Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where are classical music’s alternative voices?


"Their style is early cunnilingual, late patricidal, lunchtime in the Everglades, Black Forest blood sausage on electrified bread, Jean Genet up a totem pole, artists at the barricades, Edgar Allan Poe drowning in his birdbath, Massacre of the Innocents, tarantella of the satyrs, L.A. pagans drawing down the moon... Jim Morrison [seen above] is an electrifying combination of angel in grace and dog in heat... The Doors are musical carnivores in a land of musical vegetarians... The Doors scream into the darkened auditorium what all of us in the underground are whispering more softly in our hearts: We want the world and we want it... NOW!"
Young music critic of the year contender Andrew Mellor would do well to study that purple prose by Tom Robbins, which describes a 1967 Doors concert in Seattle. Robbins was writing for the underground paper Helix, and his plea of “We want the world and we want it… NOW!" chimes with Mellor’s recent musings in the New Statesman about classical music concerts:
"You’d like to think the arrogant dinosaurs who create this derelict atmosphere are on the way out… But the institutions themselves don’t help by inadvertently incubating the very hierarchical behaviour they’d like to see the back of."
Andrew Mellor is long on identifying arrogant dinosaurs as the reason for classical music’s woes. But he is short on naming the dinosaurs or proposing solutions, other than banning advertisements for private schools in concert programmes. So let me help. One of the arrogant dinosaurs is the BBC Proms, a concert series that last week made a bold opening statement celebrating the jubilee of a monarch presiding over a multi-cultural Commonwealth and the staging of a multi-cultural Olympics. To do this the Proms presented Turnage at his most tokenistic, Delius at his most digestible, Tippett at his most fawning and Elgar at his most jingoistic. (Yes, I know there are other concerts). Classical music has suddenly come over very self-righteous about the colour of its audiences. Yet in the New Statesman Mellor simply laments the “blind snobbery” of Proms audiences without questioning that literally exclusive piece of programming by his sometime employer - via an intermediary - the BBC.

Another arrogant dinosaur is the Gramophone, a corporate-owned magazine, that saw its circulation collapse after a conceited chase of that myth so loved by musical Tyrannosaurus Rex, the mass market, and a publication that has subsequently failed to gain traction with the trending digital audience. Andrew Mellor writes for the Gramophone. Yet another arrogant dinosaur is BBC Radio 3, a network that also contributes to the derelict atmosphere with classical chart programmes, media friendly programming stunts, and condescending presenters - all ill-founded dogmas that have failed to attract a new audience. Andrew Mellor is a contributor to the BBC Radio3 website.

Those arrogant dinosaurs that Mellor both derides and consorts with, are all part of what in a post last year I termed the commercial-intermediary complex. At that time I said that this intermediary complex inhibits transmission from performer to audience, and is responsible in great part for the problems facing classical music today. The BBC and the Gramophone are just two members of classical music’s all powerful commercial-intermediary complex. It also includes management agencies, concert promoters and media companies - an ambitious example of the latter, incidentally, owning the New Statesman. What is truly alarming is that the arrogant dinosaurs also control almost every classical music journalist - young and old. Andrew Mellor is just one example. Another is Tom Service, who has so many music industry plates spinning in the air that a no-fly zone will soon be needed above him.

If you take money you form a relationship. By forming a relationship you are endorsing. Music journalists nibbling at the hand that feeds them are not going to dent, yet alone destroy, hierarchies. Red blooded prose and a willingness to put principles before reward may. Whatever happened to blogs and social media as the digital underground press? Early cunnilingual? - perhaps not. But where is classical music’s equivalent of late patricidal, Black Forest blood sausage on electrified bread, and artists at the barricades? Where are classical music’s alternative voices?

Quote is Stephen Davis' 2004 Jim Morrison: Life, Death Legend - yet another reminder of the lost art of music journalism. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter. Version 1.1 with amendments made on 18/07, see comment below.

10 comments:

Pliable said...

Andrew Mellor tweets - "@overgrownpath Good to get a link on your fine blog but should point out last time I contributed to BBCR3 was as a chorister 18 years ago".

Which leaves me confused. Are all these reviews on the BBCR3 website by a different Andrew Mellor? http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviewers/pddp

Pliable said...

Andrew Mellor explains via Facebook that he did write the reviews. He received payment for them Unique Interactive, an independent production company retained by BBC Online.

One of those reviews currently appears on the BBC Radio 3 website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/

Outsourcing is a common practice at the BBC. It is also worth pointing out that Unique Interactive is a fully paid up member of the commercial-intermediary complex - http://www.ubcmedia.com/uniqueinteractive/news-and-case-studies/

Pliable said...

If an intermediary pays you, who are you working for? The intermediary or the end user of your work?

I would say the latter. But to make things completely clear I have modified the wording to reflect Andrew's explanation, and have noted that modification in a version change note.

None of which makes the slightest difference to the overall message of my post.

There is a further post on this subject here - http://www.overgrownpath.com/2012/07/where-are-classical-musics-alternative.html

Pliable said...

On Twitter Judd Greenstein says "Great post, except...the Doors?"

I know what you mean Judd - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mycV3IcQNPQ

The Wound Dresser said...

someone touched a nerve,eh?the Doors?Morrison is/was the David Beckham of rock and roll

Pliable said...

Yes TWD, touched a nerve indeed.

The wrangling about how you define a payment and what constitutes a contribution to BBC Radio 3 makes agreeing a Syrian peace plan look very simple.

Social media toys have been thrown out of the pram and I have been unfriended - which regular readers will know really breaks my heart.

Give me 1967 any day!

The Wound Dresser said...

it certainly was a kinder era,when you saw something,you helped[hopefully]instead of taking out your phone and making a video for youtube.Bob, I'll never un-friend you...:)unfriend.what a word!
patrick

Pliable said...

Patrick, that's really nice, thanks.

But would you unfollow me?

Someone did the other day because of my posts about Twitter.

I was devastated.....

Nick said...

Jingoistic - defined as chauvinistic patriotism - so are we nevcer ever able to listen to any work by Elgar or any other Nationalist composer if the work is so deemed. What a narrow and pompous self satisfied position to take. The Coronation Ode has some wonderful MUSIC in it - get over the text and context - it was written for a CORONATION after all. Likewise the Delius - criticised if he's cerebral but then criticised here if he's accessible. And has no composer ever written a commission - I'm no fan of Tippett as such but how about your favoured Britten and Gloriana then!

Pliable said...

Nick, calm down.

There is no suggestion that "so are we never ever able to listen to any work by Elgar or any other Nationalist composer if the work is so deemed". All I said was "Elgar at his most jingoistic". Which you confirm by saying "get over the text".

Please remember this is a blog i.e. a personal weblog, it expresses my opinions and is personally hosted by me, and you are a guest here. Differing views are welcome, but language like "narrow and pompous self satisfied position" is not, particularly when it comes from an anonymous commenter.