Euan’s write up led me to this; a piece on this mornings Today show plugging a new competition for classical music writing in BBC Music Magazine. What could have been an innocuous bit of puffery developed into almost an illustration writ large of Jeff Jarvis’ constant cry “When everyone’s a critic, where do all the critics go?”.
And for the icing on the cake Carolyn Quinn questioned if bloggers could be trusted to ” give a decent concert review”. Here’s a transcript of the short piece. The audio is still available but only temporarily.
TODAY: (Caroline ) Now not enough people are writing about classical music, so says BBC Music Magazine. To encourage them its launching a new competition called the Michael Oliver memorial prize which will be open to anyone under 25 who hasn’t been published in a national publication and who wants to write a feature or a profile of a musician or a composer they admire. The magazine’s editor; Oliver Condy joins me on the line now as does Daily Telegraph arts critic; Rupert Christiansen.
Oliver Condy, first of all; What sort of pieces would you like to see be put in for this competition.
OLIVER CONDY: Well we’re basically after a chance for young people to get an entry in to the world of classical music. Its so difficult to become a music critic these days, there’s no job spec, so we’re after people to write a clear 250 words, a review of a couple of discs by the same artist and also a slightly larger feature, just profiling a musician or an issue that they feel really heated about. So its a good chance for people to have a pretty liberated go at pithy music journalism.
CAROLINE QUINN: So you’re concerned at the lack of youthful writers
OLIVER CONDY: Well I’m concerned at the lack of youthful writers. Its not that I want us to sweep away the old guard but I do find that there are too few critics and they get bogged down slightly in their journalese and music criticism can become very lazy and uncommunicative and i really do think that bringing young people up and interested in classical music let alone writing about it can only be a good thing for the future.
CAROLINE QUINN: Rupert Christiansen. Let me bring you in here. You are a critic and you seem to have succeeded in a job that is quite difficult to get into. What do you think about this option for opening up the door to young people.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: Well its very good. I don’t want to be negative about it but I slightly feel that you’ve missed a trick Oliver. Its not very challenging and this “musician you admire” thing sounds like a GCSE project to me. The CD Review is so short that once you’ve got all the names in you’re through.
CAROLINE QUINN:To pick up on that, the idea of being a critic you would say is a job that not everyone can do. You don’t just write a short piece and then you’re naturally a critic.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: I think the energy you need to pick up on at the moment is in blogs, the classical music blogs, probably by older people. It would be great to get them in the fold.
CAROLYN QUINN: Oliver Condy, How do you answer those points ?
OLIVER CONDY: I wanted to set the bar at a fairly basic level.People can make of it what they want, by say profling a musician you admire you can really get under the skin. Its whatever level you want to take it at.
CAROLYN QUINN: Its not just GCSE style ?
OLIVER CONDY: Absolutely not. I’m hoping that people of GCSE age are going to enter and there are some wonderful writers out there. For science writers, for film critics but for classical music there is a real lack..and the point about the blogs. There are, as we know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and its so difficult to sift through so by giving people a bit of a benchmark, a well known publication to get published in. The prize is to write a cover feature for the magazine so there is a really good chance to get into the limelight, with a blog it would be so difficult to do that.
CAROLYN QUINN: And with blogs do you not think Rupert Christiansen that some people would think well, we can’t trust a blogger to give a decent concert review.
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: Well perhaps we should trust them. I certainly think there is a problem now. Professional critics now are on our way out.
CAROLYN QUINN: Oh dear. Thanks for talking us before you go (LAUGHTER).
RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN: There is a lot of mistrust of the idea of an expert or an authoritative scholarly critic. Opinion has been democratised pretty much through the internet in the past few years and there is a feeling that one person’s view is as good as another. I find that slightly depressing I have to say.
—-More plugs for the competition. Interview ends.