Composer anniversaries are the product of complacency
That photo from the BBC Radio 3 blog of presenter Tom Service captures perfectly the complacency that powers the fashionable obsession with music anniversaries. With just a few notable exceptions these anniversaries are the product of complacent concert programming, complacent recording and broadcast scheduling, and complacent journalism. Wagner, Verdi, Britten and the Rite are currently no brainers - schedule the concert, write the press release, and the broadcasters and journalists will come. So why try to understand the data that shows that anniversaries have no enduring impact on a composer's popularity? Why - despite a parallel obsession with new audiences - take any notice of the hard evidence that overkill programming of a single composer actually reduces audience size? And why make the effort to explore off the anniversary path when the avaricious complacency that pervades classical music can be so easily exploited?
Tomorrow's On An Overgrown Path post is about a twentieth century author and independent spirit who was also a respected musician and little known composer; in fact his compositions are so little-known that his only published music is a string quartet which has never been recorded. He does not have an anniversary this year and I make no claims that my subject was a genius who composed neglected masterpieces; however Philip Glass does acknowledge the early influence of his best-known book. My sources extended beyond the ubiquitous press releases, promotional freebies and internet, and the essay has no agenda of promoting a new recording, book, concert series or broadcast. My purpose in writing was, as ever, simply to share a discovery with readers. Tomorrow's post will not change the course of music history, and claims to be 'influential' are of no interest to me. But independent analysis suggests that On An Overgrown Path punches above its weight, and there is little doubt that this is because - concert promoters, record companies, broadcasters and journalists please note - it dares to be different. I do hope that you will read tomorrow's post, if only because it is not the product of complacency.
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