200 PIECES goes live – Monday 19th December 

200 Pieces | Royal Academy of Music (

Throughout 2022, Britain’s oldest conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, celebrated its bicentenary on a colossal scale. Of the myriad projects launched by the Academy for this occasion, perhaps the most far-sighted is the introduction of 200 new works, written by an eclectic collection of composers, into the public domain. The 200 PIECESproject will culminate with an unparalleled free online resource for contemporary music featuring a score and recording by a student at the Academy, for each of the 200 pieces. Remarkably, all 34 of the principal instruments taught at the Academy have been written for by the 200 composers including pieces for euphonium, bass drum, and clarinet and electronics.

The only stipulation issued by Philip Cashian, Head of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Academy and mastermind behind the project, is that each piece should be written for unaccompanied instrument or voice. No stylistic criteria determined the selection of composers; hence the result is a diverse range of output which moves towards a more representational image of the current landscape of contemporary music. Demonstrating the broad spectrum of compositional input into the project are pieces by: Sally Beamish, Alex Hawkins, Rubens Askenar, Roxanna Panufnik, Claudia Molitor, Philip Herbert, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Shruthi Rajasekar, Tod Machover, Felipe Lara and Laurence Crane.

The development of the project into its full scale stems from the recent discovery of a work for unaccompanied violin by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who had been a Visiting Professor at the Academy since 2005. A Last Post Card from Sanday, as it was named, was the first of the 200 PIECES to be premièred at the Academy and was performed by student violinist, Aliayta Foon-Dancoes. With the origin of the project starting with Maxwell Davies, the Academy acknowledges his legacy, as well as other members of New Manchester Music, nicknamed The Manchester School, such as Alexander Goehr and the late Harrison Birtwistle who also taught composition at the Academy. In the 1950s, these composers adopted a rebellious, Mancunian attitude to music, causing a considerable change in the development of British music from the English Pastoralism of Vaughan Williams and others in the first half of the twentieth century.

Arguably more important than Maxwell Davies’ stylistic impact on British music was his redefinition of the role of the composer through his emphasis on educational values and writing for children.  “Getting young people not only to listen to, but participate in the music that I write…” for Maxwell Davies was “…one of the most vital aspects of [his] work.”. It is evident the spirit of Maxwell Davies is still passed through those at the Academy. Cashian, brought up in Manchester and very much influenced by Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle from an early age, has composed for ABRSM’s Spectrum series as well as large-scale works for COMA, and the Centre for Young Musicians.  Of the many purposes that 200 PIECES might serve in the future, it endeavours to stand as a virtual monument commemorating both the continuation of a forward-looking ethos and a free platform for young composers and performers.

Composed for piano solo by Royal Academy graduate, James B. WilsonTurner’s Ships received its première at the Academy from Yana Khvan on 28th June 2022 and recorded on 7th July.