Hi, Jeff. I can't agree more with your position and comments. I'm truly sorry of how things turn out to be in UK. In other parts of the world, the situation might look more promising, like in far-east or certain countries in Africa, but they will never get Classical Music as theirs. They like to know, to study, to perform it, but I'm not sure how deep they can go to comprehend and truly embrace this music. For the time being they...serve and honour it.
In some other countries of Europe, the situation looks a bit better. Germany is always Germany: tradition, culture, deep roots and good foundations in Classical Music. However, the way they handle it is not that promising. France has always its own way to "honour" this Music, but the situation is still positive. The rest of the countries, depending on the financial crisis they are deep in, they try to hang on, with limited resources, decreased interest and gloomy faces in the concert halls...In the meantime, Beethoven's Ode to Joy is being trivialised as the..."anthem" of the European Project, the EU! Poor Europeans! What is next?
It is time for the cultural fightback to begin!
Bring it on, I'm ready, right who's first. Come on.
..... are you talking to me? you talking to me? Then who the hell else are you talking to! You talking to me? Well I'm the only one here.
Just me and Travis at the moment, tell us when you need us partsong.
....I could have been a contender, I could have had class, I could have been somebody.
Brando's up for it as well.
Chris-yes I agree that Classical is in danger of being seen as a ''museum'' in the UK until contemporary classical music is again a living part of wider British culture-as it was in Walton's and Britten's day. The problem is that if the public are'nt even used to bogstandard standard classical repertoire due to the poor education system and the cultureless tv broadcasting-and only the processed pop that is barraged at us in every shop and tv programme- then contemporary music stands even smaller chance of gaining wider appeal. The mass public only used to the instant candy floss fix of processed Beyonce and Rihanna and Jessie J are certainly not even going to go anywhere near composers like Henze or Macmillan let alone Stravinsky!! It is a totally alien world to them-and I know this from my teaching. Many young people are brainwashed to expect a thudding 4/4 drumbeat and banal harmony in all their music!! The harsh reality-and I know this from my own experience as a youngster- is that some education is needed to introduce younger people to classical. To adjust their ears to its subtleties as they are only used to processed pop all with one dynamic level. And many are not getting this at all now-they are being totally let down by the dumbed down education system and junk output on tv.
I do recognise of course that many postwar composers' predeliction for serial/atonal music has not helped matters as even I as a trained composer find this very difficult. And the almost fascist dominance of this type of music in the contemporary scene of the 1960's- which still exists in contemporary academia (ie. university composition departments) has isolated these composers totally from the public awareness. We have the bizarre reality that Birtwistle,Boulez and Ligeti are like gods to the academic composition world but totally unknown to the wide public! Boulez and Birtwistle etc have every right to write what they want but the problem was that many really good composers who still used elements of tonality were then wrongly pushed aside and seen as 'old fashioned' . Even Henze was rejected by the Boulez camp for hinting at tonality-that is how fanatic the avant garde contemporary music scene was!! So I admit it is a complex set of reasons for the decline of Classical.
However I do think that dumbed down education and broadcasting are the biggest factors as there is plenty of tonally based music,modern or otherwise.Classical musicians/music teachers need to speak out more against the warped political correct ideaology that irresponsible Ofsted peddle to children that all music is equal. Richard Strauss is infinitely greater music than the junk that is Hip Hop and it is time our children were educated properly again.
So I admit it is irresponsible Ofsted peddle to children that all music is equal. Richard Strauss is infinitely greater music than the junk that is Hip Hop and it is time our children were educated properly again.
It is not just Ofsted, it is the BBC and lazy politicians, who look to short term gains. We have had more than one generation of poorly educated children. They are now teaching our children the same junk. It won't be easy reversing the decline when the uneducated don't see it as a decline, just glorious liberal freedom. We have seen the fools on here recently.
Come on Uber, thats a bit OTT! Who'd want to be DG of the BBC? If the ratings go down, the licence fee is under threat: if quality goes down the licence fee is under threat. It's a difficult juggling act!
But there is another matter that contributes to the amount of quality broadcasting on television, I believe, and that is the sheer technical quality of both sound and vision these days. This combined with the ease of making first-class recordings off-the-air must pose copyright threats and/or threaten the sales of music DVDs/CDs. As far as radio is concerned, when people refer to the 'good old days' of the Third Programme, they conveniently forget that it was only on the air from 6pm to 11pm daily (less for several years). Radio 3 is still astonishingly good value, and is broadcast in first-class sound too.
Returning to my other point concerning modern classical music and its public reception, I do think there is a more serious problem with the music itself than is sometimes admitted (and not only with the more 'difficult' composers). That problem is simply the decreasing interest of composers in (going up to determined avoidance of) melody. In the past, great craftsmanship, brilliance of scoring and all those features, went hand in hand in the greatest music with memorable melodies. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini etc. - could all write a good tune, and did. Modern composers more often substitute texture for melody. If you hear a good tune in a modern classical piece it is more often than not borrowed from someone else.
Of course I exaggerate, but there is not much modern classical music you can go down the street whistling. This may not bother composers but it does affect audiences. So, I would argue that the 'museum' problem is not simply an education problem. Perhaps it's the music too that now requires more specialist knowledge than ever before in order to be appreciated.
What do you think Jeff, Mark, Parla, Uber?
Hi Jeff, Chris, Parla and Uber also:
Again Jeff, you've said some things that resonate with my experience also. I remember a Senior Management Teacher in one school who said to me about how the youngsters were culturally barren, and how they didn't know much about their own culture, let alone cultures from around the world. And in that culturally bereft culture, if you see what I mean, it is not just music that is missing. How many know much about English history and development, our poetry and literature and drama etc...? It's an evening spent texting, listening to i-pods and playing computer games and watching sport sure and soaps and talent shows. (Viz the year 9 girl a few years ago in a class that I had a bit of a battle with in trying to make her see that you don't write in text spelling in your English book. 'Yeh but no but (Vicky Pollard style) that's the way I write'. Maybe it is, but standard English spelling to pass the exam sorry.
I think it is even worse than that. When youngsters aren't doing all that to pass the time they 'hang around' outside off licences and local 7-11 stores. I'm sick of seeing it. Wherever there is cheap booze. An article in my local paper a few months ago called 'The witches of Whitebirk', an area of the town, about anti-social behaviour terrorising adults in the community, was taken up a couple of days later by the Daily Mail, who sent a reporter to have a look at the area. She described the area as 'soulless'. I quite agree. Some of the stories in my local paper are even more shocking; the elderly Asian man who was returning from the Mosque with his granddaughter, and who was the victim of a 'happy slappy' attack. Banged his head on the pavement and died through brain trauma. And don't even get me started on the youngsters 'tooled up' with weapons as a result of 'gangsta' culture. It makes the late-seventies' punk, safety pins and spitting look completely harmless now by contrast.
Soulless deprived communities, and I have taught in a few(and I am not talking about material poverty, since deprivation is measured in terms of indices like education, health, housing and employment etc...) and a culturally desolate youth. I don't want to sound like a prophet of doom but it has gone downhill in my time. It has gone markedly worse in the 20 plus years I have been teaching.
In the early nineties when the National Curriculum was introduced, I can remember the excitement with which we embraced this new philosophy of a 'broad and balanced curriculum'. Well that's not happening now is it? It's a politically correct and somewhat sterile, narrow curriculum. Anti-'eltism' and political correctness as you say.
Part of the problem in my opinion is, as friends often point out to me, when you're in teaching you are working for the government. Hence, I have seen it many times, where we all fall over ourselves to implement the latest initiatives without much if any critical rationale. Even the unions are afraid to criticise educational policy (as I have heard at the past at conferences) because it will be seen as political not educational.
Uber - your forum needs YOU! To lead the fightback against the political establishment.
Had the internet existed 30 years ago I could have read exactly the same post on it (substituting for Beyonce etc. the pop stars of the day - and for Macmillan some other 50-ish composer of the time). The fact is that when I was growing up in the 70s processed pop, with the 4/4 drumbeat and banal harmony, was what I was mainly exposed to. I experienced next to no classical music either at primary or secondary school, and the latter was generally acknowledged to be the best of my town -privileged in fact. I'm grateful classical music wasn't forced on me at school. I got into it entirely off my own bat, as it were, and appreciate it all the more for that. I know quite a few people who've been put off Shakespeare for life, because of their school memories of him. Again I was lucky; I didn't encounter Shakespeare until the 6th form - when I was ready for him.
I agree, to force Shakespeare on anyone may put them off, for life. To force 'classical music' on anyone may put them off, for life. There are a lot of bad teachers around who fail to interest kids in the subject, but that is not Shakespeare's fault. An awareness of the 'greatness' of Shakespeare and an awareness of the 'greatness' of 'classical music' may be preferable for most. However alot of people have no problem at all with either Shakespeare or classical music at school. Pop music is for children, you don't need to interest school kids in pop music, they are fully aware of it at around four years old, and can probably fully appreciate it then. General music education doesn't need to force 'classical music' on anyone, but it should inform the children that a hierarchy exists. Shakespeare is at the head of literature and classical music is at the head of music. Far too often the trendy liberals inform the children that the music they love at four years old is as far as they need to go. Don't put children off, encourage them, but teach them wisely, stop putting the misguided and the idiots in charge.
You're right it does need sensitivity, and it is crucial how teachers motivate and inspire youngsters. That is why the idea of the broad and balanced curriculum is so important, but from Jeff's current experience of music teaching it is anything but!
And it's not just young people who could get put off - I have taught Macbeth that many times that it has killed it for me now as a great play! Sick of the sight of it!
(Reminds me - must borrow from my dad's collection his Macbeth with Bergonzi. Maybe I'll enjoy the Verdi more!)
There is widespread ignorance about music in this country. It was not taken seriously in the public schools in the second half of the 20th century (because the Germans have historically been so much better at it than us). We now have a prime minister who goes to pop festivals, whereas Angela Merkel visits Bayreuth. It's actually quite embarrassing hearing otherwise well-educated adults drone on about the Rolling Stones, Beatles etc. whilst being utterly ignorant about music.
My son was recently asked to analyse a Michael Jackson video for his music homework - and he attends a school supposedly "specialising in music".
Ian-I agree and the last 2 decades,especially since Blair, have seen a purposeful dumbing down of the music teaching in our schools by Ofsted to the point where now hip hop/rap is taught as the main learning resources to children. I joke not-I can name a prominent educational resources website used by local authorities that is dominated by this. I think Gramophone readers would be truly shocked by what is now passing as ''music'' education in schools.
What is so ridiculous is that, as I am sure you agree, the UK also has some of the greatest orchestras/classical musicians-and cathedral choirs- in the world but the mass public don't seem to care. It is a pathetic indictment that our great cathedral choirs and conductors are far more admired in Japan than here!! Simon Rattle is more known in Japan than here. The UK masses seem more interested in BGT and drivel like Gary Barlow and Jay-Z. BBC makes token attemps at broadcasting classical on tv (and should be given credit for what they do show) but they dont advertise it like they do with pop concerts eg. the Hackney pop event which was repeated and given much publicity. The fantastic live Simon Bolivar orchestra/Dudamel concert from Stirling was shown once and not advertised. This was exactly the sort of concert that would gain a younger wider audience for classical.
I think politicians,like the PC left wing who run the education system (and the BBC), associate classical with 'elitism' and intellectual thought-which is of course not trendy in our dumbed down anti-intellectual populist age. The composer John Adams made this very point about American politicians in a speech. That is why many politicians advertise themselves as pop/rock fans to be seen as 'one of the people' (even though in private they might be listening to Mahler!)
To Uber Alice: I fully agree when you said: ''General music education doesn't need to force 'classical music' on anyone, but it should inform the children that a hierarchy exists. Shakespeare is at the head of literature and classical music is at the head of music. Far too often the trendy liberals inform the children that the music they love at four years old is as far as they need to go.'' Unfortunately what you say is indeed happening in schools and we have generations of children that wrongly think that pop/rock/hip hop etc is equal to Beethoven in musical quality. I was once criticised by a class music teacher for playing a piano student a Mahler symphony extract implying it was too 'highbrow' for the pupil. This is what we are up against.
Unfortunately what you say is indeed happening in schools and we have generations of children that wrongly think that pop/rock/hip hop etc is equal to Beethoven in musical quality. I was once criticised by a class music teacher for playing a piano student a Mahler symphony extract implying it was too 'highbrow' for the pupil. This is what we are up against.
State education under socialism is designed to produce a nation of sheep who all bleat in time to 'pop music'. Right after three, in 4 - 4 time of course, nothing too complicated - Ba ba Justin Bieber have you any words of wisdom for us (feel free to substitute Paul Simon or anyone else into the song) this is great, the sort of thing the BBC love.
I'm sure this vision of the Waste Land is what the world looks like from a certain corner of Middle England Never-Never Land and like all propaganda contains elements of truth. But propaganda it is. I'm reminded of a former apologist for a certain daily newspaper which specialises in this kind of stuff: "the ideal report in [this newspaper] leaves the reader hating someone or something."
If anecdotal evidence is worth anything, this view does not chime with my experience of the teaching of music that I have observed over my career, nor with the experience of my own grandchildren in two very different cities in England. Nor with the experience of taking two of them each year to a packed concert for young people put on by the CBSO in Symphony Hall. Tickets are like gold-dust. What is creating such demand?
I read recently a quote from Francis Cornford: "Propaganda is that branch of the art of lying which consists of nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies."
Most readers of Gramophone will embrace music as one of the "liberal arts" for its capacity for empathy, for enlightenment, for the sharing of joy. To see what motivates an attack on liberal values, compile a list of synonyms for "illiberal".
Last night I watched the BBC-produced programme on Victoria with Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, "God's Composer." (Absolutely wonderful!) I also watched Trevor Nunn's programme on "The Tempest" on BBC 4, and despite expecting a bucketful of ordure from the our correspondent from the Hate Desk for saying so, am looking forward to seeing the "Imagine" programme on Paul Simon's "Graceland" retrospective.
While we await this year's Proms, let's give a thought to the values that Rupert Murdoch's coin would promote in its place.
Most readers of Gramophone will embrace music as one of the "liberal arts" for its capacity for empathy, for enlightenment, for the sharing of joy. To see what motivates an attack on liberal values, compile a list of synonyms for "illiberal, and despite expecting a bucketful of ordure from the our correspondent from the Hate Desk for saying so, am looking forward to seeing the "Imagine" programme on Paul Simon's "Graceland" retrospective.
It is quite strange how 'liberals' set themselves up as being 'right' and 'good'. They don't see their position as being anything other and anyone who disagrees with them must therefore be 'wrong' and 'bad'. It is quite a doctrine they preach, the indoctrinated good against the forces of evil, they are on a crusade. I hope you enjoy the programme on Paul Simon's Graceland Vic, but what does that have to do with serious, adult, art music. As for the proms being a beacon of light, the BBC are very selective in what they show on TV, we will of course get a Saturday evening of 'movie' themes and a programme of 'lollipops', who knows, they may even have the LSO playing the music of Paul Simon this year. That's the liberal Paul Simon who broke every plea from the ANC and every other human rights group to fill his pockets with South African gold. 'I will call you Betty and you can call me Al, he's mister beer belly. beer belly....' C'mon Vic, sing along, it's educational according to the curriculum, you may one day get a socialist degree in Paul Simon.