Friday, 14 January 2011

Huddersfield Festival on the BBC

Sort of!  The 2010 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival programme looked really good. Rebecca Saunders as composer-in-residence, for example. Saunders is one of the most exciting British composers though she lives in Berlin and is oriented towards the German scene. Mentor, Wolfgang Rihm, no less. Read more about Rebecca Saunders on this site and also on the Huddersfield website which has videos, soundclips and an interview with her. For her, it would have been worth attending.  November, though, is a busy time for me and Huddersfield is far away, and for that kind of money you could go to Berlin, so I thought I'd catch up with the BBC broadcasts.

Sure enough, for the next five weeks each Saturday night, highlights from the Huddersfield Festival  can be heard live, online and on demand. Which is excellent because the music reaches thousands more, and broadcast rights help cover costs. Usually the BBC is scrupulous about telling us what pieces and which composers will be played. Now you have to guess and look back at the Huddersfield site for help. Obviously those keen enough to tune in will be listening anyway, but it's cumbersome and inconvenient.  Contemporary music needs sensitive marketing (especially with the image Huddersfield throws up).  The BBC blurb tells nothing. Surely a bit of finesse wouldn't go astray?

Is this a sign of some new BBC policy? Another programme features music from Turku and Talllinn. But what music? Admittedly this is a programme about tourism and junkets, but it would be nice to know. (We can all guess Arvo Part etc)  Maybe audiences don't want music anymore but lifestyle decor. But personally I think, in times of restraint amny business should concentrate on key product. Cut the extras like trips abroad, boxes at the Proms, celebrity presentters etc and stick to music. MORE JOBS LESS JUNKETS (read link!) Indeed, on hearing the programme, all my fears were realised. Two presennters not one and the music  treated like it was an intrusion. Interviews with festival director and musicians OK because they care about what they're doing, though the director could have been edited, which is normal practice. With contemporary music you need to get people to think, wow, I want to hear more. Here, you have to fight the impulse to switch off.  Too much emphasis on window dressing presenting, the product itself down the tubes. Defeats the whole purpose of broadcast. Maybe I shouldn't have said "more jobs" but real jobs. Notice the BBC website now has a tab for "presenters". Wrong perspective.

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