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  The Recognition of the Composer Today (Part V of X)  Bevillia at 18:15 on 11 December 2009

The Recognition of the Composer Today - Stephen Beville.


It is commonly accepted that we live in a 'visual age'. However, by drawing the attention away from the music to the visual exuberance and flamboyance of the performer (thereby creating the cult of the 'rock-star' ) and the spectacle of the performance, it seems that modern popular and rock music has indeed helped to undermine the very historical values of music nurtured over a period of centuries. This may well have began in the 19th century (or even before) thanks to the rise of the virtuoso, but reached monstrous, inflated proportions during the 20th century due to advancements in technology such as worldwide television, video and satellite communications. (Indeed, it is telling how in recent times, even the world of Opera has attempted to differentiate itself as a separate entity from classical music, despite emanating from the same socio-historical structures - and whose musical repertoire was often produced by the same composers).

Hence the cult of the performer often overrides the quality of the music being performed. This would explain the capital importance (not only in the field of rock music) of image aimed at the number of sales and financial return. One might say that the factors of image and sex-appeal have now become tantamount to a succesful career in the 'music business'. For as everyone knows, sex sells - especially when merged with another profession to give a patent disguise of 'respectability'. The 'whore principle' now seems to override every other value in the capitalist West, in practically every industry, but most especially the music industry; a role some musicians are happy to play.

Add to that, in an age of recording and mass availability of products, commercial production and 're-dressing' as well as pre-recording for 'live' performances (complete with phoney applause) have become increasingly evident to maintain a false impression of 'stars' now working under the name of musical 'artists'. This is often to disguise a genuine lack of musical talent. It is the difference between music that is well produced and music that is well composed. There is a difference between music that is well produced (and even well performed) and that which is well composed. (If Beethoven's Fifth Symphony were simply judged by modern criteria of production values - that is according to its premiere performance in 1808 - it would have proven a complete failure, perhaps not have been enlisted for further performances and therefore not have lasted until this very day. And we would have been without one ot the greatest expressions of the human spirit).

Just as today, the majority of pop-songs seem to be composed by a musician 'behind the scenes' for a front man or woman trained in the role of acting and mime, so too are royalties and copyright fees payed to pop-illiterati for the release of 'their' songs in score-albums usually written (notated) by someone else, then mass-distributed by capitalist publishers. However, who is the 'star'? Where does the fame and money ultimately go? Who is ultimately commemorated? The ugly falsity and hypocrisy, as supported by our capitalist publishers, music agencies, record companies and media worldwide is undeniable. In this respect, perhaps we might investigate how so many so-called stars have profited and sold us lies.

Anyone foolish enough to believe that multi-national record companies believe in real art and real artists may be profoundly deluded. That is why how many recordings you sell, how many books or reviews are written about you - indeed, how famous you are - is now, with regard to musical quality and integrity, artistically rather meaningless. For that would explain why record companies sign contracts with people in the first place; to make profit. The promotion of such 'commercial artists' (whether they realise it or not) and their products is most often to make money; for that is the only reason why they are supported by multi-nationals.

Indeed, like Hollywood, the music industry seems to embody everything that is wrong about the world. Perhaps that is why so many movie-stars find it so simple and comfortable to 'cross-over' and make successful careers in the 'music-business' and vice-versa (Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson are the latest in a long line of them); since the commercial retailers (multi-nationals) are often run by the same capitalist minded, musically ignorant agencies. Or is it simply the pressures of global capitalism and competition that compels such corporations to act this way? We may ask the question why is such and such rubbish, mass-distributed, mass-advertised to us....and in the majority of cases it is simply to make money.

The real question is how and why did such mediocrity, such banality ever come to our attention? And there you have it; it takes just one of two culturally/musically uneducated people in commericial power to air or produce such tantalizing but talentless entertainment - under the pretence of 'art' - together with the general lack of public (musical) education to cause a massive avalanche; a lowbrow cultural revolution. And it follows; what one or two irresponsible or uncultured people in power broadcast or publicise, creates a commerical need to employ like-minded people and the downward trajectory of society continues. In an increasingly capitalist world at large, this means global demise. All in all, like much of the Hollywood franchise we import - it adds up to a tremendous waste of money.

The boundaries between fame and infamy have become increasingly blurred, with infamy now often considered a pre-requisite to fame, wealth a power - as in the entertainment industry. Hence we now have the ridiculous situation where people are payed extraordinary amounts of money (through multi-national corporations and institutions - and here one would have to single out the film industry) to demoralise us. In a capitalist society corruption acts as a magnet (as the career of Madonna illustrates). Fortune favours the ugly capitalist. There is massive hypocrisy in the very power structures of capitalism - in how one rises to the top. Quite literally, it pays to be bad. And so often such public demoralisation is applauded by our critics, as for example, in the public honouring (elevation?) of amoral actresses.

Despite its earlier origins, one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century may turn out to be our very capitalism, or at least the capitalist principle that now informs Western soceity and its 'values', of which our age of celebrity represents the apex. A principle whereby the talentless and stupid are promoted, whilst real ability, even life-enhancing genuis often lies dormant in squalor and obscurity. Due to the colossal waste of talent that goes unrecognised, the result is perhaps an immeasurable, untold injustice that is barely comprehensible.

With regard to the importation of American culture, the UK seems to have become just another American state - from the mindless repetition of Hollywood blockbusters on our televison channels to our obsession with celebrity, from the prevalence of drug-addiction in our inner cities to the increase in gun crime. It may after all be the fault of humanity, or what Hobbes called our 'vile natures'. And perhaps it is grotesquely fitting that a British soceity vindicates British scepticism about the world.....

If we have no faith in the kind of soceity we have become, the only answer may be away from the trappings of the market (and collective consensus); in the individual integrity of the private artist. Salvation may indeed reside on the internet, so long as it remains distinctly multi-lateral, not subject to any one-dimensional, commercially institutionalised source. This is because the internet offers access to non-commericial information and knowledge that the popular propoganda of the media are not able to cover up; since commericial publication is no longer any garantee of truth, musical insight or quality . As a result, I have been told numerous times that culture is diversifying, decentralising - and I hope this is true. Perhaps then, our general culture will no longer be subject to the monopoly of television. Indeed, if it were not for the financial cost of maintaining websites, the internet would perhaps be emblematic of a true democracy. But even here, with regard to music as an independant art, one must learn to look beyond the visual.


Neither could I find this part still listed in the Forums!