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Stravinsky & Diaghilev – Anniversary of a Collaboration

1920 was a busy year for Stravinsky and Diaghilev with the premiere of the ballet Le Chant du Roissignol on 2nd February and the premiere of Pulcinella on 15th May.

Stravinsky first worked with Diaghilev on L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird) in 1910. The work is of interest both as Stravinsky’s breakthrough piece and as the beginning of one of the most well known collaborations in the ballet world.

Le Chant du roissignol

Le Chant du Roissignol ballet premiered on 2nd February but had it’s origins in Stravinsky’s opera Le Rossignol (The Nightingale), based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, which he began working on in 1908. In 1917, Stravinsky adapted the music into a Symphonic Poem.

The first act of the opera was written in 1908, with acts two and three written between 1913 and 1914. Stravinsky put the work on the opera on hold while he worked with Diaghilev on L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird), Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. An original costume design from The Rite of Spring is pictured above.

Stravinsky’s commented on his decision to adapt the work into a Symphonic Poem:

I reached the conclusion—very regretfully, since I was the author of many works for the theatre—that a perfect rendering can be achieved only in the concert hall, because the stage presents a combination of several elements upon which the music has often to depend, so that it cannot rely upon the exclusive consideration which it receives at a concert.

The Symphonic Poem was premiered in 1919 in Geneva and greeted with criticism due to the non-traditional use of dissonance and instruments. This may have influenced Stravinsky’s decision to adapt the piece once again, this time into a ballet for Diaghilev.

The ballet was choreographed by Léonide Massine with décor by Henri Matisse and danced by Tamara Karsavina, Lydia Sokolova and Stanislas Idzikowski. The ballet is also divided into three parts. The ballet begins with the Nightingale delighting the Emperor of China. In the second scene, the Emperor receives a mechanical nightingale which fascinates the court, leading to the Nightingale flying away. In the final scene, the Emperor becomes ill and meets Death. The Nightingale appears outside the Emperor’s window, and persuades Death to let the Emperor recover. The Nightingale leaves, returning to nature.

After the initial run in 1920, the ballet was revived in 1925 with new choreography by George Balanchine, at the time one of Diaghilev’s students. This was the beginning of another great collaboration for Stravinsky. Balanchine and Stravinsky shared a similar taste in music, art and movement and both had a passion for creation. Stravinsky commented:

I do not see how one can be a choreographer unless, like Balanchine, one is a musician first.

Balanchine was immediately willing to take the challenge of choreographing the ballet, saying:

I learned the music well, and so … when Diaghilev asked me to stage Stravinsky’s ballet Le Chant du Rossignol, I was able to do it quickly.

Pulcinella

Pulcinella was based on an 18th Century play Quatre Polichinelles Semblables (“Four identical Pulcinellas”). The character of Pulcinella orginated in the 17th Century Italian commedia dell’arte.

The work was commissioned by Diaghilev who wanted a new ballet based on a piece which at the time was believed to have been composed by Pergolesi. This idea was inspired by Vincenzo Tommassini’s The Good-Humoured Ladies written in 1917, which adapted sontatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Conductor Ernest Ansermet approached Stravinsky about adapting the music, but this did not initially appeal to the composer. After Stravinsky spent time studying the scores Diaghilev had discovered in Naples and London, he changed his mind and re-wrote the music, taking themes and textures and adding modern rhythms, cadences and harmonies.

This work marked the beginning of Stravinsky’s second period as a composer, his “neo-classical” period which included works such as his octet for winds, the “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto, the Concerto in D for string orchestra, the Symphony of PsalmsSymphony in C, and Symphony in Three Movements, the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex and the ballets Apollo and Orpheus. Stravinsky stated that:

Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.

The ballet’s creative team again featured Léonide Massine who wrote the libretto, created the choreography and danced the title role alongside Tamara Karsavina, Vera Mentchinova, Lubov Tchernicheva, Enrico Cecchetti, Stanislas Idzikowski, Sigmund Novak and Nicholas Zverev. The costumes and sets were designed by Pablo Picasso. The premiere was conducted by Ernest Ansermet.

Stravinsky

The orchestration, as is often the case with Stravinsky’s work is not a standard ensemble. Pulcinella calls for Solo Soprano, Solo Tenor, Solo Bass voices, plus 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, 1 trumpet in C, 1 trombone plus strings which, inspired by Baroque ensembles, are grouped into Concertino – string quartet (2 violins, viola, cello) plus double bass and Ripieno of 8 violins, 4 violas, 3 celli and 3 double basses.

The ballet is in one act and features the title character of Pulcinella along with his girlfriend Pimpinella and their friends. The story starts with Florindo and Cloviello serenading Prudenza and Rosetta. The women are unimpressed and shower the suitors with water before Prudenza’s father, a doctor, chases them away.

The next section begins with Rosetta and her father. Rosetta dances for Pulcinella leading to a kiss which is interrupted by Pimpinella, Pulcinella’s girlfriend. Florindo and Cloviello arrive and being jealous of Pulcinella, beat him up. It seems that Pulcinella has been stabbed, but this is ruse to get Pimpinella to forgive him. Furbo, arrives dressed as magician and brings Pulcinella back to life. Pimpinella forgives Pulcinella, Florindo and Cloviello successfully woo Prudenza and Rosetta and the ballet ends with the marriage of the three couples.

Stravinsky’s Pulcinella’s notebook is part of the British’s Library’s collection and can be viewed at https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/stravinsky-pulcinella

Image source, Rite of Spring Costume: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lélue_(Sacre_du_printemps,ballets_russes)(4557057918).jpg

The National Trust at 125 – Honouring British Composers

The National Trust was founded on the 12th January 1895 by Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. As the Trust reaches its 125th birthday, we share its celebration of famous British composers and the work it does to inspire a new generation.

Octavia Hill

Leith Hill Place – Ralph Vaughan Williams

Leith Hill Place in Surrey was the home of Ralph Vaughan Williams from the age of two until he was 20, when he went to study at Cambridge. He arrived at Leith Hill Place with his mother after the death of his father, when they moved to live with his mother’s parents. His early music education came from his aunt Sophy who taught him piano. He also learnt violin, viola and organ. After schooling at Charterhouse, he went to the Royal College of Music and then to the University of Cambridge.

Ralph had a passion for bringing music into people’s lives. In 1905 he helped his sister, Margaret Vaughan Williams and Lady Evangeline Farrer to start the Leith Hill Music Festival, an annual competition for amateur choirs. He remained as Festival Conductor for nearly fifty years and the Festival continues to thrive.

Leith Hill Place has been in the hands of the National Trust since 1945. Set in beautiful countryside, the house celebrates the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams with a timeline of his life. At the house you can also see Ralph’s piano on which he composed works such as Lark Ascending and his Symphonies 1-9. The piano, which remained in the family, has now been restrung and fitted with a new tuning plank so it can be played. On the second floor of the house is an audio guided tour of Ralph’s life and music.

Leith Hill Place is also notable for it’s links to other members of Ralph’s family. His grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood III (of the ceramics company) and his grandmother was Caroline Darwin, sister of Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin conducted experiments in the grounds of the house.

The Firs – Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar was born on 2nd June 1857 in The Firs in Broadheath, an early 19th Century Worcestershire cottage. At the time, his father, a musician, was a piano tuner, church organist and amateur violinist, his mother was a farmer’s daughter who wanted her children to grow up in the country.

Although Elgar was only two years’ old when the family left The Firs, his mother often sent him and his siblings back to Broadheath for summer holidays, when they would stay on a farm. This developed Elgar’s lifelong love of the area which led to his request on receiving his Baronetcy for the title ‘Baron Elgar of Broadheath’.

In 1934, before his death, Elgar confided to his daughter Carice that he wanted to be remembered in Broadheath, and so in 1935, Carice with the help of Alderman Hubert Leicester, persuaded the corporation of Worcester to purchase the cottage. She also requested that all memorabilia relating to Elgar be returned to the cottage.

The Firs continues to celebrate the life and work of Elgar through maintaining artefacts, talks and concerts. A key part of the National Trust’s work is to help visitors to appreciate the area that so influenced Elgar with a series of walks around the Worcestershire countryside.

575 Wandsworth Road – Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian

In 2015, the National Trust and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) developed a composer in residence project. Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, an LSO Soundhub associate, created works inspired by 575 Wandsworth Road, London. The house was owned by late Kenyan-born poet, novelist, philosopher of mathematics and British civil servant, Khadambi Asalache, and was acquired by the National Trust in 2010.

Asalache bought the house in 1981 and turned it into a work of art. The project started when he fixed pine floorboards to a damp wall and he went on embellish walls, ceilings and doors with handcarved fretwork patterns and motifs .

Horrocks-Hopayian took part in a two year residency, working with LSO musicians to interpret the history of the house and the work of Asalche. Her first composition from the projects combined a recording of Khadambi Asalache’s thumb piano with extracts from his poems.

Alongside her composition work, Horrocks-Hopayian work with the local community such as the Festival Chorus Wandsworth, work which further inspired her compositions.

Michael Price – Tender Symmetry

In 2018, Michael Price released his work Tender Symmetry, in answer to National Trust locations across England. The works were both informed by and recorded in spaces such as of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire to the Fan Bay World War II shelter, in the chalk cliffs of Dover.

Michael Price explains: “For Tender Symmetry, I stopped admiring and started participating in these buildings. This began as an exploration of writing and recording out in the world beyond the studio. I am interested in where we build our homes in an increasingly virtual world and the spirit of place we feel as we walk our local streets, our schools, temples and public spaces…Taking inspiration from a place, and the stories it told, then going back to that place to record, sometimes in less than ideal conditions, made the two-year adventure much more like shooting a film than making a record.”

Fountains Abbey

The locations for Tender Symmetry are:

  • Speke Hall, Liverpool, Merseyside – a Tudor manor house on the banks of the Mersey, restored in the 19th century, so combining both Tudor and Arts and Crafts features
  • Quarry Bank, Cheshire – a great industrial heritage site, containing an 18th century working mill and the homes of a complete working community
  • Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire – the largest monastic ruins in the country, founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York
  • 2 Willow Road, London – an innovative and influential Modernist home, designed in 1939 by architect Ernö Goldfinger for himself and his family
  • Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire – a world famous chapel which houses an epic series of large-scale paintings, by acclaimed war artist Sir Stanley Spencer
  • Fan Bay Deep Shelter, Kent – a tunnel complex constructed inside the White Cliffs of Dover in  1940/41 as accommodation for the gun battery above
  • All Hallows, Gospel Oak – the only location not owned by the National Trust, where Shade Of Dreams was recorded.

2020 – the year of Beethoven?

December 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

The event seems to have split the Classical Music community. Some individuals and organisations see the occasion as an opportunity to celebrate Beethoven’s musical achievements. Others suggest that Beethoven’s music is popular enough and performances and recordings of it are already so plentiful that audiences should be exploring new repertoire and lesser known composers, and particularly work by underrepresented groups.

Beethoven is one of a group of composers from the Western Classical tradition who is often given the title ‘genius’. He was a prolific composer, writing 722 works, including 9 Symphonies, 16 overtures and incidental pieces, 16 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, 20 sets of variations for piano, 10 works for chorus and orchestra, hundreds of songs, operas, piano trios, works for wind ensembles and concertos for violin, piano and a lost work for oboe. His development of musical forms such as the symphony, string quartet and piano sonata are seen as revolutionary, and his influence on later composers is often cited.

If you want to take 2020 as the year to explore Beethoven’s works further, check out #TheCompleteBeethoven on Twitter for advice from The Symphonist or follow the hashtag #Beethoven2020.

Beethoven led an interesting life. His father was abusive, he struggled with his health, he lived in politically turbulent times, his romantic life was complicated and he suffered hearing loss. However there are stories of his bad temper and of his poor treatment of his sister-in-law and nephew. All these elements add to the image of a tortured genius, a persona that has appealed to audiences and, it could be argued, has helped keep his music popular over the past 200 years. 

As Beethoven’s work is frequently performed, recorded and broadcast on radio, should we take his 250th anniversary as an opportunity to enjoy ever popular works such as his 9th Symphony and 5th Piano Concerto, or should we explore some of his lesser known works, such as his works for military band…

or his songs…

Or should we be exploring more obscure composers? As William Gibbons states on Twitter:

Every time I listen to Beethoven, I’m not listening to something else.

Inspired by some of the discussion around exploring a wider range of composers, Musicology Duck’s blog influenced by Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, has suggested a hashtag of #ListenWider. Rather than recommending specific books or pieces, both challenges give categories, allowing readers and listeners to find works that appeal to them. Musicology Duck gives 30 categories of pieces to listen to including a composition of 60 minutes or more in length by a woman or non-binary composer, a miniature composition under 90 seconds long, a top hit from the year you were born or from a country other than your own, and a concerto for tuba, bassoon or double bass. 

You could take the opportunity to explore works by other composers and performers who have key anniversaries in 2020, such as:

Dave Brubeck – 100th anniversary of his birth

Dorothea Anne Franchi – 100th anniversary of her birth

Ravi Shankar – 100th anniversary of his birth

Del Woods – 100th anniversary of her birth

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) – 100th anniversary

John Rutter – 75th Birthday

Of course, there is a happy medium for those who love Beethoven’s music but still want to discover new repertoire. Ensembles such as the English Symphony Orchestra are taking the opportunity to partner Beethoven’s works with lesser known composers such as Ruth Gipps and Adrian Williams.

So how will you approach your year of listening to music? Let us know what you think in the comments!

The Nutcracker

On 18th December 1892, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker was premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Although the ballet is now popular throughout the world, the premiere was not well received, with popularity only coming after Tchaikovsky worked the music into a Suite.

Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, Tchaikovsky was looking for inspiration for his next ballet and a gift of a new Russian translation of E.T.A Hoffmann’s story Nussknacker und Mausekönig gave him a story he could work with. It has been suggested that his love of the ballet Coppelia by Delibes, premiered in 1870, which was also based on two Hoffmann stories, Der Sandmann (The Sandman) and Die Puppe (The Doll) may have influenced his decision. Hoffmann’s Nussknacker und Mausekönig mixes reality and fantasy and there is some debate as to whether it was written as a children’s story or not due to the philosophical content and allusions unlikely to have been understood by children.

Tchaikovsky had collaborated with Marius Petipa on Sleeping Beauty, and so they set out to work together on The Nutcracker. Petipa took Hoffmann’s story and provided a scenario with detailed notes on action and dance plan with some suggestions for the music. However Petipa fell ill and passed the task to Lev Ivanov who had worked with him on Sleeping Beauty. Ivanov had previous devised the dances for Borodin’s Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada.

The ballet is now a firm family favourite, and tells the story of a Christmas gathering where Drosselmeyer, a local councilman, toymaker and magician appears. He brings dancing dolls to entertain the children, then gives Clara and Fritz a toy for them: A wooden nutcracker which is carved in the shape of a man. Clara immediately takes a liking to it however Fritz breaks it, leaving Clara upset. Once everyone is in bed, Clara creeps downstairs to check on the broken Nutcracker and as the clock strikes midnight she sees Drosselmeyer on top of the Christmas tree which begins to grow as does the nutcracker. Mice appear, led by their King and begin to fight with an army of gingerbread soldiers.

The nutcracker leads the army of gingerbread soldiers and tin soldiers, as the Mouse King advances on the still-wounded nutcracker, Clara throws her slipper at him, distracting him long enough for the nutcracker to stab him.

As the mice retreat, in true fairy tale style, the nutcracker transforms into a handsome price, leading Clara to his Kingdom through a pine forest in the snow.

The second act begins in the Land of Sweets which is being ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Prince’s absence. When Clara and the Prince arrive, he tells how Clara saved him from the Mouse King and returned him to his human form. To celebrate his return and to honour Clara, a celebration is staged with dances from around the world, ending with a performance by the Sugar Plum Fairy.

A final dance is performed by all the sweets, before the Sugar Plum Fairy ushers Clara and the Prince down from their throne. He bows to her, she kisses Clara goodbye, and leads them to a reindeer drawn sleigh. It takes off as they wave goodbye to all the subjects who wave back.

For the full ballet, watch the Mariinsky Theatre’s performance here:

Having been influenced by Haydn’s Toy Symphony and Bernhard Romberg’s Kinder-Symphonie, Tchaikovsky includes some unusual instruments in the scoring of The Nutcracker including toy trumpet, rattle and bird calls. He also included a celeste. He wrote in a letter:

I have discovered a new orchestral instrument in Paris, something between a small piano and a Glockenspeil, which a divinely beautiful tone… I want to ask you to order one of these instruments… have it sent direct to Petersburg; but no-one there must know about it. I am afraid that Rimsky-Korsakov or Glazunov might hear of it and make use of the new effect before I can.

After the premier of the ballet, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother

The staging … was splendid … even too splendid – one’s eyes grew tired of this luxuriance.

There were mixed reviews of the first performance, The St Petersburg Gazette stated:

A more tedious work was never seen…

However, the St Petersburg News-sheet declared

Concerning the music of this ballet, it is hard to say which number is best, for everything from beginning to end is beautiful, melodious, original and individual.

It is this view that seems to resonate with audiences of the ballet and the suite today.

For a sneaky peek at how the Royal Ballet create the wonder and spectacle of The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House, watch this video:

The Music Industry Today

On 20th November, UK Music, the campaigning and lobbying group, which represents every part of the UK Recorded and Live Music Industry, launched it’s Music by Num8ers 2019 report. Each year, the UK Music report shines a light on the value and contributions made by the music industry.

This year the report highlights the £5.2 billion contribution to the UK Economy that the music industry makes, with 190,935 full time jobs being sustained by the industry, up from 145,815 the previous year.

The music industry covers various sectors, including music creation, the live sector and the recorded sector (see table for breakdown). The Music Creators sector generates £2.5 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) which is almost half the total industry GVA. The Live sector made a GVA contribution of £1.1 billion in 2018, up from £990m the previous year. In terms of export, the Recorded sector contributed £478 million and Publishing £618 million to the total export revenue of £2.7 billion.

The report uses the terms Sectors (or thematic groups as shown above) and Sub-Sectors (or elements of the core) to define the various parts of the music industry. The sub-sectors all contribute to the commercial assets of the UK Music Industry:

UK Music highlight the two relationships to the commercial assets – “economic activities that create these commercial assets. (An example is the creative process of composing, performing or recording music.)….[and]  economic activities whose primary focus is upon the steps necessary to bring these assets to a position where they are able to be distributed and transacted with consumers and businesses in one way or another.”

The report stresses that the inter-dependency between the sectors is “what gives the UK music industry its diversity and economic success, fostering a unique eco-system.”

Music Creators

Alongside celebrating the successes of the industry, the report also puts a spotlight on some of the challenges. For example, the high GVA for Music Creators, does not adequately show the financial struggles of many music creators. Although those at the highest levels, do earn high income from their work, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that musicians earned an average income of £23,059 in 2018 – well below the national average of £29,832.

In 2018, a total of 139,352 people were employed in the Music Creators sector, and employment growth continues to be robust as more creators move from part-time to full-time work. Research by the DCMS, shows that 72% of those working in music, performing and visual arts are self-employed compared to just 15% of the UK working population as a whole (ONS). The Music Producers Guild found that 94% of its membership is self-employed, according to their 2019 survey.

Freelance work can be challenging and many music creators find it hard to maintain a full-time career. This has led to a workforce where many people balance multiple roles within the industry. A shift in the industry in recent years, which is highlighted in this research. is the move to more artists self-releasing, self-managing and self-publishing. Although there can be benefits to this way of working, it can also put pressure on these individuals and leave them at risk when developing their careers.

Music Retail

Music Retail covers retail and manufacture of musical instruments, plus digital and physical retail. The report highlights that although music instrument sales are an area that is often overlooked, it contributes £402m total GVA. 

In terms of “physical music”, vinyl continues it’s growth up 1.5% on the previous year. Initiatives such as Record Store Day and National Album Day have helped this growth, particularly for small independent shops.

Streaming continues to grow, the BPI report that there was a growth of 33% from the previous year – a total of over 90 billion streams in 2018. One challenge for the sector is to ensure that music creators are fairly financially compensated for their work.

Recorded Music

This sector includes a wide range of areas including record labels, music distributors, recorded rights holders, physical manufacturers and for the first-time in UK Music’s research, recording studios. The sector had a 5% rise of GVA, contributing £568 million in GVA to the UK economy, and a rise of 8% in exports -£478 million. The BPI reports that Label revenues alone, increased by 3% – a third consecutive growth in label revenues.

The report highlights the significant investment and risk undertaken by the record labels which helps contribute to the value created by the sector as a whole. While the inclusion of studios in the data for the first time has helped raised the GVA, the research demonstrated that many studios are facing pressures from increasing rent and business rates leading to businesses having to diversify by renting office space, promoting events and moving into educational activities.

Music representatives

The Music Representatives’ sector includes a wide range of personnel and skills including music managers, music trade bodies, collective management organisations (CMOs) and for the first time in UK Music’s research, lawyers and accountants who represent music organisations or music creators are also included.  

This sector added £148 million to the music industry’s GVA in 2018, while exports remained strong at £387 million. In terms of export revenue, contributions from collective management organisations (CMOs), such as PRS For Music and PPL, were a large part of the total export revenue.  CMOs deal with the management of copyright and the collection of revenue for their members who include musicians and performers. 

The report highlights the changing role of music managers who are working with Artists earlier in their careers and investing their own money in Artists development: 74% of managers surveyed by the Music Managers Forum have invested their own money to support the careers of their current clients, while 40% have received no outside investment for their artist.

Music Publishing

Music publishers and publishing rights holders work on behalf of songwriters and composers, to collect revenue when their work is used commercially, securing commissions and sync deals: when work is licensed for use in film, advertising and games. The sector contributed £459 million in GVA to the UK economy and £618 million in exports .The Music Publishing sector currently maintains around 1,363 jobs. Over the past five years, there have been large changes to the sector with several consolidations within the publishing world and many businesses have merged to form larger organisations, however the number of employees have continued to increase reflecting the industry’s expansion.

Live Music

As highlighted, the live sector is particularly vibrant, it covers festival organisers, promoters and agents, production services, and ticketing agents, grassroots music venues, concert venues and arenas (the proportion of their activities which involve live music.) As a key player in the industry, Glastonbury has a large impact on the live sector, however even though 2018 was a fallow year for Festival, there was a surge in festival ticket sales across the country leading to a record high of £1.1 billion GVA, which is a 10% overall rise on 2017. UK Music’s research shows a total of 4.9 million people attended festivals in 2018 compared to 2.7 million in 2012.

In terms of venues, three of the top 13 arenas in the world – The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, the Manchester Arena and the 02 Arena – are in the UK, according to Pollstar. It is important to remember that grassroots plays a vital part in the industry’s eco-system, acting as an incubator for emerging talent, an area that is facing challenges. A total of 30,529 people were employed in the live music sector in 2018, a rise of 7% on 2017.

Music Tourism is a key part of the Live Sector this includes those travelling from overseas, as well as domestic tourists, who live in the UK but are not local to the events they are attending.

Challenges identified

The report has highlighted several challenges facing the music industry such as the impact of business rates on grassroots development, copyright protection, shared parental leave for the self-employed, international trade support, talent pipeline including students taking GCSE and A level music, touring post-Brexit and fiscal incentives. UK Music continue to support the music industry and make the case for further government support.

All images in this blog are from the original report, the full version of which can be found here.

Creativity in Education

Earlier this month, the Durham Commission published its final report following a two-year review of Creativity in Education.  The Commission is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University. It aims to identify ways in which creativity, and specifically creative thinking, can play a larger part in the lives of young people from birth to the age of 19, both within and beyond the current education system.

The Commission brought together a diverse group from Education and the Creative Industries to act as Commissioners, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, CH, Chair of Arts Council England.

It gathered a wide range of evidence from various sources including:

  • A survey of over 1,000 stakeholders from business, education and the arts
  • A survey of headteachers and governors across the country
  • Meetings with stakeholders
  • A review of previous reports and initiatives into creativity and education
  • One-to-one interviews with the Commissioners

This research has enabled the Commission to explore key questions about the relationship between creativity and education such as, “How can creativity be recognised?” “What are the challenges and opportunities when embedding creativity in schools, and in the workplace?” And, “Who should be responsible for promoting creativity across the country?”

Key Definitions

Key Recommendations

The Commission recommends that a national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established to allow schools to collaborate in establishing and sustaining the circumstances and environment required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum

1: Establishing Creativity Collaboratives

A key recommendation is that a three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives should be established in each of the DfE regions with funding from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts, with a view to exploring additional funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

2: Barriers to teaching for creativity

The Commission recommends that Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies work together to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

3: Recognising the value of creativity

The Commission identified that schools who have successfully established and sustained conditions where creativity is nurtured should be championed and encouraged. The Commission suggests that success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process and that Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

The Commission also suggest that Ofsted should also continue to refine the inspection framework to further decrease incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and that there is more clarity that the inspection process is looking for “teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.”

Throughout our research, the words most frequently associated with the exercise of creativity were imagination, freedom, expression, collaboration, and problem solving. The research findings also highlighted the importance of curiosity, perseverance and resilience.

4 & 5: Evaluating the impact of creativity

The Commission highlights the benefits to schools of taking part in PISA 2021 evaluation of creating thinking, and recommends that the DfE should support English schools’ participation in this in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

The Commission also recommends a role for Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, to work with the Creativity Collaboratives to “develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.”

There need be no conflict between knowledge and creativity in our education system. Indeed, the opposite is the case – creativity is founded on deep understanding. Every meaningful creative breakthrough in human history has been made by people with deep expertise, immersing themselves in the practices and problems of the field and finding new ways to see, act or behave.

6: Digital technologies, creativity and education

The Commission stresses that the English education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a substantial part of their everyday lives. Suggestions including additional funding from the DfE for training for school teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it. The Commission also suggests NESTA play a key role, by managing a pilot programme working with a mix of education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can help develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.

7: Creativity and the arts in schools

The Commission states its belief that “Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child.” Its recommendations to achieve this include a funded National Plan for Cultural Education to be established by the DfE which will ensure all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.

The Commission also suggests that the DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages, but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9 which would include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.

Another recommendation is that the Artsmark scheme awarded by Arts Council England should be reviewed by ACE to make sure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised. This should be achieved through ACE working with the DfE to evaluate the current provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

8: Creative beginnings: pre-school and the early years curriculum

The Commission identifies the importance of the purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity being recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). Recommendations include integrating creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage by the DfE while establishing and funding effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce. The Commission suggest reviewing the current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.

The Commission also identifies other key partners in Early Years creativity and suggests that the BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations alongside the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.

9: Creative opportunities out of school hours

The Commission also states its belief that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by a range of opportunities to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. They recommend that Arts Council England work in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services to align and build on existing out of school provision to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. Routes identified include Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

10: Beyond school: creative opportunities and experiences in the world of work

The Commission identifies that young people need to be better prepared for the changing world of work particularly requiring the creative capacities that employers are looking for and which will enable them to be “resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning.” The Commission highlights that qualification frameworks should appreciate the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

It suggests a review of the existing opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Full report available at 

https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/creativitycommission/DurhamReport.pdf

Leopold Mozart: Composition and Controversy

November 2019 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Leopold Mozart (November 14, 1719 – May 28, 1787). Perhaps often primarily known as the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leopold is an almost mythical figure, equated, perhaps partly thanks to the blockbuster film Amadeus, with a stern and conflicted father/son relationship. 

Another interpretation is that Leopold, who had supported his child prodigy son for many years, was concerned as Wolfgang pushed for more independence that his son was unfit to look after himself – a worry which proved to be grounded in reality.

Leopold and his wife Anna Maria had seven children, but only his daughter Maria Anna (Nannerl) and his youngest son Wolfgang survived past infancy. His parenting of his adult children is largely the subject that causes controversy, but it seems possible that his over-involvement was motivated by love rather than any negative emotion. Being guardian to such precocious children must have been a huge responsibility.

Although he expended huge amounts of energy promoting his son Wolfgang and his daughter Nannerl, gradually making this the focus of his life, Leopold Mozart was an extraordinary and well-respected musician himself. His 1756 treatise on violin playing ranks alongside those of Flesch and Galamian in the history of violin pedagogy. His skill and influence as a violinist and violin teacher is evident through the work of his son, in particular the violin concertos, and Leopold’s book is a valuable resource for understanding the both development of violin technique and historic musical ornamentation.

His own career as a court musician and composer was somewhat hampered by the amount of time he spent travelling with his children, and his most significant contribution is considered to be his teaching. From 1743 he worked as fourth violinist in the musical establishment of Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. In 1758 he was promoted to second violinist, and in 1763 to deputy Kapellmeister, but numerous others were promoted over him to the position of Kapellmeister. His compositions were widely circulated, but biographers describe them with adjectives such as, “undistinguished.”

It’s fair to say that the discovery of his children’s talent transformed his life. He once referred to his son as, “The miracle which God let be born in Salzburg.” He began touring with the children in 1762, travelling to cities including Paris, London, Munich and Vienna to perform for both public and aristocracy. It’s unclear whether these tours generated much income. Whist the audience was extensive, costs must have been high, and Leopold was unable to continue his own work for the duration of the trips.

According to the Grove Dictionary, Nannerl later claimed that he “entirely gave up both violin instruction and composition in order to direct that time not claimed in service to the prince to the education of his two children.” After 1762 he seemed to limit his writing to revising his earlier compositions and he composed nothing after 1771.

Leopold’s support for Nannerl was significant. After her marriage, her father would still take care of shopping and the engagement of servants, send her news from Salzburg, Munich, and Vienna to divert her, organise the maintenance of her fortepiano, pay for Wolfgang’s music to be copied and arranged for her to receive it, look after her health, and, according to Halliwell, encouraged her to stand up to her husband when he was being unreasonable. Nannerl’s marriage involved her looking after five step children, and her own son (born in 1785) was initially raised by entirely by Leopold. It is possible that Leopold had hoped to train another child prodigy, but he died in 1787 when little Leopold was not quite two years old.

Scholars are still conflicted over his role as father. Some see him as misrepresented, and frustrated in being unable to guide his son into the sort of role his talent deserved. Others feel he was unable to give his adult children independence, which resulted in considerable problems for them.

As a composer, his contribution is less controversial. He willingly sacrificed his own career for that of his son, but some work survives.

But Leopold’s Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys (Toy Symphony) is still popular, and there are a number of symphonies, a trumpet concerto, and some other works.

According to Grove, a contemporary report described what Leopold had composed prior to 1757 thus:

“many contrapuntal and other church items; further a great number of symphonies, some only à 4 but others with all the customary instruments; likewise more than 30 large serenades in which solos for various instruments appear. In addition he has brought forth many concertos, in particular for the transverse flute, oboe, bassoon, Waldhorn, trumpet etc.: countless trios and divertimentos for various instruments; 12 oratorios and a number of theatrical items, even pantomimes, and especially certain occasional pieces such as martial music … Turkish music, music with ‘steel keyboard’ and lastly a musical sleigh ride; not to speak of marches, so-called ‘Nachtstücke’ and many hundreds of minuets, opera dances and similar items.

He was interested in creating a naturalistic feel in is work. His Jagdsinfonie (or Sinfonia da Caccia for four horns and strings) requires the use of shotguns, and his Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) includes dulcimer, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, ‘whoops and whistles’ (ad. lib.) and pistol shots.

Much of his work is now lost, and scholars are only now beginning to assess the extent and quality of his compositions. Some of the work was wrongly attributed to Wolfgang, and vice versa. Much of what survives is light music, and it’s is not known how representitive this is of his output. There is some more substantial work in the Sacramental Litany in D major (1762) and three fortepiano sonatas, all of which were published in his lifetime, and Cliff Eisen describes in his doctoral dissertation on Leopold Mozart’s symphonies, that the G major symphony “compares favourably with those of virtually any of Mozart’s immediate contemporaries”.

Sources and further reading:

http://www.mozart.com/en/timeline/life/mozart-and-his-father/

https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/diss201019/92/

Composing the Future

On 1st October 2019, Sound and Music announced the findings of their National Music Educators’ Survey, Can Compose. The report, which is based on responses from over 500 educators, is the first of it’s kind to look specifically at creativity and composers.

Sound and Music believe that composing should be a core element of every child’s music education – and 97% of their respondents agreed.

One of the areas of the report is the identification of 5 key barriers (from the over 600 barriers that were reported) that prevent young people’s progression in composing:

  • Many young people lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to compose their own music
  • There are concerns about the relevance of opportunities for young people 
  • Many educators lack support and training in how to teach composing 
  • There is limited, patchy and unequal access to resources and opportunities 
  • Composing as a core part of music education is undervalued 

These are worrying findings for those of us who believe in the importance of opportunity for creativity and access to music for young people, however not a great surprise to the MWC team who see a wide range of musical opportunities for young people in schools in many areas, but speak to teachers who do not have the skills to teaching composition or do not have access to the necessary resources.

Sound and Music suggest that these findings point to the need for changes in perceptions, provision, practice and policy.

As well as identifying the barriers to young people composing, Sound and Music’s report also identifies 5 outcomes to address the barriers:

  • There should be more opportunities for young people to compose in and out of school 
  • Opportunities for young people to compose should be more relevant and diverse 
  • There should be improved provision of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools 
  • There should be improved progression pathways through better networks and signposting 
  • More value should be placed on composing

Sound and Music state:

“We want to see a world where more young people have the opportunity, skills and confidence to create their own music; where their creativity and imagination can flourish; and where the composers of the future, key to the success of many of the UK’s creative industries, are nurtured.”

This is a sentiment that we, at MWC, fully support.

Key Findings

Key findings from the report include:

97% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that creating and composing music should be a core element of music education

96%  of respondents agreed that creating and composing music enables children and young people to develop their identity and their wellbeing

97% of respondents also agreed that there should be more opportunities for students to compose their own music

Young peoples’ confidence and performance opportunities

An important point for consideration is that young people’s confidence in composing declines throughout their time in education up to the age of 16. By age of 16 and over, the confidence in composing seems to return a little, however, the number of young people participating in music education in schools at this stage is a very small proportion of all young people. One concern is that many students lack confidence in themselves as composers and worry about being judged. The report suggests this lack of confidence to experiment and make mistakes when learning to compose has its roots in a number of the issues identified throughout the survey. The report further suggests that this lack of confidence is compounded by the systemic deprioritisation of composing compared to performing.

Also highlighted in the Sound and Music report is the fact that opportunities for young people to hear their own compositions performed live are extremely limited. The research found that there is a mismatch between students composing and works being performed.

Teachers confidence and CPD

The research suggests that teachers and educators are not accessing training and Continuing Professional Development focused on composing with only 41% of respondents reporting that they had received composing-focused Continuing Professional Development (CPD) within the last 5 years. Educators seem to value to CPD with 45% of respondents agreeing that “CPD for themselves and colleagues” that be the activity that would most benefit young people. Linked to this is a lack of confidence in educators regarding assessing composing, particularly for exams. Educators’ confidence can be undermined by exam boards’ assessment methodologies, which are not always perceived to be reliable or transparent.

As educators do not always feel confident teaching composing, the report found that schools increasingly rely on external music tuition to fulfil curriculum and examination requirements, which particularly impacts composing,

The question “what would most benefit young people to compose music?”, 38% of those respondents directly involved in teaching music, and 45% of those respondents working for organisations, said that better teaching resources would help them support composing activity.  This was broken down with categories most frequently given as school facilities, equipment and space (34% of responses within this category), including the need for more technology and equipment; insufficient breakout spaces for group composing activity; and a lack of accessible instruments for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. This last point is highlighted in the finding that music educators struggle to support young people who face disabling barriers to composing and creating music.

Also identified as something that would help young people compose was access to composers. The report suggests “Providing young people with more opportunities to work alongside composers, and supporting composers in developing their skills as educators, are two important steps that educators feel the music education sector needs to take.”

Concern about the future of music in schools

A concern that MWC has raised in numerous blogs is the challenge that music as a curriculum subject is being deprioritised. In the Sound and Music report, 78% of respondents identified the deprioritisation of music as a curriculum subject or lack of time for music within the school curriculum as barriers to young people composing their own music.

Recommendations

The report goes on to identify ways to create opportunities and support young people to compose. These recommendations link to key areas:

  • Creating more opportunities for young people to compose both in and out of school
  • More relevant and diverse opportunities for young people to compose
  • An improved offering of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools
  • Clear signposting to improved progression pathways with better networks
  • A higher value to be placed on composing

To read the full report visit http://soundandmusic.org/projects/can-compose-national-music-educators-survey

Is Grime Dead?

I am first black British artist to headline Glastonbury. At 25 years old I am the second youngest solo act to ever headline Glastonbury, the youngest being a 24 year old David Bowie in 1971.

The words of Stormzy as he headlined Glastonbury in June 2019. Some people questioned the announcement that Stormzy was to take the coveted Headliner slot at the festival. In an interview with BBC1Xtra, he answered the sceptics, saying, “There were so many doubters being like, ‘Oh, he hasn’t had a No 1 song’, or, ‘Oh, he’s got one album out, he’s not ready.’ I’m there because I’m a serious musician.”

However, despite the controversy around his performance, Stormzy already has a long list of achievements. He was awarded Best Grime Act at the MOBOs in 2014 shortly after releasing his first EP Dreamers Disease. This was followed by a performance on Later with Jools Holland, which saw Stormzy become the first unsigned rapper to appear on the programme. 

The following year brought more success. In January 2015, he came number 3 in the BBC Introducing top 5 on Radio 1, and in March that year he released the single “Know Me From,” entering the UK Singles Chart at number 49.

In September 2015, Stormzy released onto iTunes his final instalment to “WickedSkengMan” freestyle series, “WickedSkengMan 4”, along with a studio version of his “Shut Up” freestyle over XTC’s Functions On The Low instrumental. This track debuted at number 18 in the UK chart in September, becoming not only Stormzy’s first top 40 hit but also the first ever freestyle to reach the top 40 in the United Kingdom.

After some time away from the spotlight, Stormzy released his album Gang Signs and Prayers in February 2017. This went on to debut at no 1 in the Album chart in March – the first Grime album to achieve this.

Stormzy has achieved a number of major steps for Grime music.

But what actually is Grime..?

Grime is a style of music with fast, syncopated breakbeats, typically at a speed of 140 beats per minute (bpm). Tracks often feature aggressive or jagged electronic sounds.

Stormzy

The genre emerged from Bow, E3 in East London in the early 2000s, developed from earlier UK electronic music styles such as UK garage and jungle. It was originally known by various names such as 8-bar or nu shape. Among the first tracks to be described as Grime were takes by Wiley such as EskimoIce Rink and Igloo, Pulse X by Musical Mob and“Creeper” by Danny Weed.

Dave, the London MC and Drake collaborator explained the difference between rap and Grime in an Interview:

“Grime is its own sound. The instrumentation usually dictates it. It’s not limited to one tempo, but it’s mainly at this one tempo. It’s the entire sound in the industry that’s behind it. Basically, like you’d have drill music or trap music… grime has the tempo of 140 bpm, set usually goes up to 144.5, never goes down to 138. It has very grungy basslines, a lot of melody [and] a really hard-hitting sound.”

Dave continued: “Grime MCs usually have radio sets where they rap and switch instrumentals, when the beat changes they have to catch the drops in. If I’m rapping, there’ll be a beat underneath me, then they’ll change it and I’ll have to catch the drop.”

“There’s a lot more to it,” he added. “It’s like a sound, culture, style — the way that they dress and speak. Rap, for me, I go at any tempo and any sound of beat and incorporate melody as well.”

“Grime must be its own genre,” he said, when asked if grime was a sub-genre of rap.

The sound of the new genre spread via pirate ratio stations such as RinseFM and through the Underground scene, initially in London, then across Britain. By the mid-2000s Grime was mainstream.

However in August 2018, the BBC ran an article entitled Is grime dead? Or has it ‘just gone back underground’? The article suggested that Drill music, with its slower trap beats, was becoming more popular, along with Afrobeats, Afro-swing, or Afro-bashment. In the article, London-born photographer Courtney Francis, who had worked with Stormzy, stated:

“Grime had a boom, but then people changed. The music changes, people’s appetites change, and it’s gone on to Afrobeats and UK rap and drill now, and grime has gone back to the back burner.””Those same artists, and new artists as well, are doing their thing right now. The only difference is that it’s not in public spaces. It’s no longer the backdrop for TV programmes and you’re no longer hearing it on radio often.

“But everywhere else where grime existed before, it’s still there. 

“People are saying it’s dead because it was commercialised and it was accessible for more of the country. You didn’t have to search for grime. Grime was just there.”

“But,” he stresses, “only for the people who look for music in the commercial spaces.”  

“Grime isn’t dead. It’s just gone back underground.”

With one of Grime’s biggest Artists headling Glastonbury, just a year later, it could be argued that Grime is back in the mainstream.

Interview sources:

 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-45017057 and https://www.nme.com/news/music/santan-dave-grime-rap-difference-video-2027048  

The Decline in Numbers Taking GCSEs in Creative Subjects

Figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications on 22nd August, as GCSE results were announced, showed that although applicants for GCSE Art and Design and Performing Arts increased, overall, the number of students taking GCSEs in Creative subjects, (defined as define arts subjects as Art & Design, Dance, Design & Technology, Drama, Media/Film/TV Studies, Music and Performing/expressive arts), has decreased.

The number of applicants for GCSE Music has dropped a further 2.3% this year, with an overall decline of 18.6% in GCSE intake over the past five years.

This echoes the findings of Dr Alison Daubney in her Music Education: State of the Nation report that numbers of applicants for A Level music are also dropping.

Read more at: https://musicworkshopcompany.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/state-of-the-nation-music-the-appg-speaks-out/

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM and founder of the Bacc to the Future campaign said of the figures:

We are delighted that the uptake of art and design has enjoyed a 9.5% increase and performing arts a 7.7% increase in uptake this year. However, when looking at the wider context, this spike is not enough to correct several years of long-term decline in uptake, nor the issues within the art and design teacher workforce and diminishing curriculum time. We are also concerned that the uptake of other creative subjects is continuing to decline, including music (-2.3%), drama (-0.5%), design & technology (-23%), media, film and TV studies (-12.9%). Overall, since 2014 there has been a 28.1% decline in the overall uptake of creative subjects* at GCSE and a 16.9% decline in creative subject entries at A-Level.

While the Schools Minister is right when saying there has been an increase in the uptake of ‘arts’, this has only been within the art and design specifications. We, therefore, would urge the government to look at creative subjects as separate entities.”

The Cultural Learning Alliance’s analysis show the drop since 2010 with a 25% drop between 2010 and 2018 in Music GCSE numbers from 46,045 to 34,725.

The figures for A Level applications show a steeper decline for music from 2010 to 2018 with a reduction of 42% in music from 8,790 to 5,124.

The figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications also show that there is variation across the country of number of students taking GCSE music, with nearly 50% of GCSE music students living in the South, and just over 20% coming from the North. This is reflected in other Creative subjects with over 50% of applicants in Drama and Performing / Expressive Arts coming from the South with 20% coming from the North.

A Level Music applications mirror the pattern of GCSE applications, with again nearly 50% of applications coming from the South and just over 20% of applications from the North with similar figures for Drama and Expressive Arts.

Research by Birmingham City University, released earlier this year, highlights this issue, identifying ten parts of the country – including Blackpool, Bury and Hartlepool – where there were fewer than five entries for A-level music for the entire area.

Dr Adam Whittaker, a research fellow at Birmingham City University and the report’s lead author, stated:

It is deeply worrying that students in the most deprived local authorities are not able to study A-level music, while other more affluent areas see high numbers of entry.

The study found that independent schools account for a disproportionately high number of A-level music entries.

The report states:

It seems significant that the average class size for many of the entry centres in these local authorities does not exceed the national average of 3.3 students,” the report said, adding that the subject is “disappearing” altogether from schools in deprived areas.

Sources:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2019/05/31/average-a-level-music-class-now-has-just-three-students-study/

https://www.jcq.org.uk/

https://baccforthefuture.com/news/2019/gcse-results-day-2019

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