Music for Video Games – Exploring A New Classical ‘Access Point’

A new survey by YouGov, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), shows video games as an important access point for young people to experience classical music.

The research, which included children aged six to 16, found that 15% said they listen to classical music “when it’s part of a computer game I’m playing”, while only 11% said “when I go to music concerts”. In fact, technology and screen-time seems to be the first place that many children hear classical music, with film tracks and television forming the basis for most exposure.

The managing director of the RPO, James Williams, believes that video game music is as valid an introduction to classical music for children as a live concert.

[Image: Takosuke]

In an interview with the Telegraph, Williams said, “I think exposure to orchestral music in all its forms is a fantastic thing. It is encouraging to hear that there are platforms and opportunities for young people to engage with orchestral music, albeit in different mediums. It is about sparking their interest.

“What we are finding is once we have lit that fire there is a real desire to carry that journey on and explore. If [computer games] are the trigger and the catalyst that can only be a really positive thing.”

Video game music is an area that has grown in popularity in recent years, becoming as sophisticated as film music in its execution. It attracts high salaries and prestigious composers including those like Hans Zimmer who are primarily known for their film writing. Music from games regularly features in Classic FM’s annual countdown of the UK’s favourite classical music. In Classic FM Hall of Fame 2016, Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtrack reached number 17 while Kingdom Hearts by Yoko Shimomura was number at 30.

Recognising this popularity, Classic FM partnered with the RPO in 2017 to present a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall called PlayStation in Concert.

According to Williams, the concert attracted audience members who had never been to a live classical music concert before. “This is in no way undermining Beethoven and Brahms which are still the core repertoire,” he explained, “But we are embracing all these new opportunities, they are access points for new audiences.”

Williams also stressed that the music is of high quality, and that the RPO’s inclusion of video game music was not a dumbing-down. The past five years have seen a real acceleration in video game music, and the music industry is always keen to explore new initiatives. At the same time, Williams reflects that teachers are no longer encouraging music in the way they used to, citing research which found that less than a third of children are exposed to classical music at school.

Williams said, “The thing I found most alarming is the fact that in those schools that didn’t encourage music, the number who went on to discover other music fell dramatically. That is a worrying trend.”

Film composers who have worked on video games:

Hans Zimmer

Considered to be one of the greatest, and certainly prolific, film composers, Zimmer is responsible for the scores to movies including Pirates of the Caribbean, Rain Man, Driving Miss Daisy, Backdraft, True Romance, Gladiator, The Last Samurai and Inception. He’s collaborated with many top filmmakers such as Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, and Christopher Nolan.

He’s also worked on soundtracks for video games, notably with Lorne Balfe on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. When asked whether video game music was still art, he said, “Absolutely, that we can’t even question anymore. When movies first came out, maybe they were in black and white and there wasn’t any sound and people were saying the theatre is still the place to be. But now movies and theatre have found their own place in the world. They are each legitimate art forms.”

Joe Hisaishi

The Japanese have long been known as pioneers in the video-game world. Icons such as Pac-Man and the Nintendo brand came from Japan. It makes sense, therefore, that one of Japan’s most critically acclaimed film composers also writes for video games.

Hisaishi has written music for films including those of animator Hayao Miyazaki (famous for Spirited Away). He also composed the soundtrack for the fantasy video game series “Ni No Kuni.”

Harry Gregson Williams

Williams has worked as a film composer on films including the Shrek franchise and The Chronicles of Narnia. He has also written for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and the Metal Gear series of games.

In this short video, Williams explains the process of writing for games:

 Video game music inhabits two traditionally male-dominated worlds, music composition and technology. While there is focus on addressing gender bias in classical music composition in general, it’s interesting to note that many successful video game composers are women too.

Female Video Game Composers:

Winifred Philips – Composition credits include God of War, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and the Little Big Planet series.

Yoko Shimomura – Kingdom Hearts

Rika Muranaka – Metal Gear Solid

Shinobu Tanaka – Mario Kart’s “Rainbow Road” track

Hayat Selim – Initia: Elemental Arena, The Solar System

Advertisements

The Inspirational Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died in August 2018 at the age of 76. With her death, among the musical tributes, came a rush of tabloid-style headlines about the notoriously private singer.

Franklin was a phenomenal artist with an unquestionable place in music history. The first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987), ranked number 1 on VH1’s Greatest Women of Rock N Roll, she sang at a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), at pre-inauguration concerts for Presidents Jimmy Carter (1977) and Bill Clinton (1993), and the inauguration of America’s first black President, Barak Obama (in 2009). In 1986, her voice was designated a “Natural Resource” by the State of Michigan. In 2008, she was voted the greatest singer of the rock era in a Rolling Stone magazine poll. During the 1988 Grammy Awards show, she stepped in for Luciano Pavarotti who was unable to appear due to ill health, performing the aria Nessun Dorma in his place. She went on to perform this aria several more times, the last of which was in Philadelphia for Pope Francis.

In a career spanning six and a half decades she placed more than 100 singles in the billboard charts, including 17 top 10 pop singles and 20 no. 1 hits on the R&B chart, a number matched only by Stevie Wonder and not yet bettered by any artist. Already a successful R&B/Soul singer in the 1960s, her 1967 recording of Otis Redding’s song RESPECT from the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, which spent 2 weeks at number 1 in the billboard chart, won her international acclaim and mainstream recognition.

She received 18 competitive Grammy awards, has five recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame (Respect, Amazing Grace, Chain Of Fools, A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like), and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You) and was given a lifetime achievement award in 1994.

One remarkable aspect of Franklin’s career was the turbulent life that prompted the probing headlines. She wasn’t a textbook success story or a kid with all the opportunities. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and brought up in Detroit, Michigan, her childhood was full of challenges. Her parents separated when she was just 6 and her mother (who was a gospel singer and pianist) died at the age of just 34 of a heart attack when Franklin was only 10 years old. Her first marriage was abusive and her life was plagued by rumours of addiction – to alcohol (which Franklin denied) and cannabis – and by health problems associated with her weight.

In many ways, her upbringing and aspirations were reflective of the times. Part of a generation of black baby boomers who were still very church-orientated, she was brought up by her father, a minister of national influence who presided over New Bethel Baptist Church. Although she never learned to read music, as a young teenager, Franklin performed with her father on his gospel programmes in major cities and was recognised as a vocal prodigy.

On June 10, 1979, her father was shot at home at point blank range by a burglar when she was on stage in Las Vegas. For the five years until his death, he required 24-hour care.

Franklin made the move to secular music at the age of 18. With the support of her father, to whom she confided she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cooke and record pop songs, she moved to New York City, where she was signed by Colombia Records executive John Hammond. Hammond had previously signed Billie Holiday and Count Basie. She released her first single under Colombia at the age of 18, and although it reached number 10 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues Sellers chart and was met with critical acclaim, a lack of focus in her output at meant she initially struggled to find the success for which she was destined.

However, in 1966 when her contract with Colombia expired, she switched to Atlantic Records where, rather than determining her artistic direction, her producer Jerry Wexler gave her the freedom to explore her own musical identity.

Franklin returned to her gospel roots, exemplified by constantly improvisatory, airborne vocals, and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (Atlantic, 1967) was her first million-seller. Her first single with Atlantic, RESPECT, became an anthem for personal, racial and sexual freedom in line with her own values.

Franklin was immersed throughout her life in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. She provided money for civil rights groups and performed at benefits and protests. In 1970, when political activist, author and academic, Angel Davis was jailed, Franklin told Jet:

Angela Davis must go free, … Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.

Franklin was a strong advocate for Native American rights. Quietly and without publicity, she supported the struggles of indigenous people worldwide and numerous movements that supported Native American and First Nation cultural rights. She also donated heavily to churches and food banks in the Detroit area.

[Photo by Pete Souza]

Franklin gave her last full concert at the Ravinia Festival on September 3, 2017, and her final performance was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John’s 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation on November 7, 2017. She died of advanced pancreatic cancer.

She is known for significant contributions to African-American pride and ‘female self-assertion,’ and reached the pinnacle of her profession at a time when black women were fighting to be seen and heard on their own terms.

It is impossible to give a true representation of such an expansive life and career in such a short space – she made hit after hit, possessed a phenomenal voice, presence and ability to persevere and excel against the odds. She remains quite simply a consummate artist: Both iconic – in black American culture, in mainstream culture and in music worldwide – and deeply human.

Music for Peace

21st September is World Peace Day, or the International Day of Peace. It was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly, and, in 2001, the General Assembly designated the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.

This year’s Peace Day celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the theme is The Right to Peace.

Peace Day is celebrated in a range of different ways across the world, for example: Minute of silence at 12 noon (all timezones), peace education events, Intercultural and interfaith dialogues, community gatherings , concerts and festivals, marches, parades and flag ceremonies and engaging youth in peace-building activities.

Paper Cranes, Children’s Peace Memorial, Hiroshima

There are lots of ways to get involved with Peace Day.

Peace One Day is a charity that aims to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity and a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.

One of their global initiatives is “Set for Peace”, a call to action to DJs and musicians worldwide. The action is simple: Dedicate a set of music to Peace Day – September 18-21:

One Day One Choir is a global peace initiative which uses the power of singing together to unite people around the world on Peace Day. It was launched in 2014 as a response to growing unrest and conflict in the world. Since then, more than a million people from all walks of life and a wide range of different singing groups have joined in to sing in more than 50 countries. One Day One Choir are keen for people to get involved, you can register at http://www.onedayonechoir.org/singing-for-schools

One Day One Choir also offers a list of recommended resources on their website. These include, Out of Ark’s free song, Sing a Song in Unison.

http://www.outoftheark.co.uk/resources/one-day-one-choir/

Sing Up have put together resources as well, available at https://www.singup.org/world-peace-day/

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before

– Leonard Bernstein

Here are some of our recommendations for songs for Peace Day:

Imagine by John Lennon:

Give Peace a Chance also by John Lennon:

Shalom Chaverim, a Traditional Jewish Song:

Let there be Peace on Earth, Jill Jackson Miller:

Venus, Bringer of Peace from the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst:

Peace, Horace Silver:

War Requiem, Benjamin Britten. Commissioned to inaugurate the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1962, the soloists in the ‘Libera Me’ were intended to be a Russian soprano, an English tenor and a German baritone:

We Shall Overcome, Pete Seeger:

Blowin’ in the Wind, Bob Dylan:

Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber (from the String Quartet Op. 11, now integrated as an expression of grief in times of conflict, synonymous with incidents including September 11, the death of John F Kennedy, the Manchester Arena bombing and many others):

And in its original version:

War and Peace, Sergey Prokofiev:

The Etiquette of Applause

It’s a question that comes up seemingly annually, often around the BBC Proms Season, it’s confusing and even controversial in classical music: when it the “correct” time to clap? The Music Workshop Company’s Founder and Artistic Director, Maria Thomas, shares her feelings about applause and its impact on the concert experience.

“Different styles of music each have their own traditions about when clapping is appropriate. In Latin American music clapping along to the music is often encouraged. In jazz is it usual to clap immediately after a solo and then again at the end of piece. In classical music, recent tradition suggests audiences should refrain from clapping until the end of the piece, signified by the conductor placing the baton down on the music stand, rather than at the end of each movement. The etiquette of clapping in opera seems to be particularly nuanced depending on programming and venue.

The topic of concert etiquette is so challenging it even has its own Wikipedia page.

Note that I mentioned “recent tradition” with reference to Classical Music above. In the past it was usual for audiences to applaud between the movements of symphonies, and if enough enthusiasm was shown, a movement would be repeated before the next movement was played. The response of audiences indicated to composers and performers the views of those listening.

[Image: Domdomegg]

However, in the 19th and 20th Century there was a move to restrict clapping so audiences would only applaud at the end of a piece. Mahler apparently specified in the score of his Kindertotenlieder that its movements should not be punctuated by applause.

The debate on clapping in classical music has been raging for decades. Arthur Rubinstein, the pianist, said in a 1966 interview, “It’s barbaric to tell people it is uncivilized to applaud something you like.” Alex Ross’s discussion in The Rest Is Noise gives a variety of examples of the debate.

Back in 2016, the Telegraph discussed the response to clapping in between movements at the Proms and reported that many regular ‘prommers’ dislike the habit, whereas Proms Director David Pickard believes it is a good thing:

If you’re listening to something and you think it’s exciting you applaud it.

This year the question was raised again by Chi Chi Nwanoku, double bass player and Founder of the Chineke! Orchestra. In an article in the Guardian, Nwanoku states:

I despair when anyone is reprimanded for showing their spontaneous response at the end of a movement, particularly a heady one that ends on a high… It’s absolutely fantastic to be on the receiving end of rapturous and spontaneous applause.

The Guardian’s letters page featured a number of responses to this comment, some agreeing with Nwanoku’s opinion:

It is intellectual snobbery at its worst to maintain that one must listen to the entire work in silence.

And some disagreeing:

The silence at the end was a profoundly emotional one. And it was into that silence that a small amount of applause broke the spell.

Those who support the idea of clapping in between the movements of a classical work seem to come both from both sides of the performance; auditorium and the stage.

As Nwanoku discussed, reasons for accepting that people will clap in between movements include cultural differences and the possibility that people might be put off attending concerts because they don’t understand the etiquette or are worried about getting something wrong.

As both a performer and concert-goer (including regularly as a ‘prommer’), I know what I prefer in the concert hall, and that is saving the clapping until the end. As noted by the Guardian letter-writer above, there is often a magical moment at the end of a movement, a short pause before moving into the next.

In a similar way, I find it frustrating when a classical radio station plays individual movements of symphonies. The end of the movement is reached, and if I know the work I am mentally preparing for the opening of the next movement when the presenter speaks…

I also find it frustrating in jazz gigs when audiences clap over the music to acknowledge a solo.

As one of the Guardian letter-writers acknowledged:

I would never be so rude as shushing those who clap between movements, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

So is there an alternative way for audiences to show their appreciation? Orchestral musicians shuffle their feet when a colleague has performed particularly well. It can only be heard by those nearby and is designed to be a subtle movement and sound, but large audiences doing this would still break that magical silence.

How about adopting an alternative way of showing appreciation that is in use by many people already – the gesture of waving both hands in the air, sometimes called ‘jazz hands’ that is used by the deaf community and others such as those with autism. It allows people to ‘applaud’ without breaking the peace, and for those who do not want to be disturbed between movements, they can shut their eyes and enjoy the silence.”

How do you feel about concert etiquette and applause? Does clapping between movements bother you, or would you prefer to be able to spontaneously express your appreciation of a particularly fine performance? Is it elitist or respectful to follow tradition? Would worries about correct etiquette put you off attending concerts? Let us know what you think!

[Image: Niccolò Caranti]

Leonard Bernstein: A Musician for all Ages


Summer 2018 marks the centenary of the amazing musician Leonard Bernstein who was born on 25th August 1918.

Bernstein was a composer, conductor, author, educator and pianist, perhaps best known for what some consider the greatest of all American musicals: West Side Story.

Bernstein’s influence on the American music scene cannot be underestimated. His voice can be heard through his compositions, his recordings, the popularity of composers he championed and his influence on great conductors such as Marin Alsop, Paavo Jarvi, Seiji Oazawa and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Time spent at Harvard (he graduated in 1939) was influential to Bernstein’s work. His tutors, Edward Burlingame Hill, Walter Piston and David Prall, the conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos and friends he made during this period including Donald Davidson and Aaron Copland all made an impact. Copland became a major influence for Bernstein who called Copland his “only real composition teacher”. After Harvard, Bernstein attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner who was one of his mentors.

Bernstein continued his education at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer institute, Tanglewood, an association that continued and inspired him throughout his life. As a student at Tanglewood, he studied with Serge Koussevitzky, who became a sort of father figure, influencing the emotional way in which Bernstein interpreted music. Bernstein became Koussevitzky’s assistant and later dedicated his second Symphony to him.

His break as a conductor came in 1943 when, as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he stepped in at just six hours notice when Bruno Walter was taken ill. The New York Times put the story on their front page and so Bernstein’s fame as a conductor spread.

But it was the following year that marked him out as an important composer, with premieres of The ‘Jeremiah’ Symphony (No. 1) (heavily influenced by Copland) the ballet Fancy Free and the musical On The Town.

Bernstein preferred to collaborate with others, rather than working alone. Key collaborators included the choreographer Jerome Robbins, and the lyricists Betty Camden, Adolph Green, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim.

His career included many firsts. He conducted the American premiere of Britten’s Peter Grimes, the world premiere of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony, the world premier of Ives’ Symphony No 2. He was the first American conductor to appear at La Scala Opera House in Milan where he worked with Maria Callas, and the first to complete a cycle of recordings of all nine Mahler Symphonies. He worked with many of the World’s top orchestras including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. He also conducted at La Scala, the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

One project that raised his profile across America was his television series for CBS, Young People’s Concerts. This was the first series of music appreciation programmes produced on television. The programmes were very influential and highly acclaimed by critics. Some were released on record, leading to a Grammy in 1961.

In 1973, Bernstein was appointed to the Charles Eliot Norton Chair as Professor of Poetry at Harvard University where his televised lectures compared musical construction to language. In 1982, along with Ernest Fleischmann, he founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute as a summer training academy similar to Tanglewood. He later founded a similar project – the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo with Michael Tilson Thomas. In 1990 he received the Praemium Imperiale, an international prize awarded by the Japan Arts Association. Bernstein used the prize to establish The Bernstein Education Through The Arts (BETA) Fund Inc.

Throughout his career Bernstein struggled with balancing the different parts of his work, but he is remembered for his great compositions and conducting work, his championing of other composers, his influence on other conductors and his inspirational education work.

Our picks on where to hear Bernstein’s work this summer:

Chichester Psalms – 2nd August Hereford Cathedral with Carlo Rizzi and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales with the National Youth Choir of Wales

Symphony No 2 The Age of Anxiety – 10th August Usher Hall Edinburgh with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra

West Side Story – 11th August at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and live on BBC Radio 3 with John Wilson and the John Wilson Orchestra

On The Town – 25th August at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and live on BBC Four with John Wilson and the London Symphony Orchestra

Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium”, for solo violin, strings, harp, and percussion, West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, On the Town: Three Dance Episodes – 25th August at Usher Hall, Edinburgh with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra featuring Nicola Benedetti on Violin

For more info on these events follow this link >>

Music by Bushra El-Turk, Bernstein, Sondheim, Copland and more Proms at … Cadogan Hall 7: Bernstein on Broadway and Beyond – 1pm on 27th August at the Cadogan Hall, London

El-Turk, 35, is London-born, from a Lebanese family. Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she decided to become a composer aged 17, when “I woke up to a blackbird twittering a rhythm that created an orchestral piece in my head. That moment has dictated the rest of my career.” She is also composer in residenc

Her new work, Crème Brûlée on a Tree, was inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s settings of La Bonne Cuisine, a song based on a recipe for plum pudding. El-Turk’s composition is based on the durian fruit, otherwise known as stink fruit. – ES Magazine


 

Music Award for Young People Highlights Mental Health

Applications are open for a music award that supports young musicians from South East London.

Designed for artists between 16 and 25 years old who display musical talent, performance skills, business acumen and are passionate about forging a successful career, the Ed Renshaw Award was set up in 2012 in memory of an accomplished young guitarist who tragically took his own life aged just 30.

Renshaw was a gifted musician. Born in Greenwich in 1981 and a student at Thomas Tallis School, he began learning guitar aged 10. Music broadcaster Sandy Burnett called him: “a supremely talented jazz and classical guitarist.” But Renshaw also suffered with bouts of depression, and in 2011 he lost his struggle.

Judged by representatives from Peter Conway Management, a music management and promotions company which runs the award, and The Albany, a performing arts centre driven by the cultural diversity and creative mix of south east London, the Ed Renshaw Award is open to solo artists and bands. Cash prizes of between £1000 and £3000 help young musicians fund their career plans. Prizes also include mentorship and support from Peter Conway Management and rehearsal and performance space at The Albany. Winners are invited to partake in four live concerts between October 31st and November 3rd 2018, with headline acts to be announced later in the year. Musicians are chosen for their originality, talent and commitment, regardless of genre.

In its third bi-annual outing, Peter Conway Management and The Albany welcome a new partner, the national charity Youth Music. Funded by the National Lottery via Arts Council England, Youth Music exists to support children and young people, to build their confidence, resilience and self-esteem, and to develop the skills they need to succeed.

Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths says:

We’re very pleased to support this award, which will provide vital career progression opportunities and support young musicians who might otherwise miss out.

Renshaw’s life is regularly commemorated by concerts at The Albany. Staged by family and friends in partnership with Peter Conway Management, proceeds from the events combine with donations from members of the public towards the award.

Winners from 2016 were Megan Tuck and Blinkz Virgo, and Jay Johnson and in 2014 prizewinners included Lucy Cait whose song Gabriel’s Wharf has been featured on the BBC’s Steve Lamacq’s Rock College.

The closing date for applications is Thursday June 28th and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by the awards panel on Saturday 14th July. Application forms can be found at thealbany.org.uk.

If you or a friend or colleague is suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, use the links on this advice page from Help Musicians to find help. 

Those needing help and emotional support can also call Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or call the Help Musicians’ dedicated mental health helpline on 0808 802 8008. It’s free of charge and someone will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.

Women Composers – A Reflection on Cultural Expectation

Composer: A person who writes music especially as a professional occupation

The history of music is rich with composers, experimental, creative, daring, dashing, often with fascinating personal lives, and each still receiving regular concert billing. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Ives, Britten – in 2015, music exam board Edexcel featured 63 such composers in its A-Level syllabus.

In 2015, however, it was also pointed out via a change.org petition set up by student Jessy McCabe, that the syllabus was notably missing the inclusion of a single female composer.

This is not an unusual admission. We are used to the same names recurring. Concert societies look for music that will draw audiences, preferring to stick with safe, in-budget programming of Mozart and Beethoven quartets, and composers we’ve all heard of.

Meanwhile double standards and censorship abound. In the wake of the #metoo campaign (which saw Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs removed from display at the Manchester Art Gallery to supposedly prompt conversation about the way images of women’s bodies are displayed), singer R Kelly has been removed from Spotify playlists due to sexual abuse allegations (which the singer has denied). Spotify’s new ‘hate policy’ states that:

When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.

Meanwhile the music of Don Carlo Gesualdo is currently celebrated on the streaming platform. Gesualdo murdered his wife and her lover, and allegedly also the baby, but it was 400 years ago after all, so we can enjoy articles about him that wittily talk about ‘killer harmonies’ and bow to the description ‘irrefutably badass’ given him by the BBC’s Clemency Burton-Hill without so much as a wince in the direction of gender politics, or perhaps taste.

Any gender issue tends to spark heated debate. Claims that resurfaced on social media recently that Bach’s wife may have written some of his work met with anger, particularly from men who are beginning, understandably, to feel a bit browbeaten by current events.

But it’s a genuine question. Where are all the female composers? Why do we not hear their work? Why are they not simply referred to as ‘composers’ in the neutral way that actresses have become ‘actors’ in modern parlance?

Notable women include Lili Boulanger, who was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19, (Debussy won the 1884 prize at the age of 21 or 22) but her output was limited by ill health and early death at the age of 24. Her older sister Nadia is often spoken of more by association with her male pupils. Nadia Boulanger taught composition to some of the 20th Century’s most prominent composers: including Astor Piazzolla, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, David Diamond, İdil Biret, Daniel Barenboim and Philip Glass. She was also the first woman to conduct many of the major orchestras in America and Europe, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Hallé, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras, and conducted several world premieres, including works by Copland and Stravinsky.

Nadia Boulanger, Chanson:

Scottish born Thea Musgrave is one living female composer who is recognised for her incredible output, and actively celebrated. Her work saw significant premieres at the Proms and the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 1960s, since when she has continued to produce work on a large scale, including commissions for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a collaboration with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. She’s written a work called The Seasons that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in conversations comparing composers’ responses to nature that regularly site Vivaldi’s work of the same name.

Thea Musgrave, Winter from The Seasons:

 

It’s rather heartbreaking to read how Clara Schumann (1819-1896), who is generally spoken of in association with her more famous husband (generally just known as Schumann!), felt about the societal pressure placed upon her at a time when creative women were often suspected to be witches, or had to present as angelic to avoid implications of prostitution:

I once thought that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — not one has been able to do it, and why should I expect to?

And Alexandra Coghlan writes in the Spectator,

It’s even more frustrating to learn that, nearly 100 years later, when Elizabeth Maconchy was denied a prestigious Royal College of Music scholarship, the excuse given was, ‘If we’d given it to you, you’d only have got married and never written another note!’

To return to Edexcel, the exam board initially countered complaints about their all-male syllabus saying that female composers were not prominent in the Western Classical Tradition. But as the Independent reported, while this is to some extent true, it should not go unremarked.

Students should be taught about the women whose music we have been denied, because they in their turn were denied the opportunities they needed to succeed….

Students should also be taught about the women who did succeed in reaching prominence in their own time, only to be subsequently forgotten… while there were of course fewer women who managed to beat the odds, the International Encyclopedia of Women Composers nevertheless has more than 6,000 entries.

Despite this surprising number, an attempt to redress the balance by Classic FM can offer a list of only 10 Female Composers You Should Know, and even this list rather gauchely describes Ruth Crawford Seeger as “a woman who could ‘sling dissonances like a man,’” a quote ascribed to critics in the 1920’s but presented out-of-context here as though it were a reasonable comment on Seeger’s work.

In the wake of the Edexcel complaint, publisher, Rhinegold, produced a guide to the new syllabus by David Ashworth, who explains in his introduction:

It’s important that we now build on this initial momentum by showcasing the work of even more women composers. The ones included by Edexcel and the other boards are only the tip of a very large iceberg.

However, in this resource I want to go beyond just raising awareness. I want to help teachers and students get ‘under the bonnet’ by looking at some of the rich and diverse composing approaches and strategies used by some these women composers, not only to understand these ideas but also to guide students into trying some of them out for themselves.

Emily E Hogstad sums it up in her satirical blog, In Which I Learn Why There Are No Great Women Composers:

I’m not saying to chuck out Beethoven and Brahms….But once in a while, the boys could be gentlemanly enough to slide over at the table and let the ladies sit down for a bit.

Programmers are beginning to listen. In a move prompted by another gender row, this time within the music world – acclaimed conductor Mariss Jansons’ ill-timed and ill-judged comment that “seeing a woman on the podium… well, let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea” – the BBC has promised to gender-balance its Proms programming, pledging that half of all new commissions will go to women by 2020.

This plan builds a new balance for the future without trying to reinvent the past. Let’s hope it is viewed in a more positive light than the Tate’s current survey of 20th Century art, All Too Human, which was dismissed in the Financial Times as narrowing to gender politics with the inclusion of certain women artists in preference to male artists the writer considered to be more pivotal to art history.

Meanwhile Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is promoting the importance of women composers with a new initiative, Venus Blazing. Venus Blazing represents an unprecedented commitment by a music college to the music of women composers. Trinity Laban will ensure that at least half of the music it chooses for the multitude of varied public performances it mounts on its landmark Greenwich campus and in venues across London in 2018/19 will be by women composers.

[Image: Gnissah]

This encompasses over 50 concerts and opera performances given each year by the conservatoire’s large-scale student performing groups, with a particular focus on 20th and 21st century British composers, including Trinity Laban students, alumni and staff.

Performances will include a new production of Thea Musgrave’s opera A Christmas Carol, symphonies by Louise Farrenc and Grace Williams performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra, an exploration of the music of Trinity Laban alumna Avril Coleridge-Taylor, and music by current Trinity Laban composition students and staff, including Errollyn Wallen, Soosan Lolavar, Laura Jurd and Deirdre Gribbin.

The title Venus Blazing is taken from the title of a violin concerto by composition professor Deirdre Gribbin, who also runs the Venus Blazing Charitable Trust.

Trinity’s Chair, Harriet Harman, says:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance is strongly committed to diversity in all elements and it has a mission to constantly challenge the status quo. Venus Blazing is a great example of just how it can do this.

This celebration will encourage and inspire its students – many of whom will go on to shape the future of the performing arts – to engage with the historic issue of gender imbalance in music by women, and ensure that it does not continue into the next generation.

GDPR For Small Music Organisations

There’s a big change imminent in data law that’s been putting big business in a spin for months. However, many small organisations and individuals may not even be aware of it.

On May 25th, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will replace existing data laws. The GDPR is largely designed to bring data protection up to date with advances in data analysis and storage and the way that technology is used to sell us things. It’s designed to protect the rights and privacy of internet users in a much more relevant way, given advances in the integration of ‘online’ into every day life.

It’s easy to see how this doesn’t apply to your UK based music education organisation. Firstly, it’s an EU regulation, and we’re leaving the EU, right?

Wrong. The UK government has made it clear that the GDPR will be enforced, despite Brexit.

But you have a relatively small mailing list of members and you’re not sending constant sales emails or selling your list of email addresses to other companies. You don’t even keep it online, it’s filed in a cabinet.

It doesn’t matter!

If you hold a mailing list of any kind, the law applies to you.

The GDPR applies to ‘personal data’ meaning any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified in particular by reference to an identifier.

This definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, including name, identification number, location data or online identifier, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people.

The GDPR applies to both automated personal data and to manual filing systems where personal data are accessible according to specific criteria. This could include chronologically ordered sets of manual records containing personal data.

ICO website

Check out this video for a useful outline:

Should I panic?

This is a serious piece of legislation. The consequences for non-compliance are serious, ranging from compensation claims to fines of up to €20million and a ban from storing and processing data.

No. Don’t panic.

What do I need to do?

One of the biggest changes from previous data law is the emphasis on consent. You can now only add someone to your mailing list if you have their direct consent, which means they must opt in to receive your news rather than opting out of not receiving it.

In order to make sure your mailing list is compliant, you should either ensure you have opt-in records for everyone on the list, or ask people to opt in again. You can offer an incentive for them to confirm opt-in, such as entry into a prize draw.

It’s also a good time to reaffirm your privacy policy. Let people know what you use their data for, and that they can remove consent by unsubscribing at any time.

This is a good opportunity to reconnect with your mailing list, and to let them know their data is safe and that you are taking the new laws seriously.

Email privacy

It’s very common to see organisations emailing their members with all of the email addresses visible in the CC bar. It’s a convenient way to make sure members can contact each other. We’re all friends here, after all.

Wrong. Email addresses stored on your system should be held securely and not shared. To send emails which openly share the data of other members is a breach of privacy law. ALWAYS use the BCC line.

What if I work with children?

The law safeguards children’s data too. Here are the guidelines laid out by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) with regards to children:

  • Children need particular protection when you are collecting and processing their personal data because they may be less aware of the risks involved.
  • If you process children’s personal data then you should think about the need to protect them from the outset, and design your systems and processes with this in mind.
  • Compliance with the data protection principles and in particular fairness should be central to all your processing of children’s personal data.
  • You need to have a lawful basis for processing a child’s personal data. Consent is one possible lawful basis for processing, but it is not the only option. Sometimes using an alternative basis is more appropriate and provides better protection for the child.
  • If you are relying on consent as your lawful basis for processing personal data, when offering an online service directly to a child, only children aged 13 or over are able provide their own consent.(This is the age proposed in the Data Protection Bill and is subject to Parliamentary approval).
  • For children under this age you need to get consent from whoever holds parental responsibility for the child – unless the online service you offer is a preventive or counselling service.
  • Children merit specific protection when you use their personal data for marketing purposes or creating personality or user profiles.
  • You should not usually make decisions based solely on automated processing about children if this will have a legal or similarly significant effect on them.
  • You should write clear privacy notices for children so that they are able to understand what will happen to their personal data, and what rights they have.
  • Children have the same rights as adults over their personal data. These include the rights to access their personal data; request rectification; object to processing and have their personal data erased.
  • An individual’s right to erasure is particularly relevant if they gave their consent to processing when they were a child.

The law comes into force in just under a month. Take the time now to re-engage with your mailing list and assess your data and privacy policies to make sure you comply. There is loads of information on the ICO website, and remember, if unsure about any aspect of data law and how it applies to you, always seek legal advice.


How Should we Sing these Songs?

While planning a recent singing workshop, MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria, had cause to reflect on the names and lyrics of songs, how the meaning of some words has changed, becoming sensitive, controversial or unacceptable, and how some aspects of music might impact workshop participants.

Looking into the topic more deeply, Maria discovered examples that have created debate in the past. One such incident happened when Garry Martin, a headteacher in Melbourne, Australia, decided it was necessary to alter a word in the song Kookabura. His concern was around the phrase, “Gay your life must be.”

Mr Martin mentioned his decision to change the word ‘gay’ to ‘fun’ on local radio, and found himself under fire. He had been conscious that the word would potentially lose him control of his class: “I knew if we sing ‘Gay your life must be’ the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter … I wasn’t trying to insult gay people.”

Although Mr Martin’s decision was based on behaviour management, it raised concerns from gay and lesbian advocates who said it sent a signal that the word ‘gay’ was unacceptable.

Mr Martin later acknowledged that instead of avoiding the issue, he should have explained the meaning of gay as another word for happy, and taken the opportunity to educate the children that the term should not be used disparagingly.

Songs that use gay to mean happy or joyful are common. Jamaica Farewell, released in 1957, made famous by Harry Belafonte and covered by various artists including Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Carly Simon. is another example.

Down the way

Where the nights are gay

And the sun shines daily on the mountaintop

I took a trip on a sailing ship

And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

 

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way

Won’t be back for many a day

My heart is down

My head is turning around

I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.

So how should we teach these songs in schools, youth groups, holiday clubs and other community groups?

The setting can be very important, but should not be prescriptive. While homosexuality can be a challenging issue in some religious settings, the original meaning and context of any lyrics still stand. Approach the subject sensitively. Decide whether it is really necessary to change any words, and think carefully about your reasons for doing so.

Other songs that can raise challenges include songs that may cause children to remember abuse or trauma.

What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor is a sea shanty dating from as early as 1820 which became popular among non-sailors in the 20th century. As a song for musical activities, it has easy words with lots of repetition, makes use of drone and is a good way to introduce the concept of work songs – songs that helped workers carry out tasks.

Children often find the idea of drunkeness funny. However, for participants who have experienced abuse from a drunken relative, this song could trigger feelings of trauma.

Alcohol is a topic that requires care in religious settings. The tale of Sinbad the Sailor, which makes a great basis for a composition workshop, features drunkenness, even though it is set in Muslim countries. Again, sensitivity and awareness are key. Any elements of a story that might cause offence and risk children losing the opportunity to participate can be removed.

Music that links to war can also bring up bad memories or emotions in participants. The Second World War has inspired many composers, with works including Steve Reich’s Different Trains. MWC’s Maria says: “Having studied the Holocaust at school, I cannot listen to Different Trains. I find it chilling, it literally makes me feel cold.”

As a teacher or workshop leader, be aware that music can trigger strong emotions, and this can be a positive or negative experience. When choosing challenging music, try to predict possible issues, and once in the classroom make sure you are hyper-aware of the body language and reactions of your students.

Race is another subject that requires thought. Some pieces of music might be worth listening to for their cultural context or for their compositional value, but be laden with difficulty. For example, consider how you would introduce Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. Is it best avoided, or is it better to teach the history behind the name? While it may be more comfortable to disassociate from this area of music history, this is a valuable opportunity to educate students and deepen their understanding. Instead of ignoring the piece, you can explain what it was about, and what ‘golliwog’ and ‘cakewalk’ meant. This excellent essay explains the racism behind the Golliwog Caricature.

Remember too that it is possible to be oversensitive. Teachers who changed the words to the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep because they felt the word ‘black’ was racist caused a debate about political correctness ‘gone mad’. In the case of this song, the sheep is black simply for the purposes of alliteration. Removing the word could send the message that ‘black’ is a negative term. It also gives an example of trivial political correctness that racists can use to criticise and undermine the very real issue of racism.

With many cultural items, things move in and out of fashion or are interpreted differently over time. Only recently, removal by Manchester Art Gallery of John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs, triggered by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, sparked discussion about political correctness and the danger of censoring or editing art that does not conform to what is currently acceptable.

It’s important to constantly evaluate traditional attitudes and familiar phrases. It is also always possible, if you feel there will be a problem that might preclude some children’s inclusion, to chose an alternative song or piece of music that achieves the same result.

Every piece of art is a result of the society in which it was created. The challenge for music educators is to ensure the survival of great music while placing it in a context that shows sensitivity to the audience/participants and the works themselves.

Creative Subjects Need Your Support

The Music Workshop Company has been following changes to the secondary curriculum in the UK with concern, as the implementation of the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) results in a worrying decline in take-up of arts subjects.

We’ve been supporting Bacc for the Future – the brainchild of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). We spoke to the ISM’s Jessica Salter to find out how the campaign is progressing:

“Bacc for the Future calls for creative subjects to be included in EBacc and ABacc league tables, or for these qualifications to be replaced by a more rounded option. The campaign began in 2011 when the EBacc was first imposed. It’s now supported by more than 30,000 individuals and 200 creative organisations.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey]

The EBacc is a league table measuring schools by pupil performance in five subject areas. The intention is for ‘at least 90% of students’ (nationally) to be entered into the EBacc subjects, with only certain types of schools exempt. This essentially makes it a compulsory qualification for most school-age children in England.

For a pupil’s performance to count towards this new measure, he or she needs to have studied a minimum of seven GCSE subjects which must include English Literature, English Language, Maths, two or three sciences, an ancient or modern language, and history or geography.

If students are encouraged to study triple science and history and geography, this minimum of seven GCSEs becomes a minimum of 9.

It becomes clear looking at this list that the EBacc pushes creative subjects, like music, out of the curriculum and out of school options at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level).

The fact that the EBacc undermines creative subjects in secondary schools is a big problem. Statistics released by the Department of Education (DoE) in January showed an 8% drop in the uptake of creative GCSEs in 2017.

Add that to the 8% drop in 2016, and the figures are significant.

A recent survey from the BBC, which looked at 1,200 schools nationwide, found that 90% of these schools had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

The ISM continues to meet with parliamentarians to fight the EBacc. We still need your support and encourage musicians and music educators to actively participate to help us. You can do this by writing to your local MP and the Prime Minister about why creative subjects matter in our schools.

To find out more and to support our Bacc for the Future campaign visit baccforthefuture.org and follow us on Twitter @bacc4thefuture.”

Read MWC’s previous blogs about the campaign:

The EBacc and the Importance of the Arts in Schools

The EBacc and the Arts – An Educational Paradox

Government Bulldozes on with EBacc Despite Evidence

The ISM was set up in 1882. Today the organisation supports a growing membership of nearly 8,500 professional musicians from across the music sector. Its members include performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians. The ISM provides a range of services including specialist legal and tax advice, template contracts, comprehensive insurances, professional development materials and select discounts – as well as fearlessly protecting musicians, the music profession as a whole and the wider industry through rigorous campaigning.


If you would like to contact the Music Workshop Company to book one of our bespoke workshops, or if you have an issue, an event or anything music-education related you’d like to see covered in our blog, get in touch today, we’d love to hear from you: info@music-workshop.co.uk


MWC Advert Image

%d bloggers like this: