A few words about the Mylene Klass / Classic Brits / Classic FM bollocks this week.
1. Classic Brits is fine. It’s about as much an awards show as BBC Music awards is or was (I’m not sure whether the BBC are bringing it back this year – I hope not). Awards show are basically industry wonks getting extended advertising to raise revenue streams. I don’t like the content – it’s not intended for me- so I won’t watch it. Equally I don’t really give a fuck about it.
2. Criticism of Classic Brits and its content is reverse snobbery. That’s not on. Classical music experts should be better than deriding other genres or trying to get a programme that increases the reach of those genres stopped. There are countless individuals in the music industry who derive income from playing genres you’re making a judgment call on. That’s one of the ugly sides of the classical music world I struggle to be at ease with.
3. The interview with Myleen Klass in which she referred to ‘orchestra snobs’ could be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Some in the orchestral sector see it as a direct attack on them as members of orchestras. It could just as easily be a statement about classical music/orchestra purists. The point is not really about whose being criticised as much as the way in which tribes are created when the comments are made and then subsequently used to fit agendas. In this post-truth we need to be alert to it occurring and who’s skewing things.
4. Klass’ comments about opera and tuxedos were massively cack-handed. The interview itself didn’t really make any sense. It sounded a bit garbled. And yet someone still managed to get a newsline out of it, which everyone bit on and then promptly went wild about. That could be just as much an illustration of someone out with rusty knives to get at Myleene or Classic FM.
5. If the comment about opera wasn’t cack-handed, then Myleene was deliberately trolling the rest of the classical music world. If that’s the case then somebody briefed her to do that. I hope to God it wasn’t anyone at Classic FM. I can’t imagine it was. That said, the interview was published on the CFM website and then tweeted by CFM management. Odd given they sponsor the Association of British Orchestras and support the London Symphony Orchestra (and various other UK orchestras).
6. People reacted with fury on Twitter – I saw vitriol, condescension, and anger. The root of that emotional response is perfectly understandable, but the tone of the argument did end up making what Myleene said appear like a bit of truism. When I challenged four people about that (two publically and two privately) the reaction was a little muted. Two suggested that the way the conversation has morphed into a laugh about tuxedos and ball gowns was evidence of the right way of dealing with it. Disappointingly this only serves to illustrates how tribes within the music industry have become entrenched, and within one of those tribes cliques have emerged. Laughing at one another could be seen as thinly veiled sneering – also a bad thing.
7. Classical music isn’t elitist. Nor is the UK clientele elitist. But there are snobs everywhere – those who make judgments about you based on the amount of academic study you’ve completed, or those who decide whether you’re a serious fan or not according to what composers you listen to (there are other examples of snobbery). Classical music doesn’t exist in a bubble – it is music. We forget that. Cliques form around shared beliefs. It is cliques that threaten classical music, not the genre itself nor lack of audience engagement.
8. This point goes wider than the Myleene Wotnot, to include some recent interactions I’ve had online. My expectations are high from performers and I think, I’m all honesty, I have set them too high without realising. I seek to advocate and celebrate to popularise the genre that has been a lifelong friend. But I’m less inclined when discussions are hostile or dismissive in the public arena. In those moments I feel as though my intent is either being overlooked or ignored in favour of a personal agenda projected onto a discussion. I’m committing to reminding myself of what others (good) intent is at every stage in a heated discussion. I hope the noisy shouty people will try and do the same.
9. People complain about the death of music journalism. Yet I see there being an increase in the amount of discussion going on about the genre. That is a good thing. Just the other day I said to a friend that I can’t imagine writing for anyone else but Thoroughly Good. The moment I write for money I’d have to pause before expressing a potentially strong opinion. Sustaining discussions and commentary on blogs helps keep the relationship between writer and artist healthy, and the resulting content authentic.
10. Classic Brits is in June sometime on ITV. I won’t be watching. So you’ll need to find the broadcast details yourself. Oh, and you there, Classic FM. Don’t let this happen again. I expected a whole lot more frankly. Do it again and I’m writing to your parents.