Well, here is your oppertunity, co-creation...
What is your "ideal" Gramophone magazine?
Good question Rolf, and I find it very telling that when the people who do all the moaning in these pages are asked to contribute any positive suggestions, or how they would improve things, they are nowhere to be found.
For me I would like to see more emphasis on education in the magazine as this is what attracted me to it in the first place as a young man trying to find his way through the jungle of works, composers, styles, performers and recordings. For its continued survival Gramophone needs to attract young people, and I think this a better way to do it than what they do at the moment, i.e. trying to make classical artists seem like rock stars or T.V. celebrities. All this just distracts people from the music and I think it is insulting to everyone's intelligence young and old.
For example I would like to see the reviews section split into the same categories as the Gramophone Awards, and that one CD from each category would go to make up the recommended CDs for each month. In this way I think people would learn far more (especially the people who want to learn more) about the diversity of the repertoire out there, and be encouraged to try something that they may not otherwise come across. If one section has a rake of great recordings one month you could give special attention to these extra discs in the relevant section of the reviews.
I would like to see lists of comparative recordings with each review, and in line with this, I would love a section on great LPs that have not found their way on to CD. With Ebay and other websites almost everything is available somewhere.
For every piece in Gramophone Collection I would lke to see a list of further listening connected to the piece in question. Also a short piece devoted to a less well known composer each month would be wonderful.
To make room for these extras I would remove the concert listings, One to Watch, My Month, the columnists, the celebrity on the back page, Who am I?.
The main interview should be a staple, and I don't have a problem with The Trial, except the language of the one I read was horribly fatuous. A commitment to great writing is crucial. Any review written by Lionel Salter or Michael Oliver was persuasive enough in its elegance to make me go out and buy the LP or CD in question. News and Letters of course should stay, and I think some mention of forum topics would be good, as this is just as important a barometer of what readers think as the letters they send I would imagine. As for the cover I don't really mind, but the last issues did feel very thin in the hand.
Well these are a few of my ideas.
My ideal Gramophone magazine contains the following:-
- the collection (no matter how often we see them, recommended recordings, the debates they stimulate and the market they create, are a mainstay)
- I used to like the sectionon artists recommended by other artists and sense that this could be a regular - perhaps supplementing your 250 best recordings by artists feature. Different from the back page which is often non-musical artists.
- new music to try and why (along the lines of "if you like this you'll like that" you can sneer but without Classic FM I wouldn't have ever found Max Reger.)
- no cover CD but instead on your web-site decent chunks of music from the Editors picks to get a real feel for the piece as opposed to one constrained by a long interview that would be better placed on web as a podcast
- more attention given over to DVDs of the past as well as new releases - I sense that this would re-orient the magazine to a better opera balance which it has lost since opera on CD has been reduced
- less focus (from my perspective) on Summer Festivals - alot of this information could be better placed on the web-site for those who are festival goers
- rich and provocative editorials. I miss Harriet Smith.
- a similar focus on audio
- longer reviews of the recommended recordings and within these a sense of context. Too many current reviews are stand alone and I miss that relative assessment against other recordings that used to happen routinely.
- same size please
- harder front and back page - new bendy covers are just weird
- I always liked the busy box covers that you had a few years ago - nodoby who doesn't know Joyce Di Donato is going to pick up Gramophone and think who's she but busy cover may bring in people more.
1 better quality paper and slightly larger print for reviews
2 the old "Sounds in Retrospect" column would be most welcome for a return
3 fewer journal and comment columns from so called "celebrities"
4 a larger audio section
5 no advertisements not relevant to classical music
6 more space devoted to SACD and crusading for high quality sound
7 fewer large glossy pictures of artists - I dislike padding
8 more reviews of some of the rarer discs and recordings from small labels
Given the various suggestions for better quality paper, covers, fewer/more focused adverts, more content, less 'padding' etc, perhaps a good supplementary question might be...
And up to how much would you be willing to pay for it?
"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"
- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.
Content: authoritative reviews of new releases / reissues.
News and information about recordings, concerts, projects etc.
Reviews where the best version of a particular work is discussed - coould be a team effort or a single person.
Retrospectives of a musician's output - highlights.
Articles highlighting a composers works - interestign things to look for.
I quite like features where someone articulates why they love music and what gets them going - as long as the article is well written.
Ads: vary from informative (e.g. latest releases) to necessary evil (as they subsidise the magazine, I'll skip them if boring)
Realistic articles about new hi-fi equipment, downloads etc.
Hi-fi doctor was sometimes interesting. Observer music magazine used to do a "record doctor" where a celebrity talks about their record collection and someone sympathetic suggested new avenues. This was never classically focussed, but with the right people could be fun.
I don't like;
Lengthy articles about music festivals a long way away that I have no chance of visiting.
Lists of random "250 best ever recordings" (even if they are "the usual suspects")
reviews of hi fi that costs my annual salary and wouldn't fit in my living room even if the fairy godmother gave me a winning lottery ticket
Gets my vote
If you're only being paid £2.50 an hour, I'd be having a word with your employer. The most expensive piece of equipment reviewed in the audio pages for ages was the Quad integrated amplifier, at £4500 (ie £2.50 an hour over a typical working year) – everything else is much less expensive.
Audio Editor, Gramophone
Quite right, Andrew.
Audio does not have to cost the price of a new car to sound decent. There is a lot of technology out there and an enhanced Audio Section of Gramophone would be both interesting and helpful - especially if there are as few reviews as possible of speaker cables which cost more than a round the world flight. Technology is on the move and Gramophone readers need information to make informed judgments.
Thanks for your supportive words – can't remember when the Audio pages last reviewed any speaker cables, let alone those so expensive. I feel that people should try such accessories for themselves, and if they're confident they can hear benefits, buy them; if not, they can be content in their belief that they have not wasted their money.
I'm all for more audio coverage; Gramophone's raison d'etre is recorded classical music, and an important part of that equation is how those recordings are played back. In the new online world we need to champion high quality, hi-fi, hi def reproduction more than ever. My own confusion at how to move into a computer-based listening world (as covered elsewhere in this forum) convinces me that this section of the magazine, together with of course the reviews and discussion of the recordings themselves, are what I want to read.
Celebrity op-eds and festivals - that stuff I can do without
Hey Andrew - not so touchy.
I love "The G". I put quite a lot more things that I liked (most of which you do) than things that I didn't like. I was trying to be encouraging, and sorry for exaggerating when pointing out that I find reviews of expensive hi fi less interesting.
Hang in there - keep working on creating an interesting magazine each month. I've been reading the G for a fair old while and have no plans to give up yet!
1) Eliminate the celebrity columns which turn Gramophone into Gramofan
2) The regular columnists can depart as well.
3) Articles reporting on new musicological studies particularly on composers
4) To the individual who asked how much I would pay - I would gladly forgo the Proms and the recordings of the year issues and still pay the same price
5) A gramophone web site with recommended recordings (multiple interpretations are acceptable and with both historical & contemporary sound) for major works
6) Abandoning the tiny font sizes and finger nail size album covers which I can't read anyway
7) Historical retrospectives on recording technology and concert hall acoustics
8) Discographies on famous artists of the past
9) Get rid of the sample CD
Not at all touchy, just didn't want anyone to get the idea the audio pages only review products with stratospheric prices (said he on the way to the launch of new Sonus Faber loudspeakers this evening, apparently with a 150,000-euro tag on them!)
Bring me back a set then please!
Enjoy the experience.
From the evidence of a fellow writer who saw the 'coffin' packing crates being moved in yesterday, I think one might have problems convincing the airline to carry one pair, let alone two...
First, I have no problem with the current page size and typeface used. What I really want is more content. Gramophone of all things should not be outdone by computer gaming and science fiction magazines in terms of length and seriousness of articles!
So: longer articles that can dig a little deeper into music and the history of its making. Longer reviews, with more detailed comparisons. Fewer puff pieces (especially travelogues), roundtable discussions, "so-and-so is in the studio this week"-type halfpage blurbs. Columns are a trickier business, as it's hard to avoid space-filling-trivia syndrome - perhaps alternating columnist is the answer.
Please don't be afraid to cover serious subjects in your interviews! If you're worried about scaring off readers by being overly technical, why not have a box-out called "The hard stuff", for readers to at least have the option. For myself, I have very little musicological knowledge, but I hate feeling that articles are being dumbed down for my benefit.
'Art doesn't need philosophers. It just needs to communicate from soul to soul.' Alejandro Jodorowsky