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Barbican and Culture Mile announce Sound Unbound, free festival of music, 18-19 May 2019

Sound Unbound, the ambitious weekend-long project celebrating classical music from the medieval era to the present day returns 18-19 May and, for the first time, will be completely free. A Culture Mile event programmed by the Barbican, the festival will explore unexpected spaces across Culture Mile, which stretches from Farringdon to Moorgate in the north-west of the Square Mile, celebrating fantastic music alongside the history and heritage of the area. 

Sound Unbound has previously enjoyed two hugely successful editions in 2015 and 2017. The weekender gives everyone the chance to explore new sounds and rediscover familiar ones, from medieval to modern, in a relaxed festival environment. The weekend features artists for whom the boundaries between classical music and contemporary, experimental music and jazz have been blurred – or never even existed in the first place. With multiple concerts taking place simultaneously, each festival-goer will be able to pick and choose from a vast range of performances and create their own unique version of Sound Unbound.

Music and spaces without boundaries

The festival features over 70 short concerts in one weekend, spanning hundreds of years of music. Alongside new commissions, visitors can also hear some well-known classics, get close to some of the most versatile artists of our time and experience a myriad of different musical styles from across the ages.

This year the festival venues across Culture Mile will be as versatile as the music and the line-up. They will range from medieval St Barts The Great to the brutalism of the Barbican Centre, from fabric nightclub to The Charterhouse, whose fascinating story began during the Black Death, mirroring the great variety of centuries of music in architecture. In addition to discovering new music, audiences will now also be able to discover new spaces in Culture Mile that aren’t usually open to the public – and to hear new sounds in new places. 

Plans for Culture Mile were announced in July 2017. Led by the City of London Corporation with the Barbican, Guildhall School, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London, the five core partners will lead the transformation of the area over the next decade and beyond, improving their offer to audiences with imaginative collaborations, outdoor programming and events seven days a week. Links between venues will be improved and major enhancements to the streets and wider public realm will enliven the area which, as Culture Mile expands and flourishes, will be regenerated. Crossrail’s new Elizabeth Line connections at Farringdon and Moorgate will make it much easier to travel to, and from, the City. Around 1.5 million additional visitors a year will be within a 45-minute journey of the area when the Elizabeth Line becomes fully operational and the North-South Thameslink line is upgraded.

Notes to Editors

A Culture Mile event, Sound Unbound is a joint project between the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Academy of Ancient Music and Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Barbican Box Office: 0845 120 7550




The line-up will feature artists such as award winning and record chart topping classical guitarist Miloš, whose repertoire ranges from Rodrigo to Beatles; Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Adès performing one of Beethoven’s most popular works, the Eroica symphony; Wave Ensemble and the Academy of Ancient Music presenting Bach in new arrangements for two marimbas and orchestra; Peter Dijkstra conducting the BBC Singers in choral music through the ages; Gabriel Prokofiev and Nonclassical hosting a DJ clubnight and presenting Nonclassical @ fabric; Belgian electric guitar quartet Zwerm performing Renaissance music and, together with New York based electric guitar quartet Dither, Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint; London Symphony Chorus presenting Orff’s classic Carmina Burana accompanied by two pianos and percussion; Chineke! Orchestra performing music by Britten and Holst; viol player Liam Byrne who will transform old music into something new in a programme that also includes Nico Muhly’s Long Phrases for the Wilton Diptych (inspired by The Wilton Diptych from 1395-9); and Street Orchestra Live giving pop-up performances throughout the festival

Special projects include Stalin’s Piano by Australian composer Robert Davidson, which combines music with video and audio recordings of eminent artists and political figures from Le Corbusier to Shostakovich, Jackson Pollock to Ai Wei Wei, and Julia Gillard to Donald Trump. In their project HUSH, singer Nora Fischer and guitarist Marnix Dorrestein redefine beautiful 17th century songs by Monteverdi, Purcell and Dowland in the spirit of a modern pop-song. In her other project, The Secret Diary of Nora Plain, Nora Fischer moves between pop, jazz and classical and tells the story of Nora Plain, trying to live as an individual in the increasingly monitored society of today.
The full line-up details will be announced in April.

Festival venues

Barbican Hall
Barbican Clubstage
Barbican Freestage
Barbican Cinema 1
Barbican Fountain Room
Barbican Conservatory
Barbican Lakeside
Milton Court Concert Hall
St Giles’ Cripplegate
LSO St Luke’s

Charterhouse Chapel
Charterhouse Great Chamber
Charterhouse Norfolk Cloister
Charterhouse Norfolk Garden
Museum of London
St Bart’s the Great
St Bart’s the Less
Piano Smithfield
Smithfield Rotunda Gardens