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Blog Category: music profession

Female voices creating disharmony

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Categories: british performers, contemporary classical music, live performance, music profession, women in music
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female voices creating disharmony
The decision by St Paul’s Cathedral to appoint its first fulltime female chorister, Carris Jones, has led a leading counter-tenor and conductor, Grayston Burgess, to comment, “This ‘politically correct’ decision appears to have been taken without a thought for the musical aspect or its consequence —the next logical step is to appoint another female alto to ‘balance’ the two sides of the choir”. (The Daily Telegraph).

The indignation in this I find hard to understand. As a clarinettist my expertise admittedly is in passing an airstream through a wooden tube rather than across vocal cords but the amount of energy that is extended to keep tradition for its own sake continues to confound me.

I can understand from certain points of view that in order to be faithful to the sound of the forces for which the music was originally written, in this case, an all-male choir may be needed but surely that is unnecessarily restricting and shouldn’t be imposed unilaterally. Are all cathedrals across the country to be exclusive clubs?

Why should generations of excellent female singers be prevented from contributing to a musical choral tradition and denied the benefit of the excellent musical education which often comes as part of the package?

There is much discussion about whether boys voices do really sound different, given the distortions of many acoustics but does it actually matter so very much, whatever your point of view? What is needed is strong and growing choirs able to tackle contemporary works by living composers as well as sustaining the traditional repertoire.

There is nothing new in the classical tradition of women singing men’s songs and it is even questionable whether some of the staples of cathedral music such as Tallis and Byrd were sung by all male choirs at all.

From a personal point of view, I believe that there is a purity of sound from the all-male choir that can be used effectively for performances of relevant music just as early instruments are also used to good effect for certain music. However, with a vibrant contemporary 21st century music scene I firmly believe we should be able to take advantage of using the combined voices of male and female as well. (I don’t think the BBC Singers or Harry Christopher’s 16 would be quite the same without the ladies!)

The church is having to look at all aspects of its traditions in the context of modern life, particularly as the 21st century progresses. Music is an area where the church is always exploring and trying to move forward, so it would seem to make complete sense to avail itself of the strength and vitality that the quality of voice of both male and female provides.

Geraldine Allen

Living on Paper – a Question for Composers

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Categories: composing today, music profession
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This week I have heard a couple of excerpts from the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week – “Living on paper”: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995.

It led me to think about the art of writing both words and music and how much technology has influenced the way that it is done today, quite possibly changing the resulting creative work.

What we get from her letters is not only the personal perspective of Iris Murdoch but also an insight into the people around her and the times they were living in. The fact that the letters have been kept for over 80 years is in itself remarkable. I wonder – will we be keeping emails, texts, messaging or postings on Facebook in the same way in 2095?

Technology has changed the way we communicate and to some extent has diminished the art of writing. The letters from Iris Murdoch were considered and composed and not something that was thrown down as the thought occurred to her which is typical of the immediacy of today’s electronic communications.

Has technology also taken away from the art of writing music? Some composers still put pencil to manuscript, but many do not and this is not only because they choose to use technology, but often, also, because they have not learnt the manual writing skills.

Writing music using a computer is surprisingly recent. In the UK, twins Ben and Jonathan Finn created Sibelius 7 to be run on Acorn Computers whilst they were still at university in 1986. By 1998 it was transferred to Windows and Mac and by then the whole world was using it. Finale also came into being in 1988, using the Coda software.

Most of my concerts when I left the Royal Academy of Music, as a clarinettist specialising in British contemporary music, in the 1980’s, were performed from hand written scores. Many of these were clear and rather beautifully written but more, to be honest, were frustratingly illegible.

The act of setting pen or pencil to paper is so much part of a creative process and so very different from that of using a computer. How much, I wonder, has that influenced the art and nature of composition today?

Geraldine Allen

Apple’s total immersion is good for classical music

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Categories: contemporary classical music, music profession

Announced this week is Apple’s music streaming service. Apple’s announcement was inevitable, and composers and songwriters have been predicting the dominance of streaming over downloads for years.

This could be very good for classical music. Not so much in the sense that classical music will be available in the same way as other genres, just as it is now on spotify, but looking rather more to the long term benefit, in the sense that classical music, with its distinctive characteristics, could become a stronger, legitimate and viable alternative music.

Contemporary classical music and living classical composers offer a range and diversity which is really beyond classification (no partial pun intended).

While the global following for pop music is defined by artists as well as genres and sub-genres, appreciation of contemporary classical music is evolving as much more inclusive of the spectrum of styles and sound canvases painted by living composers.

To put it another way, as trends appear, pop music is an all for one (artist) phenomenon (hence the charts) while the scenario for contemporary classical music is increasingly all for all (newly composed work).

Apple will be offering its 800 million users a total immersion in popular music with content pushed on to users at a bombardment level never before experienced. The listeners’ (or should that be users’?) world will become even more frenetic, fragmented and ephemeral.

Enter classical music – space, cohesion, silence, passion, depth, permanence, choice, beauty. We all need something of those qualities in our lives and maybe, just maybe, Apple will unexpectedly open the door to classical music for more people.

tutti is home to the work of over 1,000 composers with 25% of them living and working around the world.

Here are some of our newest acquistions –

Attentive and detailed work from David Stoll in his fourth quartet, Spaces in a Space – listen, download and purchase the score.

Captivating and uplifting music from Rosemary Duxbury – listen to an extract from Reverie for viola and piano and purchase the music.

Wonderful new performances by pianist Alexei Knuppfer of delightful miniatures by Nicholas Wilton (Spanish Dance) – available to download.

An engaging new edition of Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit, brought newly to life by Scottish composer, Graham Robb – (Messe de Minuit) listen to an extract.

Here’s to a great future for classical music – our bite of the Apple!

Sarah Rodgers

Standing up for the BBC

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Categories: contemporary classical music, music profession

The Beeb, Aunty or just plain BBC has once more been at the heart of hot topics in press and other media.  In advance of charter renewal, due in 2016, Parliament has been conducting a review of how well the BBC is doing and has invited contributions from listeners, programme makers and competitors, alike.

And  what a field day the competitors have been having!  The BBC, as public service broadcasters, (they cry), must be distinctive, take risks, present work commercial broadcasters could not afford to, be accountable, serve all the interests of the entire population across the age spectrum.  What they must not do, (they holler), is tread on the turf of the commercial broadcasters, mirror their repertoire or copy their style of presentation.

Particularly loud whining comes from classic fm’s masters about BBC Radio 3, and why? Is it because Radio 3 presenters have become more personable?  Is it because there are drive-time strands which dare to play part of a work instead of the whole work?  Is it because they give broadcast time to composers of film music?  is it because they are encouraging greater interaction with their listeners? Classic fm would rush to claim all of those.  But the real reason is because Radio 3 programming, programme-making and artistic values are in a class way beyond any other classical music broadcaster on the face of the planet, classic fm included.

What other station would dare to broadcast the entire canon of Bach cantatas; would create Baroque Spring, devoting a month of music drama and comedy dedicated to shedding new light on the baroque era, will be broadcasting every Richard Strauss opera in full, this year, 2014?   And now with their latest 18th century music season, joined up programming sees broadcasts from Radio 3, BBC2 and BBC4.

As music lovers, we couldn’t be more fortunate in the vision, creativity and originality of the team at BBC Radio3.

Here are a few insights into contemporary composition, provided by Radio 3 programme-makers, together with links from tutti to explore more of their music –

John Rutter + music by John R.

Peter Maxwell Davies + music by Max

John McCabe + music by John  M.

and finally, not an interview with a woman composer as there wasn’t one to be found(!), but a performance at the BBC proms by the London Symphony Orchestra of part of

Stars, Night, Music and Light by Judith Weir + music by Judith

Bravo BBC!
Sarah Rodgers

Beck’s ground breaking move

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Categories: music profession

I was fascinated recently to hear on BBC Radio 4 an item which was giving rise to much comment in the pop and rock world  because a 90’s Indie- Rock Musician, Beck, decided to make available some of his music only as sheet music with no sound recording.

Jen Chaney in an article for Celebritology in the Washington Post,commented “That’s right, Beck has written 20 new songs and if you want to listen to them at a party or while you exercise, you will have to get out a bunch of paper and read them. This is your punishment for all those free downloads. Music should not be so accessible and easy. It should be hard to get, and Beck’s here to remind you of that, okay?”

For a classically trained musician this has been intriguing, particularly when in the radio interview, the rock expert being interviewed explained that rock composers rarely write down their music and many rock musicians cannot read music.

For many years as a clarinettist, I specialised in performing new music and the joy of receiving scores that had never been performed before and of exploring new musical landscapes was only ever exceeded by the point at which I rehearsed it with other musicians when we were creating a performance together.

OK – so Jen Chaney is correct – it is not easy but it is hugely rewarding, not only individually but as a group of people creating music together!  I will be interested to see the development of the response in the pop world to Beck’s ground breaking move.

We are going to continue to introduce new music and new composers to the catalogue in 2013 and I hope that all those people who enjoy performing from sheet music will continue to explore  this “brave new world” with us.

Geraldine Allen

passionate about composers

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Categories: music profession

Today is the Board meeting (yes I know I seem to be writing a lot about these, but they really are board meetings and not bored meetings!) of the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters where I am a director and chair of the Concert Executive which looks after the interests of classical composers. I suppose I have been doing something of the sort for about 15 years now. Anyway, the Academy has around 2,500 members including famous names such as Paul McCartney and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, all of whom are composers, songwriters and lyricists, British or living and working in the UK. It is a fascinating melting-pot of creative talent with a great deal of accumulative passion! I have a lot of fantastic friends there and we have many interests and issues in common. Quite a few of them have pages on Impulse or recordings and sheet music on tutti . Here are a couple of examples – composer David Bedford who has just written a piece for the passionate Cambridge clarinettists I wrote about recently – more to come on them after the weekend; and Timothy Salter, who is a Prof. at the Royal College of Music and has a great output of CDs under the label Usk Recordings . OK, well I’m off to defend composers and their rights – this is the internet so I had better not get started on that one!

Sarah Rodgers

passions for wednesday written on tuesday

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Categories: music profession

I’m writing tomorrow’s blog today as I have just remembered that I am leaving too early to write it tomorrow! Ok this is a prophetic blog – tomorrow I will be attending an mcps-prs-alliance Board meeting – don’t ask me what that is, I wrote about it in yesterday’s blog – well the one I have just written today, but when you read this as tomorrow’s blog it will seem like yesterday! Terrific stuff going on at the Alliance – lots of schemes and web functionality to make it really easy to licence music whenever, however, wherever you use it – and yes, sorry, but you do have to pay when you use music otherwise the guys and girls who created the music (composers of course) don’t earn from their works. After that, have to spend some time preparing for Cambridge Clarinets. Now if you think I’m passionate about music, you should meet this bunch. Yes it is the annual weekend with nigh on 20 hours of playing music by Bach, Bedford, Coleridge Taylor, Hart and Wilson – and, yes, right again, lots of contemporary composers there. In fact you can check out David Bedford’s website and buy his CDs on tutti we do after all, as our strapline says, bring you closer to classical. Enough prophetic blogging, but don’t forget, even though the date says tuesday, this is really Wednesday 25th July. More on Thursday.


Sarah Rodgers

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