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Blog Category: music profession

The Political Power of Music

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The Political Power of Music

“The Noise of Time” by Julian Barnes is a novel about the life of Dimitri Shostakovich.

When I was reading it I was interested to be reminded how composers were used by Stalin and the Communist Party in an attempt to control the direction of new music. Stalin applied the notion of “socialist realism” to classical music, which demanded that mediums of art convey the struggle and triumph of the proletariat.

Musicians who hoped to gain financial support from the party were obligated to join the Union of Soviet Composers, a division of the Ministry of Culture. New works were then expected to be presented to the Union of Soviet Composers for approval prior to publication and that is how the Party hoped to control the direction of new music.

It is fascinating that in the 20th century the power of new music was considered to be so great as to be a threat if it was not controlled by the Party.

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Sir John Manduell dies at 89

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Sir John Manduell
Sir John Manduell CBE 1928 – 2017

There was a time when the name of John Manduell would simply have been impossible to escape were you a musician or composer connected to the British music scene. The catalogue of John’s positions of leadership in major musical institutions is unparallelled and the legacy of his influence will continue to be felt and recognised long after his passing.

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Managing Your Concert

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Concert Concerns?

“How do I find and book the venue, promote the concert, print the event material, pay the musicians and still raise funds for the charity I want to support with my concert?”

Impulse music consultants This was the basic content of a telephone conversation we had recently with a musician who was taking advantage of our free half hour consultation.

The musician concerned had sorted out the important elements which was the repertoire and the performers but just did not have the time or mental space to cope with doing anything else and the concert is only a few weeks away.

We helped take the pressure out of the situation as well as ensuring the concert has the best opportunity of not only covering its costs but providing a good amount of profit for the very worthy cause it is supporting. We are supplying them with our knowledge and expertise by creating a plan that they will now put into action for themselves. This includes advice on collaborating with the charity and the venue by asking the right questions and working through a checklist of relevant items, as well as a ‘critical path’ which details what action to take when. Our service also includes one to one follow up over the phone to be a sounding board and support, with the aim of helping them to create the maximum amount of publicity and income with the least amount of stress.

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Contemporary composers: pretentious and tuneless

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covered ears

A recent poll carried out by YouGov for the Symphony Hall Birmingham revealed that over 80% of those asked are of the opinion that classical music must change or wither.
Among views collected was this observation that the music of contemporary composers does less than nothing to draw in new concert-goers.
OK, so since when was a pile of bricks, or half a cow in formaldehyde or an unmade bed not unpretentious and out of tune with Joe public?

How about contemporary theatre – that can be shocking or incomprehensible; and who hasn’t described contemporary dance as angular or inelegant.

What is the purpose of contemporary art and the role of contemporary artists if it is not to refect, challenge and celebrate contemporary life?
Or, do the arts exist only to entertain, provide distraction and blot out the real world?

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Mirga takes the helm at CBSO

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Maestro or conductor – diva or person – commander or sharer

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
I tuned in part way through a Radio 4 broadcast this morning, featuring the new conductor of the CBSO Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. A member of the orchestra who was speaking was saying how refreshing it was to speak with a conductor who was not always talking about themselves or their career and interests. Mirga is actually interested in the wellbeing of each person in the orchestra, he said and is far more likely to be discussing what you are doing or how you are feeling than anything else.

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Classical Legends Awarded Blue Plaques

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Kathleen FerrierClassical legends Sir Neville Marriner and Kathleen Ferrier were amongst the 47 iconic musicians to be honoured with a Blue Plaque in celebration of BBC Music Day.

All 40 BBC Local Radio stations and Asian Network in England teamed up with the British Plaque Trust to find local legends who deserved to be better recognised in their local area. Suggestions poured in from the public and today, BBC Music Day, the full list of new plaques was revealed.

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More Work for less Money

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ABO report 2016More concerts, larger audiences, wider outreach and a 5% drop in income – sound familiar?!

This was in a report commissioned by the Association of British Orchestras showing that orchestras in 2016 “delivered more than 4,000 concerts and reached almost 5 million attendees and 900,000 children and young people amidst a 5% drop in total income”.

Orchestras are succeeding in achieving larger audiences and engaging with more young people but it all has a cost which has to be balanced with an 11% drop in funding from local authorities, discounted ticketing, free concerts and fixed fee performances.

Read the report: The State of Britain’s Orchestras in 2016.

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Music is the DIY profession

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diy-musicianOurs is a do it yourself profession.

Many professional musicians today try to be experts in everything. Not just their “art” whether that is composing or performing or a combination of both but also in marketing, promotion, website design, videos, photography, concert administration, accountancy.

Everywhere we look we are bombarded by “10 things you must do” which will ensure instant success, and it is always a quick fix. But is it?

We were visiting our local picture framer in Norfolk recently and really I do him a disservice to call him a picture framer. We first came across him when we bought a work by a wonderful artist, Rachel Lockwood, who lives on the Norfolk coast and has all her framing done by this particular framer.

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Closed for music

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Visiting my local woodwind instrument repair shop I was saddened to hear that they will be closing in the summer. This I am told is caused by fewer children learning traditional instruments alongside the decline in instrument provision in schools.

Where instrument learning is provided by the school the parents are usually expected to foot the bill and for many this makes having lessons prohibitive. Government funding over the past three years has been declining and music is fast becoming the preserve of those people who can afford it.

This is combined with the problem that it is frequently no longer considered fashionable for children to learn instruments such as the french horn, bassoon and tuba.

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Female voices creating disharmony

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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.

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Living on Paper – a Question for Composers

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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.

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Apple’s total immersion is good for classical music

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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.

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Standing up for the BBC

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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.

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Beck’s ground breaking move

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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 tutti.co.uk 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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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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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.

KBO,

Sarah Rodgers

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