In the earliest years of the RCS's annual Plug festival of new compositions there was a sense of hope that good new music would emerge.
Somewhere down the line, hope became expectation. Yesterday, at the launch concert for the seventh series of Plug, I found myself thinking that expectation had grown into critical demand.
And, by and large, the first concert of five new pieces did not disappoint. Indeed, at least three of them were crackers. Richard Greer, now in his last year and writing music which is extremely mature and effective, produced Five Excerpts from Summer, a dazzling piece for clarinet, viola and piano which went one step further than atmospheric or descriptive music: in more than one of its five sections it was an exemplar to other composers in how to fashion a fully-fledged composition from the rudimentary building blocks of all music: the torrential scales were unforgettable.
We now expect something totally weird, wonderful and phantasmagoric from the unique J Simon Van der Walt, and there it was in the blinding piece he produced for clarinet and acoustic laptop (but what's an acoustic laptop?) where single notes from clarinettist Fraser Langton triggered an entire aviary (or tropical jungle) of digitalised choral magic.
And then Langton, back on stage with his bass clarinet, unleashed his ferocious virtuosity on Jay Capperauld's Heroin Baby, a meaty offsping of the composer's earlier Heroin Chic, itself a thumping rocker and one of the best pieces ever produced in the building.
It's probably just my own prejudice, but the guitar pieces by Jason Staddon and Matt Zurowski seemed more derivative (one bluesy, the other with much strumming) and less effective.