Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Veritable Cornucopia

Some late, loose items:

(1) China Miéville has a new-ish blog, rejectamentalist manifesto.  It's aperiodic, often fragmental or pictoral, but reliably interesting.   The recent posts on the the UK coalition government's plans for cut-and-burn reductions in cultural and social spending are on the mark, and much of what is noted in the UK applies equally well to the Netherlands, the Republicans in the US, and the German coalition government.

(2) Here's a recent small item at The Eastside View, Charles Shere's blog, which is a model of engaging and useful critical writing: honestly sorting out opinion and taste from just-the-facts-ma'am reporting, making interesting connections, and not treating the musical as an autonomous category of cultural activity.  Charles, a fine composer as well as critic, is a treasure in the musical landscape. 

(3) Pliable notes that 95% of Gramophone magazine's readers are male.  Why is this the least surprising factoid of the week?  Gramophone is the UK classical music bidness's equivalent of a mixture of Sports Illustrated and Model Railroader.   It's about "industry" gossip, sport, and collecting, a particular constellation that is only sustainable in a high testosterone environment (one from which my better angels have protected me!)  Moreover, as the magazine's title honestly indicates, it's about recordings, commodified recording.  It's about buying, trading, and collecting recordings and it's about ranking them, like baseball statistics (and yes, as often fantasy as real.)  Boys with toys. The classical music live performance world, on the other hand, which includes everything from music education to professional performance and audition, is one in which participation, with exceptions for the recalcitrant fields of conducting, management, and a pair of European orchestras,  is no longer so decisively dominated by one gender or the other. Audiences for classical music concerts are often predominantly women and the most important figures introducing classical music to young people are women as well — music teachers, whether in school or privately.  That's the real news of the day, not the readership of a magazine devoted to a male hobby rapidly going the way of the dodo.  


1 comment:

Nick said...

(3) I'm astonished by your outburst; frankly, it's unworthy of what, until now, I thought was one of the more sensible blogs about classical music. As someone apparently capable of reading between the lines and seeing beneath the surface, you should know better than to be so superficial - and, indeed, if this 'factoid' is so unsurprising, why comment on it at all, especially as you find absolutely nothing interesting or new to add?
I carry no special brief for Gramophone magazine (disclosure: I have read it regularly since my teens and I currently have both an academic and a very tenuous professional interest in it) and there's much about it that I find irrelevant to my own present needs, tastes and interests. It takes me 20 minutes to flick through an issue these days. But I care about intellectual honesty and I find your characterisation of it shallow, cliché-ridden, snide, inaccurate (for instance, none of it is about 'trading' recordings) and even - I do not use the word lightly - sexist (the fact that a product is overwhelmingly consumed by one sex does not make it, in and of itself, damnable).
So offering information, advice and criticism to consumers of classical music on record is equivalent to printing photographs of women in swimwear, is it? And everything is hunky dory in the 'classical music live performance world', is it? And that's because there are more women there, is it? How profound and at the same time so simple!
Well, history lesson no.1: audiences for live classical music have always contained more women than the buyers (note; not necessarily the listeners) of classical music on record. Either you are unaware of this, in which case you need to absorb it and ponder its implications; or you know it and you truly believe that a century of publishing activity in the field of recorded classical music has been both irrelevant and, possibly, harmful to the health of classical music as a whole, a proposition extremely hard to sustain.
History lesson no.2 (since we're apparently sanctioned to deal in broad-brush generalisations): composers have mostly been either indifferent or hostile to discourse about recording and, in the above post, you are simply behaving according to type - just what you accuse the readership of Gramophone of doing.