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CLASSICAL  March 2008

CLASSICAL March 2008

Subject:

Re: My "Blind Taste Test" at an NSO Concert

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 22 Mar 2008 12:28:52 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

Jeff Dunn <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>How many of these gatekeepers are truly exposed to the vast range of
>repertoire out there?  They're too busy doing other aspects of their
>jobs to do a thorough and fair review of the possibilities.  Nor is
>there any reward for doing so.

Ah, the reward factor...I believe that one of the major problems hurting
the future of classical music has to do with product and customer
development...how's that for using bean counter terms.

Most anyone in business will tell you that you need to develop new
products.  Yet, in classical music our new product line is limited to
the performer.  Overlooked is the new product line of different music!

I often wonder if popular music would be so "popular" if the only addition
to the product line would be the performer...I wonder what it would be
like having Madonna singing Jerome Kern?

It seems that classical music has marketed itself as old tunes.  Are
those old tunes the best?  That is a rough question.

As a friend of mine recently wrote to me, "we don't keep reading the
same book over and over again." Yet indeed we do that with art music.

Why did Haydn have to keep writing something new...his patron wanted
new music.  Same for Bach...something new.  Today the art music audience
doesn't want something new.  Yes, there was a time when what was new
music was non-tonal and not "soothing." But I wonder how things changed
from the time of Haydn, and why.  Was it because we thought of art music
in different terms?  In short, what is it that keeps a person from wanting
to hear something different?  I believe marketing plays a big role in
it all.  Our local "classical" radio station markets itself as music to
sleep by.  When our symphony plays something other than the standard
fare (a rare occasion) the press release might say something like,
"written by the Pulitzer prize winning composer..." Rarely does the
marketing speak to the nature of the music and its expression.  The
programming of less familiar music is seen as an obligation instead
of an opportunity.  Marketing usually reflects that perspective.

Or is it that we have a different sort of audience?  Does it have to do
with the notion that more of the audience could actually read music?

>What unusual repertoire is ever selected is determined more by chance
>and poliltics than anything else.

I am not surprised by this observation.  I believe it is also determined
by publishers who promote only some of the composers in their catalog.
It is also determined by what the musicians know...and what they are
taught in school.

>I suggest we turn the laments into action: form a lobbying organization
>that roots out these gatekeepers, pesters them with cogent repertoire
>suggestions (accompanied with appropriate marketing material), and
>attempts to raise the consciousness of the concert-going patrons as to
>the role they can play in the process. With Karl as President.

Ok, as your President, tell me what you would have me do.  First off,
keep in mind that management is concerned about money, power, and prestige;
in that order.  So, if we want to be successful in this endeavor, how
do we maximize our effort?  A letter requesting a performance of Atterberg
coming from me won't mean a thing.  However, if I were the music critic
of a major paper (do we still have any?) it would carry more weight.
What we might do is send some CDs of less familiar repertoire to some
Board members of the major orchestras.  Of course, getting them to listen
might be a problem, but it might be worth a try.

How does one glamourize these forgotten works?  Our local orchestra
manager would be the first to admit that he doesn't know that much about
classical music.  So, I don't know if he would listen.

So, let's say you get some board members hot on Rubbra.  Unless you
have the orchestra marketing doing their best, the audience may not
show up...Rubbra, who he?  Or do they come because of the soloist?  Well
last week it appeared that Andre Watts took second place to the South
By Southwest music festival...Watts has always been a big draw here in
Austin.  So why was the hall 1/3rd empty...was it South x Southwest or
was it the repertoire?  Even for me, someone who didn't attend either,
if I had a choice...well, I could always drag out a recording of the
repertoire that was on the Symphony concert...but I certainly couldn't
find CDs of everything offered at SXSW.

Ok, let's say the Sowerby 5th Symphony was going to be done at the
Symphony concert.  Well I know I would have gone, but who else?  Perhaps
if you painted this as a special event..."long lost romantic symphony
to receive world premiere" you might have a few people show up.

So, I guess it would take a massive overhaul of the way things are done.

Maybe we need a festival devoted to forgotten music.  What would we call
it?  I am reminded of a brilliant marketing touch of some years ago.  I
think it was the Knoxville Symphony, under David Van Vactor.  They had
a connoisseur series where they performed obscure repertoire.  Great
idea, appeal to snobs.

As your president, tell me what you want me to do...however, if you want
me to be more concise...forget it.

Karl

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