Recorded classical music is a barely alive dinosaur
I used to read Gramophone and subscribed to it for quite some time. I cancelled my subscription 15 years ago and have not missed it. The main reason for the Gramophone's demise is simply that what represents the core of their interests, recorded classical music, is a barely alive dinosaur.That provocative response to yesterday's post came from fellow blogger and sometime guest contributor Antoine Leboyer. He may well be right that recorded classical music is a barely alive dinosaur. But if that is the case, despite sharing Antoine's preference for live music I have two concerns. Classical music must beware of becoming metro-centric, particularly as financially marginal touring becomes threatened by funding cuts. For those living outside urban areas recorded and broadcast music is a lifeline. As an example Dale added this pertinent comment to my recent post about independent record stores "For some of us, including myself here in rural North Dakota USA, the Amazon click has led to many musical experiences we'd otherwise not have had".
Classical music is better represented these days by live events. What makes the news is not a new recording of Beethoven’s 9 symphonies by Chailly and the Gewandhaus but the fact that these artists are touring in many capitals around the world to perform them. TV with specialized channels like Europe’s mezzo, Radio and Web-based radio, Web concert from concert hall acting as producers have replaced recorded music as the mean by which we discover and hear music. (I hate to quote myself but have a look here and here among many others …). Similarly, every Opera house is following the steps of the Met with their live relays in movie theaters.
Live Music is where things happen and technology has made It accessible and pervasive. Gramophone has not and cannot stay current with these media and is outdated. If you had to publish a magazine on computing, would it be on punched cards computing or on Ipad ?
Live events are much better served by specialized classical music reviews sites. The one where I contribute, Concertonet.com, regularly covers events in Paris, New York, Toronto, Geneva, Zurich, … Our readership is of 25 000 individual visitors every month. Musical coverage can also be found at other sites like this one. Comprehensive reviews are available there and include not only the major most visible events but also modern music, youth ensemble and newcomers and chamber music. What sites like Concertonet provide are reviews which provide in one month a quantity which would match what a major newspaper would publish on classical music for a full year.
Gramophone has attempted to extend its coverage to worldwide live events but in essence, it remains a UK centric reviewer of CDs and is thus destined to follow the path of punched cards computing magazine at the cemetery of dinosaurs.
My second concern revolves around Dale's assertion that recorded music leads to many musical experiences we'd otherwise not have had. He is right and thinking back over the years my first experience of a number of artists who have changed my life, including Jordi Savall and Titi Robin, came via recordings, not live performances. Web streaming of live concerts may be a force to be reckoned with, but as yet it does not stray too far from mainstream classical repertoire.
But Antoine Leboyer is always worth listening to because his involvement with classical music comes through passion rather than profession. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the case for everyone of the many readers who have responded to yesterday's post. Putting both the Gramophone and BBC Radio 3 in the firing line in one article is clearly too much for those in the profession to handle. And talking of professionals, I generously described those attending Classical NEXT as the "great and good" of classical music. However Philip Amos, via a comment, provides a far more eloquent description:
It seems to me nothing more than a gathering of foxes who want to tell the chickens how to repair the henhouse the foxes wrecked in the first place. Well, the chickens have left and become free-range birds who know the problems that have been foisted on them (including by a certain rogue roosters of their own) and are showing great ingenuity in coming up with their own solutions, as you have recently and eloquently discussed in posts.* The photo of Conlon Nancarrow in his studio complete with technology dinosaur comes from my 2007 post Best music of any late-20th century composer? When did you last hear Nancarrow's music in the concert hall?
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