My name is Tom James and I am
an alcoholic a composer.
I came to study music and German in the lovely city of Sheffield in 1998 and never left – it’s one of those places, really.
A few years ago, myself and three wonderful friends found ourselves with PhDs in composition and a profound feeling of disappointment in the local new music scene. There just wasn’t the opportunity to present a new piece to an audience without seeing the same faces time after time. Now, I am good friends with many of those faces, but it’s very easy to get rather cliquey and insular and to have the feeling that your music isn’t making any new converts.
So we formed Platform 4 composers.
We want our concerts to:
1) Be accessible and enjoyable.
This does not mean dumbing down. It means careful programming to attract an audience, to keep their attention and leave them wanting more. It means using our judgement as artists to avoid the dreadful restlessness which happens at so many concerts, both amateur and professional.
Mixing our own music with contrasting pieces from different eras to keep the ear refreshed is currently a favourite technique – who doesn’t like a bit of Bach?
We made a decision to avoid long concerts, especially as the work we present requires active, careful listening to fully appreciate.
2) Be serious.
We put ridiculous amounts of time into our work, presenting the best quality possible. So we’re serious about presenting it to an audience. No gimmicks (OK, a few), no laser light shows or über-trendy-harpsichord-in-a-club-nights, just straightforward concert hall presentation. This is starting to sound like a TV commercial. No added sugar.
Having said that, if we get the chance to collaborate with others who like to push the boat out in a different direction, then we go for that too. Here’s a clip from the collaboration with Ffin Dance.
3) Be affordable.
We’re all poor musicians, and quite frankly I don’t have £13 to go to a concert every week. So we trialled a new model of funding last year – don’t pay a fixed price, pay what you think it was worth. We have found this covers our costs about the same as a fixed ticket price did, and also alleviated any anxiety on the audience’s part about needing to enjoy the concert.
4) Be exciting to play as well as to listen to.
Our players come from a variety of backgrounds, from talented teenagers to bitter old music teachers. So they want to enjoy playing music that’s well written for the forces involved – this is a major preoccupation for all of us. If you like what you hear and want to come and play for us, do get in touch!