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Contemporary music faces axe

We’ ve received a petition from Austria, where the national broadcaster ORF is planning to abolish its involvement in the Styrian Autumn avant-garde festival (est. 1968) at Graz. Supporters say its withdrawal would constitute an ‘irreparable loss’ for the new music scene.

We cannot judge the issue, never having attended the Steierischer Herbst or being able to recall any of its significant premieres. If you have a different view, however, you may wish to sign this petition.

Here are two officials promos:


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  1. Martin Locher says:

    ORF regulary broadcasts interesting concerts featuring contemporary music.

    The festival’s real problem surely is the part “never having attended the Steierischer Herbst or being able to recall any of its significant premieres”.

    A small festval who wants to be seen or heared has much better, more flexible options than national broadcasters. Buy a webcam and a webserver and you’re global. If you fid an audience do it more professionally the year after. I.e. by getting a well known web-broadcaster (Medici, Art Live Web and so on) on board.

  2. Harold Clarkson says:

    Norman, you should take a look at what the ORF is up to, They have to make cutbacks, so what are they doing? Cutting back their arts and culture budget, They are also threatening to cancel the Ingeborg Bachman literature prize, one of the most important in the German language. The question needs to be asked, what is a public broadcaster for? Should the residents of Austria be paying license fees(quite substantial ones) in order to receive the same rubbish that all private broadcasters show?

    • Martin Locher says:

      They are not only cutting some expenses in culture and arts, but everywhere. Including a popular science show.

      And, as far as I’m concerened, the licence fee is there to create a TV and radio program, not to give it away to a literature prize winner.

      You’re right though, that the licence fees should be used to create a neutral programming supporting a mix of popular and non-mainstream topics. The main focus, in my eyes, should be on neutral current events coverage and knowledge transfer mixed with some entertainment.

      I ask you though, if you’d be a person watching the shows you call rubbish, wouldn’t you want your licence fee being used to create such shows?

      Personally, I see no reason why Swiss TV covers the Tour of France live, while Eurosport does the same and probably does it better. I agree with you, instead of showing the same things like the private channel, in this instance the public TV could and should have decided on showing a niche program.

      I.e. a broadcast of Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden, in which the Tour of France is mentioned too, as I just heared parallel to writing above paragraph. Love this coincidence :-)

    If you watch the promo carefully, the real problem of Steierische Herbst becomes all too obvious: the rhetoric of the text consists of a thoroughly conventional repetition of all the trivial clichées from the sixties of the last century, which have since then been institutionalized. Including concept art and pop music – that says it all. It has nothing to do with a serious approach of music, let alone serious new music (yes, that does exist). It seems that the ‘new music’ presented here, is in its substance more than half a century old and repetitive: all ‘neo’ fake. Something that was merely ‘exciting, explorative, new, groundbreaking’ etc. etc. (yawn…) cannot longer be all that after one first trial. What this promo shows, apart from a shameless offence to intelligence, is infantile, morone, degenerated, primitive. The only ‘loss’ subsidy cuts could be blamed for, is of some empty entertainment for ignorant teenagers who have nothing better to do.

  4. It looks like a loss, judging by the promos!

  5. Clement Power says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht,

    Thank you for highlighting this issue. I hope I can resolve some confusion; the ‘steirischer herbst’ festival is a very large, multi-disciplinary festival including theatre and dance as shown in your promo. What is under threat is the ‘Musikprotokoll’, which is the contemporary music element. This sub-festival has been supported by the ORF, which broadcasts the concerts on its programme ‘Zeit-Ton’. It is in some ways comparable to the BBC SO’s Maida Vale broadcast concerts in the UK.

    The Musikprotokoll has seen the first performances of well over a thousand new musical works. Composers such as Olga Neuwirth, Georg Friedrich Haas, Wolfgang Rihm, as well as many more of the younger generation, have been supported. Graz is a special place, with a particular appetite for adventurous listening (certainly from my own experience the concerts I have given there were entirely sold out). This looks like simple cost-cutting on the part of the ORF. I would urge musicians and music-lovers who value the new, to join me in signing the petition to ‘Save the Musikprotokoll’!

    Best wishes,
    Clement Power

    • Martin Locher says:

      I don’t think you need to rely on the ORF and the licence payers, but fell you can help yourself.

      Surely many small companies or volunteers would be very happy to set up a web broadcast for you. Get websites like to list your broadcasts. Yeah, you lose some regular ORF listeners, but that can be compensated easily with a good web broadcast, where you even can place advertising of your sponsors, something the ORF won’t do for you.

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