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.