Monday, October 23, 2006

BBC Electric Proms premieres new rock opera

Today’s Independent reports: - Two years ago, the BBC's director general Mark Thompson began his transformation of the corporation, cutting 4,000 jobs and promising in return a lean machine fit for the 21st century. The idea was that, with the savings made from the cutbacks, £350m would be ploughed back into programming. While many are still grappling with the realities of the seismic overhaul that has seen the corporation shrink by close to a quarter, the money is now trickling through. With it comes a wave of commissions. Notable among these is this week's Electric Proms, a five-day festival boasting more than 50 artists - among them Damon Albarn, James Brown and The Who - at venues in and around Camden Town in north London. Performances will be broadcast across BBC TV, radio, online and interactive, making the Electric Proms arguably the first tangible realisation of the all the management-speak; an example of Thompson's "360-degree commissioning", where content is just the starting point.

"Radio 1 and Radio 2 play to more than 20 million listeners each week. That's a lot of people who like music," Lorna Clarke of the BBC says. "The idea is that we could raise that to the status of the kind of work that happens in the classical music world. If you are serious about classical music, you absolutely know what the BBC does in terms of that genre. We want a companion to that." This electronic counterpart to the classical Proms that take over the Royal Albert Hall every summer is aimed at a younger audience that consumes media in a different way. "They are starting to watch television online; they are starting to receive content on their mobiles; they don't always compartmentalise everything the way they used to," Clarke says. "People are listening to
1Xtra or the Asian Network via their televisions. The Electric Proms is an event that spans the whole of the organisation, and this is how things are going to be done now." Clarke's aim is to create "new musical moments", allowing artists to do things they haven't done before. "We're trying not to beige out rock and pop."

So The Who are premiering their new rock opera
Wire & Glass, James Brown gets a full choir, and Damon Albarn (photo above) and Paul Simonon showcase work from their new project The Good, The Bad and The Queen. Fatboy Slim plays in what is essentially a pub, and Kasabian and the Guillemots will perform with the BBC Concert Orchestra. "It is ambitious, but you have to recognise that young people need a deeper experience and access to live performances," Clarke says.

For full details of the BBC Electric Proms follow this link. Great to see the BBC actively encouraging access to live music, and equally as great to see the legendary Roundhouse in London, venue of so many ground-breaking Boulez concerts in the 1970s, lovingly restored and once again hosting cutting-edge concerts, all of which gives me a back-link to The Year is '72.

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