main: April 2007 Archives
The BBC has acted for once sensibly and without fuss in reunifying its two prime classical musical jobs - head of Radio 3 with controller of the BBC Proms. Roger Wright is to combine the Proms with his day job at 3, inheriting the festival from Nicholas Kenyon who is off to run the Barbican Centre. Wright has done much to modernise the network (where I have an eponymous series, interest declared). Not all of his innovations have gone down well in the backwoods; a peppery group of Friends of Radio 3 are inclined to stick pins in his effigy. Expect much spluttering on the message boards. Myself, I'm looking forward to the new broom at the Proms.
The BBC's press release follows.
Some months ago, I reported that Esa-Pekka Salonen was joining London's Philharmonia Orchestra as music director and, in doing so, was preparing to leave California. A volley of denials - from the Los Angeles PO, from Salonen himself and from a host of commentators who presumed to know better.
I response to one pained email from a respected LAPO figurehead, I promised to redress any error when an appropriate opportunity arose.
Well, it has now. Salonen and the LAPO announced this weekend that he's quitting in 2009, handing over to young Gus Dudamel. So was there any error in my original assertion? The facts speak for themselves.
How did I know E-P was going to leave? I was privy to a line of internal communications which indicated that he was getting itchy. I can say no more to protect sources, but those of you who read my weekly column should know I never speculate. What you read is built on rock-hard evidence.
Which reminds me that Tessa Jowell, our revered Culture Secretary, recently dismissed as 'rubbish' my report that there is a paper circulating in her department advocating the abolition of English National Opera. Well, I know what I have seen. When, a year from now, arts victims are lined up to pay for the 2012 Olympics, don't be surprised to find ENO top of the altar.
The music critic of the New Yorker has reproduced statistics from the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) purporting to show that classical recording is alive and well and healthier than ever.
Having just published a book that asserts the very opposite, I am not about to enter here into a detailed refutation. However, here are a few quibbles to the contrary:
1 No cultural industry in my long experience has yielded less reliable stats than the record biz.
2 Official record stats usually consist of units delivered, rather than actual sales, and never configure the huge volume of returns - the great unsold.
3 The decline of classical recording is best measured at the point of production: the record studio. In 1993, six major labels were resonsible for making 700 new classical recordings. Today, there only two majors still active - EMI and DG-Decca - and their combined output is fewer than 100 new releases a year, of which half are crossover. If you are looking for evidence of classical demise on record, start here.
4 Naxos, based in Hong Kong, is the only label to maintain consistent classical output, but it does so without artist promotion, denying the element of interpretative individuality which has fuelled the history and tradition of classical recording.
5 A host of small labels continues to produce classical records but at a risible economic level, close to or below subsistence - and often as vanity publishers, accepting free submissions and issuing them untouched by editorial intervention. Many orchestras and artists have been reduced to publishing their own work. Some of it is high quality, but it is unfiltered by objective or commercial consideration at the point of selection and destribution. It is, in other words, vanity publishing.
6 As is the uncritical regurgitation of RIAA press releases by the music critic of the New Yorker.
7 In my first university course in statistics, the lecturer warned us to be wary of 'lies, damned lies and statistics', a statement variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Mark Twain, Alfred Marshall and others. Numbers require informed analysis. You cannot analyse the state of recording by sitting at home and sifting review copies and press releases. The truth is out there - in the idle studios, in the shut-down record stores, in the shrinking space for classical debate in mainstream media. Some of us are still out there, still making a noise, making sure that a good artform does not go down without a fight. Or at least a loving epitaph.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary