Friday, October 16, 2015

Suicide is painless

Yesterday Norman Lebrecht ran a story on his Slipped Disc blog headlined "Piano teacher is arrested in Florida over ‘sexual’ breastfeeding video". Now that story troubles me greatly; but not for the reasons you may think. It is common knowledge that, to quote a Sunday Times review of one of Lebrecht's books that: "Where others write, he romps, pursuing scandal, sex and ‘shame’ (a favorite word) with the alliterative abandon of a redtop tabloid". So I am not troubled that the post was unashamedly salacious click bait. Nor am I troubled that this recycled titillation was scraped from a Yahoo News item, which in turn had scraped it from an American TV news channel. Nor am I troubled that the two images on the Slipped Disc post were used without copyright attribution*. (Journalists who have received copyright infringement warnings from Lebrecht Photo Library - the self-styled "world's largest resource for music pictures and all the creative arts" - will understand the pertinence of that latter comment).

No, what troubles me is that Norman Lebrecht receives the full support of the classical music industry. He is employed by the largest classical music group Universal Classics via their Sinfini Music website. His programmes appear on BBC Radio 3 and he contributes to Radio 4. He is flowed review discs by all classical labels, and writes for the New Statesman and Wall Street Journal. He is courted by leading musicians who feed him 'exclusives', and is fed the oxygen of exposure by other professional journalists. And he wins an award recognising "the commitment and work of artists and journalists who provided a real contribution to the ever increasing role of music in the culture of entire populations and individuals".

One of Lebrecht's recurring themes is the death of classical music. Readers will know that I have spent much time this summer exploring the edges of the both the live and recorded music network. Discoveries such as George Onslow's String Quartets on disc and lesser-known Armenian composers in concert, make me think that classical music is still in rude health. But then I look at Slipped Disc, and realise that this apparently healthy and vibrant artform is, in fact, committing suicide.

* For the record the sources of the images used on Slipped Disc are 'Police handout' via Yahoo, and piano teacher Leigh Felten's website. My header image is from YouTube video in public domain. 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.


jfl said...

Onslow is of course one of our* favorite obscure composers. And on LeBrecht (pronounced as Jon Stewart would) we agree a million times as is. So: Yay! for this.

* Not a pluralis majestatis but including my stuffed tiger "Onslow", possibly named after this composer. (Or maybe after the character in "Keeping Up Appearances")

Philip Amos said...

You've finally just laid it on the line, Bob. I congratulate you and I second every word you write. Why is he so feted by the industry and certain specimens of the media? Because he will give them what want. He's like a media mascot, i.e., a pet. Titillation? He'll deliver that in spades, along with the scandal. He's always good for a 'dead donkey' story. And together with this he'll give them fourth-rate 'serious' writing on music, exactly in the vein of the books that brought him this renown to begin with, notwithstanding that the renown came via appalling research and errors, leading to lawsuits and the pulping of books. Whether he's just titillating, dishing up a 'dead donkey', or purporting to write serious music journalism makes no difference, and a key is that his editors neither know nor care. Look carefully and one finds that his book on Mahler's symphonies, with its stupifying argument, is no better or different from the rest of his output. In short, his record is appalling, and amount of brown-nosing, name-dropping and, putatively, 'exclusive' stories can hide that from those who care for the world of classical music. He does have a use as an example of rampant egotism, though.

Pliable said...

Thanks Philip. I have now gone past the point where Lebrecht annoys me. But what does make me very angry is the sycophantic behaviour of the rest of the classical music industry. Increasingly I think that the industry is getting precisely what it deserves.