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CLASSICAL  March 2008

CLASSICAL March 2008

Subject:

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

From:

Jeff Dunn <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Tue, 25 Mar 2008 16:04:26 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (120 lines)

President Karl has, as expected, a number of provocative insights in
his response to me:

>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.

Perhaps I'm in a cocoon here in the SF Bay Area, but most of the orchestras
here have indeed marketed to the "nature of the music and its expression."
This is hampered somewhat by new music that the writers haven't heard '
yet.  Furthermore, interviewing hundreds of audience members over the
last few years here during intermissions has convinced me that SF audiences
DO want to hear new/unusual music, and they often like what they hear
in that category.

>>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.

Yes, what they are taught in school.  And still remember.  And think
about over the years till they finally get a chance to program it.
And think about while playing/conducting a high percentage of standard
repertoire works while rarely listening to anything else except the
newest music from festivals.  In other words, a quasi-stagnant situation.

>>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.

Here's a plan, Pres:

MONEY: (1) Form a NPO, the purpose of which is to recognize and promote
neglected but worthy works of CM.  Initially, I would recommend excluding
works by living composers, so as not to enter the political maelstrom
of the current contemporary music scene and face charges of bias.  For
a start, I would suggest even excluding works not in the pubic domain,
to avoid pressures from publishers, but this is only an option.

(2) Construct a Proposal for grants to fund activities

(3) Form a Committee of "experts" (qualifications TBD, Could include
critics, academics, others who pride themselves on exposure to a vast
range of repertoire over one or more historical periods of music. Adding
a celebrity or two might be a good idea as well.)

(4) Have the Committee determine criteria for "Most Neglected Work for
the Year" and solicit nominations from appropriate sources. A principal
source should be that of recording companies, whose sales figures
and reviews of releases could provide some objective evidence. We
might even be able to get some cash from them.

POWER, PRESTIGE: (5) Publicize the chosen work or works.  Award a trophy,
the "Negligee" to the winner(s).  Send out press releases with reasons
why the work is worthy to orchestras, the press, etc.  Provide recognition
to gatekeepers who program the awardees.  Provide secondary recognition
to organizations that consistently present other unusual works.

(6) When funds permit, the organization can move on to include works
that haven't been properly recorded, and help subsidize recording projects.
It is probably best to stick to works that have already been recorded
to start with.

>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.

(7) As power and prestige of the organization grows, a website could
provide a means for the public to be involved, with comments, votes,
recommendations, etc.  A lobbyist could even be hired to gladhand the
gatekeepers.  Writers from our CM List and elsewhere could write background
material on the music.

>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.

I don't think many people attend concerts because of repertoire.  A big
name is far more likely to attract them.  This project must be aware it
would remain a minor part of program determination, but anything would
be better than the way things are done now.  Down the road, if the
organization were successful, it could branch into the education of
future listeners, but I don't think anything more will happen there
till Finland invades and takes over the government.

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

I told you.  Now I won't forget it.

Jeff Dunn
[log in to unmask]

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