New Music, New Politics

RNCM lecturer Dr Adam Swayne brings social and political issues to the concert stage.

His recent CD for the Coviello Contemporary label (Speak to me): New music, New politics was described by Andrew McGregor on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review as ‘a cleverly designed, exuberantly performed and arresting exercise in putting the politics back into the piano recital’ and was also reviewed by Robert Hugill (five stars). BBC Music Magazine named the CD as their Instrumental Choice in April 2019, and it was the only album to be nominated in two categories at the 2019 Opus Klassik awards in Germany.

At the heart of the CD are Frederic Rzewski’s Four North American Ballads (Swayne gave performances of his legendary The People United Will Never Be Defeated in 2014).

The CD also features the première recording of Kevin Malone’s The People Protesting Drum Out Bigly Covfefe, commissioned by Swayne in 2017, in which the pianist encourages the audience to join in with chants from anti-Trump rallies. This is Malone’s second political collaboration with Swayne, the pair having worked together on Count Me In in 2005.

In March 2019 Swayne travelled to the USA to present his research at the Balancing the Mix conference on popular music and social justice, held at the University of Memphis. He also performed a recital at Northwestern University. In 2021 he will present at the European Platform for Artistic Research in Music, held at the Royal Academy of Music by the Association of European Conservatoires.

Swayne is also a composer that embraces political comment and satire. His works are published by CoMA, including his 2009 piece Many Dark Actors Playing Games in which the performers invade the audience in search of weapons of mass destruction.

As a conductor of CoMA ensembles, Swayne has presented Louis Andriessen’s politically charged Workers Union in venues ranging from village halls to Brighton’s Concorde 2 nightclub.

A village hall performance of ‘Andriessen’s Workers Union’.

Swayne has also presented this piece alongside Rzewski’s Coming Together with The Riot Ensemble, for whom he is pianist and programme director.

Also in this section...