Make the case for music!

A couple of months ago, I wrote a response to an article in The Economist lamenting the continued devaluation of music in the curriculum in the UK. A couple of weeks ago a similar article was published in The Times by Alice Thomson. I’m not sure what prompted the article but it drew a supportive letter to the paper from Simon Rattle which was enthusiastically retweeted by Tom Watson.

Whilst we should all encourage continued coverage and discussion about the place of music in our culture and in education specifically, these articles are way too meagre in content to make an impression on anyone who is not already fully in support of music being central to our education. Continue reading “Make the case for music!”

Why was Bach so great?

Bach fulfills a huge number of criteria that people use to judge the quality of a composer. He had extraordinary harmonic control, he wrote beautiful melodies, he had great structural control, he wrote wonderfully for voice and idiomatically across all instruments, he was equally adept at both small- and large-scale works, he had a palpable sense of religious awe, he had a sense of humour, his music has great humanity, he wrote with an almost unbelievable intellectual rigour. Continue reading “Why was Bach so great?”

Should we all pay for orchestras?

The Musicians’ Union (MU) in the UK recently released data about pay for orchestral musicians which raised a few news stories and some comment. Most of the comments I saw bemoaned the disparity between skill level and pay, drawing comparisons between doctors and lawyers in particular. A few talked about the need for orchestras to have a more modern approach to programming and personnel.

Ivan Fischer – a musician whom everyone should hold in high esteem – said in The Times that orchestras needed to ‘rethink and reform’. This was, according to paper, ‘in order to justify their existence and entice future generations to orchestral music’. Continue reading “Should we all pay for orchestras?”

What did the 20th century contribute to piano music?

The simple answer to this question is a huge amount. I might even go so far as to say that use of the piano developed more in the 20th century than in any other period of musical history.

The great period of technological development was the late 1700s into the mid 1800s when the invention and refinement of the mechanism that allows the piano to play both loudly and quietly took place. Musically, composers certainly explored these new opportunities – look at the expressive range of Beethoven’s piano music in comparison to Mozart’s and the difference is obvious. Continue reading “What did the 20th century contribute to piano music?”

A response to The Economist

On March 1st in The Economist there was an article titled ‘Total eclipse of the arts: the quiet decline of music in British schools‘ which detailed the decrease in uptake for music at both GCSE and A-level. There have been many such articles in recent years and all have bemoaned the drop off in funding for music education, particularly for instrumental tuition, whilst drawing nostalgic comparisons with the Britain of 50 years ago when free peripatetic lessons were common and music – at least in glass-half-full comparison – was booming. Continue reading “A response to The Economist”