3 Replies to Sam Hayden

1. from Rosie Lindsell
2. from Roger Marsh
3. from Kevin Mayo

1. from: Rosie Lindsell

thank you, sam hayden! re. your article (new notes, dec. 2000). refreshing to read this, (opinions strongly voiced - marvellous!), and you got me thinking...

surely, "non-marketing" is just as powerful and manipulative a phenomenon as the insidious "marketing" apparent in every aspect of the culture industry (i hate to say it, but that's what it is).

ever since malcolm mclaren and his sex pistols, so-called "anti-establishment", and now "non-image" or subversive groups (radiohead, unknown public, the prodigy...) have been actively using the un-hyped, unglossy approach to sell themselves: outraged news reports (drugs, filfth, politics), fly posters, secret gigs... target audience? a discerning, intellectual (perhaps angry) crowd who wouldn't be seen dead buying anything from the high street. this ploy gives the target audience a sensation of being members of an exclusive circle, untouched by the abhorrent marketing machine. in the same way, [rout] may be seen to use the "unpigeonhole-able" niche to attract such an audience.

this is absolutely fine, of course. i applaud what [rout] are doing. you follow in the steps of, and expand upon, the ensemble modern and london sinfonietta amongst others in this "pool of players" thing, and that's really great. give it ten years (max), and symphony orchestras in the uk will be entirely comprised of freelance players - no salaries, no pensions, no committees for the general managers to worry about - and they will be forced to adopt a more diverse repertoire in order to survive.

my argument is not with who gets played, when, where, the special effects, costumes, marketing etc. used to entice an audience. this is not the essence of the problem. rather, i feel that nobody has the guts to criticise the SUBSTANCE any more. we are fearful of voicing opinion about works themselves, entering into debates, being allowed to dislike something. perhaps this is down to the sheer diversity of compositional genre: there's nothing as simple as Pop and Classical these days, eh?

what troubles me most is the on-going dilution - driven largely by media marketing and the "big labels" - of anything pure, spontaneous, and uncontrived, in order to sell stuff to people. one thing of absolute beauty may emerge from a soul, only to be duplicated, poorly, by a stream of others (no souls involved). this has got to a point where, so disillusioned by the big picture, many folk (especially outside the big cities and universities) simply aren't bothering to go and look out new work - theatre, dance, music - if it's not already been approved by someone else.

things will change.

wanted to get that off my chest, and it's now out...

yours, exasperated today, but still hopeful for our souls in the future,

Rosie Lindsell

PS: don't knock education projects: they are of extreme value to the participants, not always on a purely musical level, and rewarding for composers & players involved, not all of whom are driven by funding applications. thanks.

2. from Roger Marsh

I was surprised to read last month's article by Sam Hayden (a composer for whom I have the highest regard) decrying the 'commodification' of new music, while taking a sideswipe at most of his fellow composers in his definition of four 'stereotypes of new music'.

In a sense one can’t fault his analysis - that does seem to be how it is. I'm sure I won't be the only one, however, to point out that Sam fits rather neatly into at least two of his categories: I didn't dream the 'in your face' crossover piece "Time is Money" did I? And by now "Partners in Psychopathology" will have had its Warehouse performance by Exposé - in my experience one of the most black uniformed and least smiling ensembles around (no offence guys, you're allowed to be serious about what you do).

Coincidentally, I read Sam’s article the day after hearing a talk by another disgruntled composer, Gordon McPherson, (whose music I also greatly admire). His analysis of the same problem included the difficulties faced by a composer whose background and formative life experiences were working class.

Women composers may be shocked to learn that there are men having problems of this sort. For some time now we have been fighting the male dominated establishment to get a voice for women. From time to time it might feel to some of us established, middle-aged Englishmen that there are now more opportunities for women, more opportunities for Scottish composers, - certainly more opportunities for young composers - than there are for us.

I admire [rout]'s attempt to find a route through the 'tribal stereotypes' - but are they not in danger of simply defining a new tribe? Their playlists are heavily dominated by young, white, male composers. Is this policy?

Come off it, Sam. You depend upon Academia and the usual New Music channels as much as the rest of us. 'Packages' (commodities) are part of that. And actually you're not doing too badly. You are working with good friends and good musicians. You are getting performances. You may not make much headway with the Aldeburgh set or the BBC… although wait a sec…; it was no more than ten years ago, surely, that Steve Martland got himself a BBC2 slot (The Late Show?) in which to lampoon Stephen Plaistow, the controller of Radio 3 contemporary music, and to decry the BBC's lack of support for Michael Nyman, Mark Anthony Turnage and …well, Steve Martland. The rest is history.

If you hold on to your anger you'll probably do quite well out of it. Use it as a marketing ploy - why not? (Cynics might suggest that you are already doing this, although I know better.) Alternatively, - relax. Keep doing what you're doing: writing good music and championing composers who need a platform. All power to you.

Roger Marsh
Composer; director Black Hair; Professor of Music, University of York

3. from Kevin Mayo

First of all I'd like to say that it would be helpful if Sam could express himself with less "flowery" English. I'm not stupid, but had to re-read a few of Sam's paragraphs because they were constructed in such a complex way. I feel Sam could communicate his opinions more effectively if he used simpler English. Thanks Sam, in anticipation of your next article!

Having deciphered the content of the article I must say I agree with Rosie Lindsell's response. Well said.

Personally, I feel it's not where or how music is performed that has marginalised "new music", but rather the actual pieces that are being performed (please read Rosie's article as she expresses this better than I can). It's perhaps just as well that many new pieces receive only one performance, because many of them are worthy of only that.
Of course new music can survive on its own and justify its existence. It just has to be good music.

It seems to me that these days everyone is a composer. Well, I'm afraid everyone is not a good composer. Look at history - there have only ever been a handful of really great composers around at any one period of time. That doesn't change just because we're in the 21st Century. The point is, although there are proportionally many more composers around these days having works performed, most of them are second-rate. That's not an attack on any of these composers, or their music, merely a fact of life.

I'm not saying we shouldn't ever perform these new works, just that we should be a little more discerning in what is programmed. If that was the case we might even encourage more people back into the concert hall (or wherever) and undo some of the damage done to the music/audience relationship caused by the avant-garde of the 20th century.

Kevin Mayo

To Sam Hayden's original article.

To this month's new notes article