Thursday, November 17, 2016
Social media-light composers are being overlooked
The current debate about the role of Facebook and other social media in shaping - or misshaping - public opinion is relevant to classical music. Writing my recent post highlighting the music of the contemporary Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen reminded me of Virgil Thomson's celebrated dictum of "Never underestimate the public's intelligence, baby, and never overestimate its information". It is a pretty safe bet that very few dedicated followers of classical music have even heard of Lasse Thoresen, yet alone heard any of his music. But it is also a pretty safe bet that many of the same group have heard of John Luther Adams, and quite a few will have heard his music.
Now, let me be clear, I am not belittling the music of John Luther Adams - which was advocated here at an early stage - or comparing the merits of the two composers. But it is undeniable that the difference in their online profile is massive. This despite their music sharing a beguiling mix of innovation and accessibility, and addressing the same important theme of the despoiling of the environment*. We cannot blame John Luther Adams for leveraging social media so excessively and effectively. But, in my view, we can blame social media for overlooking composers such as Lasse Thoresen who choose to maintain a lower online profile.
There is no point in the usual suspects leaping to the defence of social media, because both its virtues and negatives are well rehearsed. It would help instead if the microblogging mavens could spread the word about Lasse Thoresen, Ramon Humet, Rebecca Saunders, Bernat Vivancos, Edith Canat de Chizy and the many other social media-light composers. Because composing - and also playing - important music and exploiting social media are two unrelated skill sets. What matters is the music; not number of friends and followers.
* Another commendable shared characteristic of the two composers is a predilection for exploiting new audio technologies. Both John Luther Adams' Become Ocean and Lasse Thoresen' Sea of Names - see header image - are released by independent record labels in multi-channel formats. No review samples used 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.