Thursday, August 25, 2016

What we need is classical music radicalism


If classical music spends much more time debating what audiences want and don't want, it will disappear up its own rear orifice. For decades established religions have chased congregations by diluting their essential message. The hard facts give the lie to that strategy: in 2015 for the first time ever attendance at Church of England services dropped below one million. But radical religious groups have bucked the trend. In the States evangelical Christians have retained their share of the population, while mainline Protestants and Catholics lost 3.5 percent and 3 percent of their population share respectively between 2008 and 2015.

What we need is classical music radicalism. Classical music is about making great, challenging and rewarding music. It is not about chasing audiences. If the audience comes, that is great. If it doesn't come and a financial crisis ensues, the current bloated celebrity-centric business model will have to go through a painful (for some) but much-needed correction. During the 1793/4 Reign of Terror in France, executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators. Think about it...

Read about Jean-Luc Fafchamps' classical music radicalism 'Sufi Word YZ3Z2Z1S2' for soloists, ensemble, and electronics in From post-modern to post-everything. No review sample used. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zorba's trance


Quite soon I will be back in Crete. When I arrive there with my wife we go straight to Houdetsi to catch the last concert in Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma's Labyrinth Summer Workshop series. Then we travel to Agios Nikolaos to hook up with Panos from the Greek Music Shop who supplies me with CDs faster and cheaper than Amazon's UK operation. My most recent purchase from Panos is Osi Hara ‘houn Ta Poulia (Όση Χαρά ‘χουν Τα Πουλιά) on which Εvgenia Damavoliti-Toli sings Ross Daly's settings of Cretan contemporary poets and the great 16th century Cretan bard Vitsentzos Kornaros. A post here last year about the contemporary modal music movement led by Ross Daly lamented how Cretan music has been stereotyped. In the post I went on to explain how a rich mix ranging from Greek Orthodox Christianity to Zen Buddhism and Bektashi Sufism informs Cretan culture, and that compelling universalism pervades this outstanding new release.

No comps involved in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When will they learn that apps cannot replace animateurs?


The recondite MusiCB3 blog about the music collections at Cambridge University has a contribution from Margaret Jones about the the University Library's resources documenting children’s responses to classical music. Unsurprisingly David Munrow features prominently in Margaret's article which includes the photo above of the Pied Piper with his wife Gill and their instrument collection*. Just before reading the article I had listened to the newly released CD Oregon Live in New Orleans, which is a transcription of an NPR broadcast of a gig Oregon played in February 1978. Readers will know of my admiration for the work of both David Munrow, and of the innovative ensemble Oregon and their predecessor Codona. David Munrow died in 1976 and two years later Oregon's visionary multi-percussionist and sitarist Collin Walcott - seen below - was killed in a car crash while the band was on tour in East Germany. Today David Munrow is remembered as a an early music specialist, and Collin Walcott is remembered as a world music/jazz fusion pioneer. But forcing their huge talents into neat little genre boxes belittles their genius, because both led large audiences on to new musical discoveries. Margaret Jones' thoughtful essay on the importance of exposing young people to great music is titled 'In a child's mind'. The young and not so young are waiting to be led. But where are today's Pied Pipers? When will classical music's multitudinous experts learn that apps cannot replace animateurs?


* This photo is new to me and the caption says the following: Photographer unknown, please contact music@lib.cam.ac.uk if you have further information. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). No comps used in this post. Also on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, August 22, 2016

So let's talk about public funding for classical music


Following the Olympic success of British athletes, Judy Grahame - employer M&C Saatchi PLC, turnover £169.37 million and profits £17.2 million - and Richard Morrison - employer Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, turnover £1.64 billion, profits £146 million - and others among classical music's great and good want to talk about public funding. Yes, by all means let's do that; but we must not forget that talking about funding means more than just talking about increased funding for classical music. Because if you simply increase funding without making other changes, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

So let's talk about another aspect of pubic funding - transparency. Lack of public funding is not the only problem. Inequality of funding within classical music is also a serious but less newsworthy problem. As has been pointed out here before, the annual income of £26,000 to £37,000 for a rank and file London musician is in the public domain. However the salary of their conductor is not, but single concert fees for a Rolex maestro in London are estimated at £20,000. And that inequality between celebrity and rank and file musicians is not the only problem: because around a further 15% (£3000 per concert) goes to the maestro's management agent with an additional payment often being made to the tour management for touring orchestras.

London based high profile ensembles receive a significant portion of available public funding for classical music. Because of an institutionalied lack of transparency, accurate information on how that funding is disbursed within ensembles is not available. But an informed estimate suggests that up to 30% of the total publicly funded subsidy for a London concert goes to just three parties, the conductor, his agent and the tour management, with the remaining 70% being divided between up to 100 less fortunate participants. As I said in my previous post, classical music must make the case for increased funding. But before doing so it must put its own house in order. For orchestras and other institutions in the UK receiving public funding, musician and agents fees for a single appearance of more than £2500 should be declared, as should annual retainers of more than £75,000. Furthermore public funders should make it a condition that all fees above £2500 for a single appearance and above £75,000 annually should be funded 50/50 by public and private sources.

But nothing will change. Because the knee-jerk retweets of pleas for post-Olympic increases in classical music funding come from those who benefit most from the current unequal distribution. So I am not holding my breath waiting for my proposal to be shared on social media by classical music's great and good.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

No more sour grapes please


There are indeed disturbing inequalities between sports and arts funding in the UK. But before classical music's great and good serve up another round of sour grapes on the subject they should reflect on two points. The first is that a little more positive recognition of the truly remarkable achievements of our sportswomen and men at the Olympics would win classical music some badly needed friends beyond its own vocal mutual admiration society. The second thing to reflect on is the following vignette. I have been a committed supporter of classical music for fifty years and rarely watch sport. But the performances of Laura Trott and Jason Kenny - seen above - and many other athletes moved and inspired me far more than any performance I have seen by the current generation of lavishly remunerated celebrity classical musicians. Yes, we need to make the case for increased arts funding. But let's make it in a positive way.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).