Music / Bristol New Music

The shock of the new?

By Tony Benjamin , Thursday Apr 18, 2024

So – what’s new? Bristol’s biennial New Music Festival is coming soon to a diverse collective of venues around the city. The programme may not have all the answers to that question but it certainly covers a wide variety of original left field activity. Twenty events straddling music, performance and visual arts, will see celebrated contributors coming from around the globe as well as some closer to home. Starting on Thursday 25 April the four days of events will range from Ryoji Ikeda’s world-class AV spectacle in The Beacon main hall to French piano virtuoso Marie Vermuelin‘s avant-classical programme in the Victoria Rooms and brilliant improvising jazz supergroup [Ahmed] (pictured above) down in Strange Brew. On the way there’s turntablism, soundscaping, film, dance and electronica all picked for their creator’s commitment to originality.

Freelance musical consultant Al Cameron has been involved in Bristol New Music since its first outing ten years ago when he was working at the Arnolfini. He has greatly enjoyed coming back together with a team from Bristol Beacon, Spike Island, St George’s and University of Bristol’s musical department to collectively pick the artists to invite to this year’s festival. “We started throwing ideas around about a year ago,” he explains. “There’s always input from everyone – and then slowly it takes shape and comes together almost at the last minute!”

But what exactly do they mean by ‘new music’? “Ah – interesting question. I think the term originally comes from the classical music world but we don’t think of it as a genre as such. It’s nicely vague and ambiguous so that allows us the maximum scope to programme different experimental and contemporary music under the same banner. That’s how we can have The Bug playing punishing noise dub through a sound system in Strange Brew till 3am followed by a string quartet recital from Quatuor Bozzini the next day.”

Independent journalism
is needed now More than ever
Keep our city's journalism independent. Become a supporter member today.

So what else is Al looking forward to? Vocalist Elaine Mitchener has caught his ear (“I’m pretty sure it’s her first performance in Bristol, which seems remarkable”) and Ryoji Ikeda’s big-screen data-driven installation (“He hasn’t played around here for a long time and I think he’s one of the most amazing multi-media artists there is”). And there’s the last event at Strange Brew (“It’s more of a jazz experimental improv thing with [Ahmed] and also Ruth Goller’s thing …”). That ‘thing’ is forceful bass player Ruth’s amazing vocal project Skylla which now also involves uber-drummer Seb Rochford. 

But one event Al is really excited about is actually a commission from the Festival bringing together Bristol-based composer/performer Sarahsson with experimental dance group Impermanence. Their collaboration The Ringing World opens the festival at The Mount Without, the dance company’s home, and has been derived from explorations of the former church’s history seen through the distinctive worldview of speculative fiction writer J G Ballard. The site-specific show has impressive lighting design (from Roo MacPhee), surround sound “and a Theremin!” says electronica fan Al.

The Bristol New Music Festival 2024 runs from Thur 25 – Sun 28 at various Bristol venues. Check website for full details of 20 separate performances.

Our top newsletters emailed directly to you
I want to receive (tick as many as you want):
I'm interested in (for future reference):
Marketing Permissions

Bristol24/7 will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please let us know all the ways you would like to hear from us:

We will only use your information in accordance with our privacy policy, which can be viewed here - www.bristol247.com/privacy-policy/ - you can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at [email protected]. We will treat your information with respect.


We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Related articles

You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Independent journalism
is needed now More than ever
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Join the Better
Business initiative
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
* prices do not include VAT
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Enjoy delicious local
exclusive deals
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Wake up to the latest
Get the breaking news, events and culture in your inbox every morning