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:


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.

With regard to the sharing of off-air recordings, pieces that are readily available to buy are not usually 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 critique 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 for assorted print and web journals, including Dissonance, Bachtrack, Opera, SirpPan and Fluid Radio, as well as liner notes for CDs and programme notes for concerts. In addition, i contributed an introduction to composer Marko Ciciliani‘s book/audio DVD Pop Wall Alphabet and wrote a major retrospective essay for the ebook Imperfect Forms: the Music of Kenneth Kirschner.

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.

My music​

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.


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