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Who killed classical music?

Started by Retinend, January 22, 2014, 12:04:34 PM

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Sam

Quote from: Retinend on January 26, 2014, 10:58:05 PM

May be of interest
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

(...Well, mathematical as it is, it shows the opposite effect, and only shows it so long as you believe that the way IQ tests are designed do pick out skills which reasonably portray the notion of intelligence, culturally independent.)

I'm aware of that effect, although not in detail. Obviously a big difference between something as singular as a test and as amorphous as an institution. Anyway, dumbing down is in the communication not in the brain of anyone doing it. Individuals who work at the BBC might be smart, the listeners too, but the organisation can still aim things for some inaginary stupider audience, not because that's what the audience can only understand but because that's what they want to sell. You can't measure that objectively, there's just a sense that you're being talked down to and an awareness that there's a broader spectrum of stuff than what you're currently being exposed to.

No people are getting stupider, just the things they deliberately say.

Retinend

Do you really believe that the purported dumbing down is subjective, Sam? It would be odd to believe that dumbing down is so actively pursued as a programming policy by flesh and blood programming directors, while believing that there's no way it could actually be manifested outside of personal perception.

Sam

I believe that R3 has 'dumbed down'. What that means is more complicated, as is how that's measured. I don't think there are Dr Evil executives twirling moustaches to make things worse but I don't think this happens accidentally either. The feeling of something being dumbed down is just that - a feeling, but there must be a reason behind it. I said 'can't measure' earlier, but I suppose I really mean 'not easily'.

NoSleep

Hopefully I'll have time to go into this further, but I think a major factor in the dumbing down is the move from intimate knowledge and research in collating shows, to accessing the broad but shallow resource that is the internet. You can "research" a subject far too easily nowadays and it's a known problem in modern journalism; I mean, come on.

Sam

I've mentioned this before but in one of their afternoon concerts one of the interchangeable vacuous bints, in her commentary to a piece of new music, said 'it's all terribly complicated' instead of explaining it. Not even any attempt, just  Philomena Cunk level gawping. I was driving at the time and nearly crashed into some concrete with rage.

Retinend

Quote from: Sam on January 27, 2014, 12:48:08 AMThe feeling of something being dumbed down is just that - a feeling, but there must be a reason behind it.

Right, so therefore not "pretty subjective by nature,"  but more about whether you accurately perceive or don't perceive what's happening? Without knowing anything about radio 3, I'm intuitively (prejudicially) on your side, but I thought that this was a bit of a hedge.

NoSleep

In the last two decades there's been a huge shift within the BBC from a studio culture to an office one.
I spent some time working in a studio based in Swansea for a project I was working on which was within the BBC building there. The almost the entire 2nd floor had been retired from use by the BBC. Within the studio I was shown a unit that had been sold to the new owner for £100 (an EMT 250 Digital Reverb), currently worth over £5000 secondhand.
Across the hall was what used to be the centrepiece of the building. A vast concert hall sized space built in the early days of the 20th century. It rose through two floors to give the ceiling the necessary height. Distinctively it had water-filled tanks built into the walls in the higher part which gave the room a unique natural reverb that had been prized. Even now this famous hall is used for making classical recordings. What did the BBC plan for it? They wanted to reclaim the floor space by building a new floor halfway up. Fortunately it's a listed building and they were not permitted to do this, so this valuable resource is still available.
When I was there a huge number of other classic studio equipment items (all, no doubt, of a similar value as the reverb unit mentioned above) were strewn across the floor of the hall, retired.

I also had a friend who work as a librarian in the BBC archive who had similar stories about the "restructuring" that rendered the archive redundant, so far as the other, now separated, departments of the BBC were concerned.

This discussion has really brought back my hate and resentment toward the BBC at that time for wrecking itself from within.

It isn't just Radio 3, or the World Service either; Why was Steve Lamacq prevented from playing UK hip hop on his show, which would have brought it to a wider audience on Radio One? Because they had ghettoised Urban Music to 1Xtra, FFS.
I remember my disappointment at seeing the BBC4 Sun Ra documentary "Brother From Another Planet" directed by Don Letts for Something Else Productions; and that's despite interviews with such useful commentators as John Szwed, Ra's biographer. I could have supplied more information and footage than was shown; a missed opportunity, although now they can "tick" that box "done". And Don Letts (obviously not a great fan) pretty much presented him as a "wacky eccentric" rather than the important figure in music that he remains.


Johnny Yesno

Quote from: NoSleep on January 27, 2014, 12:09:15 PM
It isn't just Radio 3, or the World Service either; Why was Steve Lamacq prevented from playing UK hip hop on his show, which would have brought it to a wider audience on Radio One? Because they had ghettoised Urban Music to 1Xtra, FFS.

Interesting. I wasn't sure what to make of this at the time but, from what you say, it seems he was on the money.

NoSleep

Yes, that story indicated dumb with an extra side order of dumb on top. And don't get me started about Stuart "Research" Maconie.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: NoSleep on January 27, 2014, 02:58:58 PM
Yes, that story indicated dumb with an extra side order of dumb on top. And don't get me started about Stuart "Research" Maconie.

Aw! Leave Stuart "Research" Maconie alone. He's a hapless but genuine enthusiast.

NoSleep

Genuine, you say? Any number of establishment airhead presenters could do as well.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: NoSleep on January 27, 2014, 03:07:22 PM
Genuine, you say? Any number of establishment airhead presenters could do as well.

I doubt they'd be interested, and there's the rub.

NoSleep

#222
When I hear him I want to smash the radio (figuratively speaking).

Johnny Yesno

#223
Quote from: NoSleep on January 27, 2014, 03:48:38 PM
When I hear him I want to smash the radio (figuratively speaking).

He does have a sexy voice, it's true.

daf

Quote from: Johnny Yesno on January 27, 2014, 03:03:23 PM
Aw! Leave Stuart "Research" Maconie alone. He's a hapless but genuine enthusiast.

Not to mention co-inventor of the Radio Pork Game!  [nb]Pork to porktion po-porktor of the Porkio Pork Pork![/nb]

Talulah, really!

Quote from: Sam on January 26, 2014, 10:03:53 PM
Out of interest what are the various reasons you are wary?


Reasons to be Fearful parts 1,2,3. or Variations upon a theme.

1) Dumbing Down as an example of the slipping standards routine, a routine that has been running through out recorded history, the eternal silver thread of human conservatism. Things were better in the past, people worked harder, didn't have it so easy, didn't speak back to their elders and betters, listened to what the wise old ones said for they spoke for hard won wisdom. They are making exams easier you know.

It should be apparent that standards can't been slipping downwards decade after decade throughout time, they have changed, perhaps people don't mind their P's and Q's as much, talk with their mouths full while on their phones using *shudder* textspeech but on the other hand they aren't massive racists/sexists who lock up disabled children in institutions.

Equally, as linked to earlier, stories in the press, activist campaigns about slipping standards and failure to fulfil a remit have been running about Radio 3 since its inception and switchover from the Third Programme.

2)
QuoteDumbing down is pretty subjective by nature;

Dumbing Down as the "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" fallacy.

Play wall to wall Mozart = playing it safe, comfort blanket music = Dumbing Down.

Fill the airwaves with the latest atonality pieces incorporating Gamelan, tape loops and percussion made of car engine parts = trendy nonsense that hasn't proved its value through centuries of being at the centre of European culture = Dumbing Down.

Play both of them, one type in the day, one type at night = Putting music into Ghettoes not allowing the cross fertilisation that enables the listener to be exposed to new things outside their comfort zone and grow = Dumbing Down.

Mix both of them together in the same programme = Not putting music into a proper historical context denying proper understanding and judgement = Dumbing Down.

3) Dumbing Down as an example of cognitive bias. Related to 1. The known way the human mind makes sense of its world through story and narrative and then only selects/notices evidence that supports that story ignoring the bits that don't, even to the extent that when challenged by evidence/argument it will seek to resolve the internal conflict by incorporating the evidence in such a way it now supports the narrative and reward itself with dopamine when it does. (This is why people get addicted to pointless arguing on the internet! Mmmmmm, yummy dopamine.)

For instance the following classic exchange.

Person A gives an example which proves their point.
Person B gives a counterexample.
Person A then says "That's only one example," (even though that's all they offered), "Mine was just the tip of the iceberg, yours was merely the exception that proves the rule. I win."



4) The safety of the familiar. When things change, people get fearful, they don't like change so bring out the cry of "Dumbing Down" as a way of "poisioning the well" of the debate (since people who speak out for the change are identifying themselves as dumb even though the claim hasn't been proved yet, loaded words you see, it also ties into the examples above as now the person making the "Dumbing Down" accusation believes themselves to be speaking for some sort of recognised standards against the heathens rather than simply expressing their own prejudices, safety in numbers and also identifying with a cause rather than one's personal ego is so much safer when blame or failure came around.)

5) Boring old snobbery. Allied to the above. Maintaining known social cues (a particular type of music favoured by a social class/group, a formal or informal way of presenting it) is a way to ensure the right sort of people are listening, the social tribe that one belongs to. There is, alas, a sense of superiority about a lot of people who listen to certain types of music, appreciate certain types of art and speaking out against "Dumbing Down" is more about maintaining those particular types of social cues than expressions of intelligence.

To give a very silly example, if a presenter where to say "Now Opera on 3, this evening we have a production of Guilano's The Pregnant Cockerel, the plot, well it is the usual preposterous twaddle, let's face it, we are here for the tunes and crikey, there's some corkers." 

That would bring Radio 3 listeners out in hives but it is a matter of formality and social rules rather than "Dumbing Down" as it is in fact a rather knowingly ironic remark to make that operas have ridiculous plots. Sometimes it seems that by not acknowledging this fact, that many operas were written to entertain the audiences of their times and are closer to pantomime than psychological dramas, is another way of placing down social markers to keep the oiks out. (Who are perfectly capable of using "Fox and sour grapes" strategies to upkeep their own egos sense of superiority, "Well it's just a lot of posh people watching fat women singing in foreign who'd want to see that."

I could go on in a similar vein but ultimately most of the reasons will fall under two headings of Cognitive Bias or Conservatism, I've yet to see any convincing case there is any "Dumbing Down" of Radio 3.

QuoteWhy do you need a water tight case?
To guard against the above, though the part you quoted was actually referring to the article's claim that the loss of listeners was due to "Dumbing Down" rather than anything else.

Quote
I'm not sure how anyone could go about proving a case of that in any kind of logical/mathematical way.

Well, that's one reason for looking at available evidence, to me, as an avid reader of the Radio Times radio schedule every week, that 30 year old schedule doesn't seem to be substantially different, there are changes of course but there always will be. (There seems to be a certain irony in people who want music to be open to change not wishing the same for Radio 3!)

Quote
Opinionated rhetoric is standard for this kind of blog, or any blog, or here, or the internet really. Surely nothing to be too cross about?

Who's cross? Opinionated rhetoric is fine as long as it is recognised for what it is but you didn't present it as such, you said it was "some of the best arts journalism available anywhere," "All of this stuff is backed up with data and sources", data and sources still need to understood and placed in a proper context (a point NoSleep is making above) in a fair way, grabbing a single set of Rajar figures and spinning a story from it is not good journalism though admittedly it is depressingly common, usually, when these figures are published, the "serious" Papers simply put out paragraphs from the BBC press release with a single line of commentary as a token gesture to the papers party line, they hardly ever get analysed in depth looking back over years or taking into account how web use changes radio listening (extending reach in some areas/ opening up other options for listeners time in others, good/bad/for/against.)

Quote
His blog is full of biases, grinding axes, fallacies, egotism, you name it. It's also the best blog I've ever read on classical music.[1]

Which may make for entertaining/ enlightening reading but not reliability on the author's pet topics!


Sam

#226
I don't need 30 years of reading the Radio Times; R3 has been less pleasurable to listen to in the last few.

I absolutely agree with everything you said about there being no golden age and all that. However, the internet and global communication is a massive development in human history, with an exponential rate of change and a significant lag time for us to reflect on those changes. There could be a bigger different in something in 5 years recently than in 50 years in another era. Case in point, twitter, which killed R3 for me in recent memory. There was no twitter in the 50s!

Your 'point no 2' requires a lot of leaps (those aren't the only types of dumbing down nor are your proposals the only countermeasures), imaginary scenarios (who are the people who would object to each thing?) and some dodgy equations ( '=dumbing down'...says you - personally I'd be happy with the mixture of stuff you describe).

Anyway, I've read Daniel Kahneman's stuff, too. I was asking how you'd prove a case of dumbing down, not the opposite, or how it doesn't exist in the first place.

Here's what I'd like from R3:

Less talking between music, of if you must, standard liner note stuff without platitudes.
No phone ins.
Less Twitter.
Recommending 'building a library' choices that are not deleted from the catalogue (so you can buy it) or download only (so you can support a bricks and mortar shop).
More of a mixture of music.
No 'composer anniversaries' or playing just one composer all week.
Emphasis on the music not the presenter or the station.

Basically, anything that gives the listener more of a direct experience with music, which should be a variety of old and new, safe and modern, high and low etc. Yes, it'd be a challenge to programme that, and you can't please everyone, but you can try. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Service the music, and forget about the audience a little bit and the audience will come to the music. It seems to me that R3 are chasing after the audience. As someone said earlier, it shouldn't be using such blatant corporate models for what should be a less commercial and more utilitarian station.

Don_Preston

Quote from: NoSleep on January 27, 2014, 03:07:22 PM
Genuine, you say? Any number of establishment airhead presenters could do as well.

Maconie loves/"research" Henry Cow, a favourite of yours and mine, which isn't common for a national radio staple.

NoSleep

Judging by some of his (very standard airhead establishment) views that have slipped past the net, I don't think he's really engaged in Henry Cow's politics, important to why they played how they did. He must just like the sounds they made, man. Vic Reeves is another fan of theirs; shall we try him out instead?

CaledonianGonzo

He was a music journalist for 20 odd years.  I'm not claiming he's our generation's Lester Bangs, but it's not like he's been plucked from nowhere to host music radio because the style mags love him.

Don_Preston

Quote from: NoSleep on January 28, 2014, 09:33:42 PM
Judging by some of his (very standard airhead establishment) views that have slipped past the net, I don't think he's really engaged in Henry Cow's politics, important to why they played how they did.

Perhaps he is, but has to toe BBC neutrality guidelines. Maybe he likes their music but sees no political relevance? We can but speculate. But I won't rule him out for liking them. As well as being the only BBC DJ who will play something of their ilk.

NoSleep

Quote from: CaledonianGonzo on January 28, 2014, 09:39:01 PM
He was a music journalist for 20 odd years.

That's meant to be a positive?

Don_Preston

QuoteHe was a music producer for 20 odd years.

That's meant to be a positive?

NoSleep

Not sure what you're implying there, but 20 years of experience in actually creating music is 20 years more than writing about it. Recall that my initial criticism of him was his research abilities; heard too many inaccuracies when speaking about artists; if that's any indication of his experience. Ah yes, journalists usually make stuff up on the fly (unless they have a press release to copy straight from).

Johnny Yesno

#234
Quote from: Don_Preston on January 28, 2014, 09:41:52 PM
Perhaps he is, but has to toe BBC neutrality guidelines. Maybe he likes their music but sees no political relevance? We can but speculate. But I won't rule him out for liking them. As well as being the only BBC DJ who will play something of their ilk.

He doesn't seem to go into the politics of music at all, as far I can tell. I can see why that would frustrate some people but at least playing the freaky stuff at all gives it a chance to speak for itself. Perhaps it is part of BBC neutrality - he certainly gets squeamish if any guests start talking positively about hallucinogens, which is pretty funny under the circumstances.

Stuart Maconie: 'I just have to point out that the BBC in no way endorses the use of LSD.'
Adrian Sherwood: 'That's right. Other drugs are available.'

Petey Pate

Quote from: NoSleep on January 28, 2014, 09:58:55 PM
Not sure what you're implying there, but 20 years of experience in actually creating music is 20 years more than writing about it. Recall that my initial criticism of him was his research abilities; heard too many inaccuracies when speaking about artists; if that's any indication of his experience. Ah yes, journalists usually make stuff up on the fly (unless they have a press release to copy straight from).

You are Frank Zappa and I claim my five pounds.

Johnny Yesno

I happened to catch this show being trailed at the end of something else I was listening to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03s6mdr/Start_the_Week_Sir_Peter_Maxwell_Davies/

QuoteTom Sutcliffe talks to the celebrated composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies on the eve of the premier of his tenth symphony. His latest work creates a musical structure based on architectural proportions, inspired by the 17th century architect Francesco Borromini. Waldemar Januszczak turns to the 18th century and Rococo for his inspiration, and looks at how this artistic movement spread from painting and interior design, to music and theatre. The environment, both built and natural, is key to Trevor Cox's study of sound as he listens intently to the cacophony around us. While the psychologist Victoria Williamson explores our relationship with music, including why we're prone to earworms, certain rhythms repeating endlessly in our heads.

This is much more my bag than the Prokofiev effort, touching as it does on musical perception, noise and how architecture can affect composition.

Also mentioned is the architect Borromini, who I'd never heard of before:






Johnny Yesno


Howj Begg

I think the Maxwell Davies tenth is about to air (7:30 pm)

NoSleep

Can I just say that Retinend is a bad judge of the value of music and thank him for making me listen to the entire "For Alto" by Anthony Braxton, which is an amazing album, in contrast to his Alf Garnett musings about it.