Saturday, February 10, 2007
The arts are about controversy
The danger of all arts broadcasting is that everything is treated as equally important, with a permanent mood of celebration. No one on BBC Radio 3 ever says that some composers are second rate, or that some writing is vapid and some poetry gobbledegook: everything is presented with equal reverence, as if it all had profound importance. You would never believe from listening to Radio 3 that the arts are as much about controversy as about achievement. When I began as Controller there were very few lighter moments on the network, and far too many dull hobby-horses being ridden. The Music Department was particularly susceptible to that favourite feature of the gramophone industry, 'the complete works' - all the quartets, all the sonatas, or whatever. Anniversaries were relentlessly celebrated ...
John Drummond recalls his time as Controller of BBC Radio 3 in the 1980s in his autobiography Tainted by Experience (Faber, ISBN 0571200540). And plus ça change, today BBC Radio 3 starts a celebration of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky that plays all their music in a week, at the expense of anything else. The BBC's Tchaikovsky Experience is fronted by 'classical jock' of the moment Tom Service, and the nearest it comes to controversy is the chance to vote online for your favourite piece from the Tchaikovsky Top Ten, after listening to a 60 second download of the 1812.
Now try this cure for Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky fatigue.
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