Women composers in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2019 (or lack thereof)

It’s going to take a brave producer in the commercial space to put something unusual or unfamiliar in the playlist and not then look at the RAJARs and wonder what impact that decision has had on the listenership.

The Daffodil Perspective is a blog and podcast that ‘champions gender equality in classical music’.

One post published yesterday has been doing the rounds and has caught my eye. In ‘Classic FM – Where are all the women?’, the author draws attention to the lack of women composers who feature in the publically voted ‘Hall of Fame’ chart Classic FM has since its inception.

It is a sad indictment (still) that women composers aren’t given the due prominence they deserve – both historical creatives and the present day. The work to increase their profile and their output will never cease to be required, but it has been my understanding (skewed possibly by being increasingly in attendance at women composer-focussed endeavours and concerts) that the situation is improving. Awareness is increasing.

There’s a quote from the post I take issue with slightly.

Don’t Classic FM (and the BBC, LPO, Wigmore Hall etc) have a responsibility to educate their listeners?

The Daffodil Perspective, 23 April 201

None of the arts organisations in the UK – nor across the world – have a specific responsibility to educate their listeners. Those organisations listed in the blog post might strive to educate (as in the BBC’s values – ‘inform, educate, and entertain’) but they don’t have a responsibility to. One could argue that an Arts Council funded organisation like the LPO has a contractural obligation to meet the expectations laid down by their funding body, but being privately funded, Wigmore Hall doesn’t (although its education programme is in itself very strong anyway – but then that’s because Wigmore Hall is brilliant, IMHO).

Importantly, Classic FM has absolutely no responsibility to ‘educate’ their listeners. That isn’t their raison d’etre. They’re a commercial exercise: a broadcast outlet for a specific audience demographic, part of a significant media organisation.

I’ve long since stopped regarding Classic FM (and its most recent sibling Scala) as being present in our lives first and foremost to satisfy listeners, rather than the advertising it sells and the profits its raise are its primary concern, and its stakeholders the ones the media execs are accountable to.

So what now? Will Classic FM continue to justify playing nothing but the same music year after year by using biased data like these polls?

Or can Classic FM exert their power as a major influencer of taste, creating more balanced programming and exposing the massive amount of awesome classical music written by women?

The Daffodil Perspective, 23 April 2019

As long as commercial radio is funded by advertising (like that’s ever going to change) then the playlist will always be the same. Commercial classical music radio stations might play classical, but they’re not their for the good of the wider classical music world. They can’t be. They need to appeal to the widest possible audience to drive reach and increase profits. That’s not to say that women composers music cannot appeal to the widest possible audience. Far from it.

But it’s going to take a brave producer in the commercial space to put something unusual or unfamiliar in the playlist and not then look at the RAJARs and wonder what impact that decision has had on the listenership.

Listen to the Thoroughly Good Podcast spotlighting six women composers and their work at the PRS for Music Wild Plum Arts Workshop

Listen to Dr Sophie Fuller discuss Trinity Laban’s Venus Blazing project

For fuck’s sake Norman

Norman Lebrecht has posted a few sentences about pianist Yuja Wang’s recent performance of Prokofiev 5 with the National Symphony Orchestra.

He gleefully includes a description of what the pianist was wearing on stage from one of his ‘readers’. I’m not going to repeat it here. You can read it (if you absolutely must) in the screen-grab above.

In an attempt to justify the editorial of the post, Norman includes a link to a ‘proper’ reviewer – Anne Midgett at the Washington Post. But he stops the quote mid-way through Anne’s paragraph.

The effect? Lebrecht reinforced the barely hidden sexism by suggesting that a professional critic thinks and feels the same way Norman and his ‘reader’ does about the pianist. And that is reflected in the contemptible comments posted below.

Anne’s full quote about the effect of Yuja Wang’s outfit is as follows:

“The piano soloist was Yuja Wang, a brilliant artist who is fond of provoking conservative audiences with skimpy concert attire, and who on Thursday appeared to have forgotten her dress altogether and looked as if she were playing in her underwear. The bourgeoisie refused to be “épater-ed,” instead rising to its feet at her masterful, fluid playing in an unusual piece (it was the NSO’s first performance of it) that is itself rather exuberant and naughty.”

In other words – as far as the reviewer was concerned – no-one batted an eyelid because they were focusing on the music.

For fuck’s sake.


Audible’s Channels and Books vie for my attention

I’ve been an Audible subscriber for over a year now ever since a colleague recommended Steve Peter’s brilliant Chimp Paradox. 

Aside from Peters’ copy (and his strangely reassuring voice when he read it out loud), I’ve come to love the relative simplicity of Audible’s offering. Now, it has something new up its sleeve. Channels.

Building on its archive on spoken unabridged book collection, Audible’s Channels offer curated playlists of podcasts, familiars from BBC Radio 4, and a bucket-load of original productions too. A sort Amazon Prime/Netflix for spoken word fans.

So far I’ve binged on Jennie Bond’s 8 part Elizabeth II: Life Of A Monarch, flirted with Wired and The New York Times (the delivery is a little too polished for it to sound like journalism – all it needs is a gentle tweak in direction, I’m sure), clapped my hands together excitedly at the Short Story playlist (curated, I suspect, from the archive of Short Story collections Audible has at its fingertips), and absorbed myself in the Stories Worth Sharing playlist (the Beginning and Middle podcast is a revelation).

Years ago, there was talk and a plan for Channel 4 Radio. I remember feeling disappointed when the plug eventually got pulled. Audible offers an exciting alternative. I really hope it thrives.

Move over Adonis

It’s reassuring to read Daren Pritchard, a London-based performance artist, articulate the same gripes I’ve had about the use of ‘perfect’ male bodies in a preponderance of print publications.

Daren Pritchard comments on GBBO 2014 baker Iain Watters’s appearance in Gay Times ‘Naked issue’:

“For Gay Times to feature Iain Watters, it’s refreshing to see a man with a real, ‘average’ body and not a worked-up fantasy, an ‘ideal’. 31 year old Iain admits that he wouldn’t describe himself as body-confident, but he doesn’t take stripping off too seriously and was persuaded by the charity cause. We need more men to step forward into Iain’s or Olly Murs’ shoes and confidently offer something real.”