Friday, August 1, 2008

CBC turf wars

Greg Sandow links to an article on the ongoing CBC debacle by Robert Everett-Green, music critic at the Globe and Mail. Those familiar with Sandow's writing will feel right at home in Everett-Green's article: classical music is a minority taste! It's not relevant to popular culture! It uses elitism to claim a portion of public funding greater than its actual importance! And so on.

My main problem with the Sandow post is that he seems to be presenting the CBC decision as Exhibit A in his ongoing battle with the classical music establishment. (His previous commentary on the CBC decision is here.) Accept popular music as an equal form of expression, he seems to say, and alter your performance style to appeal to pop music fans - or you'll be fired, just like those CBC announcers! As a non-CBC listener, I think Sandow accepts CBC propaganda too readily, assuming that the Corporation is trying to liven up a dull rotation of nineteenth-century warhorses with a little variety, and a bunch of old ladies are complaining about it because they hate change. In fact, the CBC's programming has historically been quite eclectic and, as I've pointed out in a comment to his blog, was quite similar to the genre-busting programming that he advocates.

Obviously I disagree strongly with the recent CBC decisions, and my incoherent ranting is here, if you can bear to read it. (The bad writing blog entry at Dial M for Musicology is worth a nod here; some of the turns of phrase in this post make me wince, even though it's barely a month old. But changing anything now would be a waste of time.) I would add, however, that opponents of classical music programming seem to carry two contradictory ideas in their head about the genre: on the one hand, classical music is the territory of an unimportant minority, and thus no more worthy of special respect than some subgenre of death metal, but on the other hand, classical music is the domain of Powerful, Elite Groups of Old, White People, which makes it practically a patriotic duty to get rid of it. They can't decide whether getting rid of classical music is a logical marketing decision, or a crusade to bring down the aristocracy. It's very curious. If classical music was a totally marginal genre with no special value, one would assume these writers would have better things to do than writing newspaper articles to tell us so.

The one thing that did shock me in the Globe and Mail piece was an anecdote about the hundreds of CBC listeners who supposedly wrote in to protest the inclusion of a Gavin Bryars piece in the regular CBC lineup. It's not just the philistinism of the listeners that surprised me (Gavin Bryars is a really interesting, talented composer), but the fact that they would bother to write letters of complaint just because they heard a piece they didn't like. Don't these people have jobs?

No comments: