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  The Recognition of the Composer Today (Part II OF X)  Bevillia at 19:21 on 21 November 2009
 

THE RECOGNITION OF THE COMPOSER TODAY - Stephen Beville

II


The global recognition of music has been for time immemorial dependant upon its distribution; whether that be the proliferation of notated music to literate, performing musicians (as in pre-20th century Western music) or the dissemination of audio/visual recordings today. Such distribution has been subject throughout the ages to wealth. Lassus, Monteverdi and Beethoven all had essential connections with men of social status and wealth. For it was with the large-scale printing and proliferation of scores resulting in widespread performances that helped give these composers recognition during their lives. In addition, it must be said that all were actively involved in performing their own music (a factor sadly in wanting from many contemporary composers today). It should be recalled that J.S Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were legendary performers in their own time.

Some people believe this level of wide appreciation was the result of a greater intellectual 'climate' and to some extent this is true given the cultivation and intelligence of rulers and monarchs - who often commissioned works and sponsored performances from great composers. For example, Frederick the Great commisioned J.S Bach, as did King George I commission Handel, as did Emperor Joseph II commission Mozart and so on..... At the Congress of Vienna in 1814, political leaders of Europe were assembled to agree a peace treaty, and they did not retreat from hearing some of the greatest, most radical music of the time in a concert of orchestral music by Beethoven (the programme included his Symphony No 7).

Even in the mid 20th century, John F Kennedy - that most popular of leaders - was well acquainted with Stravinsky, and no doubt well informed of his artistic importance. (JFK may have thought of the association as educational, and Stravinsky may well have hijacked it to popularise himself). In our own time, President Pompidou of France was enlightened enough to sponsor IRCAM - that radical 'Mecca' of avant-garde and electronic music. However, closer to home we find Tony Blair entertaining and chaperoning with the British pop-group Oasis. (No doubt, aware of the 'self-popularisation' and potential vote-winning possibilities from the image of such an association, he would hardly be the first politician to exploit popular music for political ends). In modern times, for better or for worse (depending on their politics) it would seem that rulers and politicians are
encouraged to 'dumb-down' any association with classical music for fear of jeapordising their popularity. That does not bother me so much. However, where there have been cultural renaissances in history (such as the Enlightenment) it is because the people in power, cultural power, were sufficiently enlightened, cultivated and responsible to sponsor and promote contemporary music, in recognition that a great composer's music is capable of enriching the entire world.

The profound changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution and the birth of modern 'democratic' capitalism may have precluded that possibility once and for all. In the modern world, the power resides with a commercial system that culturally enslaves masses (who mistakenly believe themselves to be free) for financial return; a commercial system of mass-appeal via advertising to the lowest common denominator, a commercial system perhaps inversely proportionate to the intellect of man. In other words, wealth often goes to the least talented, least intellectual people - who produce commodities with the least evidence of individual will or value. As a result, the people most famous are often those least worthy of fame and commemoration.

Thanks to the power of mass-commercialism, the 'greatness' accorded to musicians is no longer decided by an educated minority, but often a musically illiterate and uneducated majority. To put it mildly, the mob rules. That is why notions such as 'the people have spoken', 'the people's this and that' are highly dubious. And with this in mind, the downward trajectory of culture becomes apparent unless the general standard of (musical) education is accordingly heightened. However, the chances of the highly musically educated in finding work becomes less and less once the commercial need to represent their interests diminishes. That is why it is well-nigh impossible for the contemporary composer to earn a livelihood - because people no longer seem to be taken by intellectual pursuits. And without money in a capitalist world, there is no freedom, promotion or recognition..

  Re: THE RECOGNITION OF THE COMPOSER TODAY (PART II OF X)  Nicolas Tzortzis at 18:09 on 23 November 2009
 

very sad,but unfortunately,very true...
that's exactly how it is...
i'm looking forward to the next parts of the essay