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, writer and researcher based in the Cotswolds, in the south of England. 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 currently entertaining, but you will find a number of regular items on the blog:
- Critiques of newly-premièred pieces occur prominently. 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.
- Reviews of new CDs and digital releases – to submit your music for review, see ‘Get in touch’ below.
- Thematic series – focusing on particular themes or people. The most significant of these is my annual Lent Series.
- Mixtapes, each exploring a particular theme.
- The Dialogues, extended, in-depth conversations with composers and musicians about their work.
- Best of the Year lists, summarising the albums that have impressed me most in the previous 12 months.
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 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 defence 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.
In addition to 5:4, i am a regular contributor to assorted print and online publications. My co-edited book Music Beyond Airports: appraising ambient music was published by the University of Huddersfield Press in July 2019. Other book projects include a chapter contributed to Sound and Image: Aesthetics and Practices, published by Routledge in June 2020, the introduction to 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. I have also written articles for numerous print and web journals, including Tempo, Dissonance, Opera, Bachtrack, Pan and La Tempestad, in addition to liner notes for CDs and programme notes for concerts.
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, click here and read carefully.
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.