear that which one had criticised after they had read one’s review instead of before – or, better, after as well as before.
Almost all new works broadcast, once having passed beyond the relatively small window available for online listening, disappear into the archives and utter obscurity, their performances likely never to be heard again. By making these recordings available on 5:4, i hope to keep some of the best works and performances alive in the public’s ear and mind.
In addition to 5:4, i write articles elsewhere; most recently, i’ve written an introduction to composer Marko Ciciliani‘s book/audio DVD Pop Wall Alphabet and a major retrospective essay for the ebook Imperfect Forms: the Music of Kenneth Kirschner, published by Tokafi in late 2014. i also write liner notes for CDs, programme notes for concerts, and am an occasional contributor to Bachtrack, Opera, Pan (journal of the British Flute Society) and Fluid Radio, in addition to Mexican arts magazine La Tempestad.
Get in touch
Comments from readers are warmly encouraged; i read them all, and will always reply if and when i can (and assuming i have something to say). To follow 5:4 properly, subscribe to the RSS feed and /or the Twitter feed, or you can sign up for email updates via the footer (click on the + to make it appear).
i’m always interested to hear music by composers and musicians unfamiliar to me, so if you’d like me to take a listen to your music—and do please read 5:4 thoroughly beforehand to get a clear idea of my tastes—send me an email. Please don’t email me audio files or add me to your mailing list; unsolicited approaches like that will definitely not be appreciated. Bear in mind that i receive a lot of music, and it will therefore take time before i listen—furthermore, 5:4 is written in what can laughingly be called my spare time—and as i tend only to write about the best of what i’ve heard, your music may well not be reviewed. But then, what have you got to lose?
Being a composer myself, my own work is featured on 5:4 from time to time; to find out more, hear examples and order CDs of my music, you can visit my website, my Bandcamp site and my Soundcloud page.
Thanks for visiting 5:4, i very much hope you enjoy what you find here: it’s the most beautiful ugly sound in the world.