Tidying Up

Started watching ‘Tidying Up’ a couple of nights ago on Netflix – a lower-rent version of BBC Two’s brilliant ‘Life Laundry’ from years back.

In it, Marie Kondo talks about shedding stuff and ordering what remains in beautifully laid out drawers and shelves.

Prompted me to intersperse my writing with some real-life editing.

Ditched the concert series preview brochures; hung onto anything with programme notes in it – the result is print-based evidence of fruitful relationships with effective classical music PRs over the years.

The pile I threw away was mildly distressing. I see the effort in that print. I project a sense of pride onto their creation. I picture the people who have done the research, and the interviewing, and the writing, and the sub-editing. I stare at the pile of magazines I no longer want (because I haven’t looked at them in six months) and think to throw them away seems like such a shocking waste of everyone’s time, money and effort.

Why even write if the tangible evidence of your creation will, eventually, get thrown away?


This is all at odds with the big classical music journalism thing this week – Ariane Todes announcing plans for a new magazine she wants to put together about the artform and with a specific audience in mind. It’s a great thing, and one I’ve no doubt she will pull off too. It’s also much-needed.

But as much as I love print – I feel reassured by its tactile quality – it’s not lasting. It requires consumers like me to hang on to it in order for the work that was involved putting it together to continue to receive recognition. To discard that print feels disrespectful. Ungrateful. Doesn’t it?

The New Year has come with a whole host of unexpected thought processes, all of them loosely connected around value, purpose, and frugality.

An irony presents itself. The very thing which derives such pleasure for me (and seems to come reasonably easily) – writing – is the same thing that can be discarded so straightforwardly.

Writing is a pleasure, and something I don’t doubt I can do to a reasonably good level (note the use of ‘reasonably‘). It’s my safe haven amid the screaming. When I get paid for it the circle is complete.

What’s odd is the idea of wanting to write when you know that the potential fruits of your labour could be so easily forgotten and thrown away.

At least I hung on to the programme notes, I suppose.

How should artists present themselves on stage?

Evan Mitchell’s latest article on Bachtrack – In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona (7 January 2014) – makes for an interesting read.

The article is primarily about pianists but could just as easily apply to any other musician who steps onto the platform and performs for a ticket-buying audience.

Why should it not be acceptable for body language to convey part of the overall musical meaning? After all, the seats in a concert hall do face the stage. (Good luck selling tickets for any that don’t!) Following this bias against the visual component to its logical conclusion, seats should face away from the stage, giving audience members an empty visual field in which to fully immerse themselves in sound only. Aside from the element of spontaneity, there is surely something else about live music that makes it worthwhile. However restrained or extroverted it may be, the character imparted visually by a performer on the music is part of this experience.

Thought-provoking. Makes me consider what the opportunities and challenges there are for marketeers and PRs when promoting an artist. Can a flamboyant on-stage performing style aid PR and help develop audiences or prove a hindrance?

To what extent is the uninitiated ‘virgin’ audience put off by the prospect of a performed perceived as intense and inaccessible as seen in some promotional photography – the very photography often used to communicate quality and integrity? Quite apart from the discussion amongst officiandos, fans and pedants as to whether an ‘over-expressive’ physical performance masks a lack technical ability or authentic expressivity, can it – basically – put potential new audience members off? Is it potentially counter-productive for both fans and newbies?

Royal College of Music Historical Performance department on tour to Italy

The Royal College of Music Historical Performance department have published a 3 minute video about a recent tour students went on to Italy. The video, promoting the work of the Royal College of Music, was produced by Tall Wall Media.

It’s a charming, laid-back and intimate well-made thing which ticks all of my particular boxes: it’s straightforward; it throws light on some aspects of a further education curriculum; and, it has some great performances in it too. It also exudes high quality production values.

Lovely work.

Safeguarding the future of classical music

Former US critic Greg Sandow’s Four Keys To The Future blog post is gaining traction on the internet. In the post, Sandow condenses the genre’s future success down to four simple directives:

  1. Know what your potential audience is doing and what motivates them
  2. Be where your potential audience is – don’t expect them to come to you
  3. Be yourself
  4. Be vivid

What’s interesting about Sandow is that he’s writing primarily about the art form and those who produce performance. But like he says, the rules extend to even those who advocate the genre.

It’s good to be reminded of the basics from time to time. But, is that reminder also an illustration that not as many arts professionals understand the fundamentals as much as we assume they do? And given that things are increasingly tighter for arts organisations on both sides of the Atlantic, do we need to spend a bit more time on the fundamentals?