Saturday, December 08, 2007

England - Land without Music?

Thus a German writer, Herrmann Schmitz (who he?) described the island a hundred years ago, according to this Guardian article. In terms of composers, he had a point - just at that time there was some dreadful composing about in the Yuke.

Moving on 70 years and in the education cuts of the 70s and later music was often the victim. I only heard this. In Scotland, at the time my son was at school, most schools had at least a peripatetic instrumental instructor, though on the other hand classroom singing in primary schools depended very much on the talent and interest of the individual teacher.

Suddenly the government has picked up classical music, there is the music manifesto, and now Classic FM and the (London) Philharmonic Society are starting a series whereby each month a particular piece is played all round the UK, and presumably also on Classic FM. Not much British music, of course, what with my comments above. And no living composer. I'm not sure that Dido and Aeneas, Purcell's short and really rather trite opera (but perhaps the 'best' English baroque opera) will take people to listen to classical music. A lot of the stuff is the usual war horses - Dvorak's cello concerto, Tchaikovky's swan lake - the kind of thing you hear on the background of adverts nowadays. Not sure about this kind of music - it's stiff and starchy, and makes people expect formal clothes. There's a lot of fun contemporary music about, particularly with lots of percussion as main ingredient or soloist, which might attract a much wider audience. ( I remember watching a little American boy (his dad was military attache at an embassy, with the appropriate matching haircut father and son) being totally amazed by a concert consisting only of percussion music - unfortunately the family left at the interval). Then you could bung a bit of classical stuff, too. People need to be inspired - but what inspires the persuaded may not persuade the uninspired.

There is also supposed to be guidance on how to listen to music, but Isserlis' effort at the bottom of the article is too thin for music aficionados, and 'what is he talking aboot' level for those with no info about music. It'll be interesting to see how classic fm will promulgate this. They could start with 'this is a cello', and 'thus functions a concerto'.

It might be good bringing this kind of music into the environment where people might be persuaded - having it as background music in a busy bar or pub, or having the odd live performance in the street or other public places (ie involve the buskers!).

Apart from the article there is also a Guardian blog story (please don't try to learn English from this one), and a link to a rather interesting little test site which measures the skill with which you listen to music (I think). Apparently the Guardian blogger was not very good at it.

I hope it works!