I cannot claim that this is an original idea, but the friend who shared it with me (Arie Vardi of Tel Aviv) is not in the least bit interested in blogging, social networking, or indeed in anything to do with computers [I must say that I am beginning to see his point...]. So I thought I would in turn share it with my blog readers on his behalf.

Farmer's market

I am sure that readers will be aware of a policy shared by EU and USA - and possibly by many other countries too - as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (C.A.P.) - sometimes known as the Crazy Common Agricultural Policy (C.C.A.P.) - or its equivalent elsewhere, of subsidising farmers on the basis of how much land they have, as opposed to how much food they produce. It has led to a situation in which farmers are sometimes effectively paid not to produce.

We have read of people who are not even farmers at all - simply people with lots of land that is classed as agricultural - managing to screw huge amounts of money out of the system in the form of subsidies.

It is a loopy system that has quite rightly enraged many - most notably either people who have no land, or farmers who are in the business of producing food rather than making money for not doing.

A serious subject for sure. However....:

 

A feast of un-performed masterworks

When I go into my loft at home I encounter an ever-growing pile of manuscripts and  musical material produced on Sibelius software and similar, that has either been pushed into my hand or posted to me via third parties.

There have never been as many people on Earth; correspondingly, there have never been as many musicians desperate for performing opportunities, and never as many composers desperate for their works to be performed.

At the same time, the number of opportunities to present contemporary music is diminishing, partly because of the number of composers, and partly because of the [Western] worldwide reduction in the number of concerts.

Many of the new scores I get to see [like some of my colleagues, I do try my best to look at every piece that arrives and attempt to form an opinion] - is good worthwhile music. I suspect that a lot of it really is not good, but the situation places one in a position of having to arbitrate over something that one is not knowledgeable enough about to make a informed decision; it makes one feel reluctantly arrogant.

Even in the situation of really believing in the music presented, it is only possible to give a performance of a very small number of new works.

For one thing, there is increasing pressure to play only tried and tested universally accepted great works of previous eras.

Secondly, as well as the vast amount of under-exposed recent music, huge tracts of good music from the past has been marginalised by the shrinking of the repertoire acceptable to the marketing industry, which passes its selectivity on to artistic management. This increases further the difficulty of presenting today's new music.

A further dimension is in the form of the music of the second half of the Twentieth Century - the contemporary music of my youth - most of which is still regarded by the vast majority as indigestible, unapproachable and even downright frightening.

These things combined make the performers' task of presenting Twenty-First Century music daunting. The final decisions are made festival managers, radio producers, orchestra managers etc., in conjunction with their respective marketing departments, and, only at the end of the line, by performers. Those performers, if they are so minded and determined enough, can persuade some of the more enlightened promoters of the greatness of a new work. The promoters then have the job of persuading the audience to come to the performances: that it is worth them hearing something new, rather than music - or, at least, a style - with which they are already familiar.

God knows what the answer is. I grew up in a world in which the names of Stravinsky, Bartók and even Debussy - let alone Schönberg and his followers - were regarded as dirty words, and their music simply wrong and execrable by most music-lovers, large numbers of performers, and particularly by teachers. I became a professional through determinedly promoting that repertoire, as I found the first half of the Twentieth Century particularly stimulating and inspiring.

I also actively promoted the works of composers who were either already in the recent past, or composers who were still alive but older than I - Messiaen, Tippett, Henze, Maxwell Davies, Goehr, Stockhausen, Boulez and many others.

However, I am now in the position of being older than most of the composers who want me to perform their works, and they are the product of a very different world to mine - a world in which intellectualism is regarded as elitist, and the lines between pop, film, musical, and art music are becoming so blurred for commercial reasons that it is difficult to find much that doesn't fit into multiple categories badly at the same time. [I know there are exceptions, and I am a great supporter of them, so don't bother.....]

 

The solution

Here is my suggestion: enlightened governments of the world unite! There should be a government initiative in all those nations in which new music is proliferating (i.e. all of the First and Second Worlds, and quite a chunk of the Third as well) - which we could call The Common Contemporary Composition Policy (C.C.C.P. - which could stand for Современная Солидарная Сочинительская Реформа....*), of giving a subsidy out of tax-payers' money to composers NOT to produce music. * You could perhaps extend its title to 'Crazy Common Contemporary Composition Policy', although its acronym of C.C.C.C.P. wouldn't be as much fun.

This would of course give rise to even more composers. However, in those countries that have turned the gift of Further Education into a commercial business - for example the U.K., where each composition undergraduate unit would make £9,000 + per annum for the industry - the scheme would boost conservatories' and universities' income hugely; this, without destroying the thousands of Canadian trees that presently go towards producing the mountains of paper that the distribution of new music consumes. My loft would gradually empty as I successfully distributed its contents between my musician friends, the local tip and my garden incinerator - carefully keeping the best for myself to try to elicit an opportunity to present it somewhere.

In the meantime, thousands of 'composers', some of whom need never have written any music in the first place - and probably should be encouraged not to - could, along with the less productive 'farmers' of our community, join the ranks of those living off benefits and sit back and enjoy the fruits of their non-labour.

We would surely all be happier.

 

P.S. Perhaps we could extend the scheme to subsidising the classical music marketing industry on the same basis. Or any other branch of the marketing industry for that matter.