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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
To Sam Hayden's original article.
To this month's new notes article