Anton Bruckner And National Socialism

 Introduction

Bruckner (by bioxid)

Bruckner (by bioxid)

‘In the early 1920’s, the national socialists had rarely concerned themselves with cultural propaganda. Cultural issues were only raised in so far as they related to such broad issues as the treaty of Versailles and the influence of the Jews’ (Levi, p.8).

During the course of this essay I shall investigate how this changed, and how the symphonies of Anton Bruckner became the target of political appropriation. In the first part of this essay I will describe how and why Bruckner’s symphonies were used by the Nazi party.

After covering this aspect in some detail I shall turn my attention to post-war reception, and some of the issues faced by Bruckner scholarship today. This will inevitably involve consideration of the various editions of his works and how these relate to performance practice and reception.

Goebbels’ Regensburg Address and the Appropriation of Bruckner

Joseph Goebbels’s Regensburg address may be seen as the pivotal point in the Nazi appropriation of Anton Bruckner. As the minister for propaganda, Goebbels gave his ceremonial speech ‘in order to honor one of the greatest masters of the German musical art’ (Trans. Cooper, p.605). This event may be seen as paving the way for the subsequent German annexation of Austria. Benjamin Korstvedt shows how Hitler’s reading of a Bruckner symphony takes on ideological significance,

‘After listening to a recording of the seventh symphony given to him by Goebbels, Hitler is reported to have said “How can anyone say that Austria is not German! Is there anything more German than our old pure Austrianness?!” (Korstvedt, p.137)

Hitler’s own interest in the composer was also an important factor. Bryan Gilliam (1994) says that ‘The Nazi propaganda campaign glorifying Bruckner would never have taken place were it not for Hitler’s personal interest in and identification with Bruckner as a man, a composer, and a fellow upper Austrian’ (Gilliam, p.587).

Goebbels began his Regensburg address by comparing Bruckner to Beethoven. Bruckner’s music is celebrated as the continuation of a Germanic symphonic tradition. In Goebbels words, he like Beethoven, ‘…left to us an artistic legacy of nine mighty symphonies’ (trans. Cooper, p.605). It is not long before Goebbels draws attention to Bruckner’s peasant roots. His mystical nature and simple character are also highlighted, as well as ‘the childlike purity of his delight in life which he rested upon a faith in god’ (trans. Cooper, p.606). This focus on Bruckner’s roots and mystical nature may be seen as Goebbels attempt to ally Bruckner with the volkische tradition, which plays such an important role in the Nazi ideology. The ‘childlike purity’ alluded to may also be seen as forming an opposition to bourgeois intellectualism and modernistic decadence, key elements that the Nazi party wished to purge from German society. Goebbels also emphasizes the hostile reception afforded to Bruckner by certain critics. This could be seen as bolstering support for the recent ban on art criticism, and opposing Viennese liberalism in general.

‘If the public practice of art commentary (Kuntsbetrachtung) has been restricted by law to official channels in the new Germany, then we believe we have also resolved a debt of gratitude to the master who struggled in solitude, tortured up to his moment of death by his tormenters’ (trans. Cooper, p.607).

Consideration of the points discussed above, may show why Bruckner became an important part of the cultural propaganda campaign. Bruckner’s life and works (particularly the symphonies), may have been regarded as the ideal vehicle for this cause. Through emphasizing or concealing certain factors of Bruckner’s biography, Goebbels could appropriate the composer to promote national socialist ideals. There was one area of Bruckner’s life though, that did not quite fit with the Nazi line of thought. Bruckner was a church musician (Kantor), and devout Roman catholic. These religious beliefs had to be re-interpreted to fit the Nazi conception of Gottlaubigkeit, or ‘god believing’. In order to free Bruckner from his catholic roots, Goebbels places emphasis on the influence of Richard Wagner. Bruckner would no doubt have been aware of Wagner as a composer, and may well have been influenced by his style. Goebbels account though, sees Bruckner’s first experience of Wagner’s music as having ‘an almost revolutionary effect on the sonority of his musical language’ and states that ‘from that moment onwards the church musician at once retreats almost entirely, and out of him emerges the distinct symphonist’ (trans. Cooper, p.607). Bryan Gilliam (1994), points out that this interpretation completely ignores Bruckner’s sacred works such as the ‘Te Deum’ and the ‘150thPsalm’ (Gilliam, p.593). This refusal to acknowledge Bruckner’s Catholicism may be seen as an attempt to ally the composer with the Nazi conception of Gottlaubigkeit. Gilliam supports this view by saying that ‘The 1937 Regensburg ceremony placed Bruckner as a god in the holy temple of Valhalla. His music would be the sacred language and Nazism the mystical religion’ (Gilliam, p.595).

The Viennese ‘Dunkelkonzerte’ may also be seen as an important factor in this portrayal of Bruckner. The Dunkelkonzerte was a candlelight concert which lent a religious tone to the music. According to Gilliam the ‘…weiner konzerthaus was transformed into a sacred space where listening to Bruckner became tantamount to attending church’ (Gilliam, p.596). Bruckner may not have been the only composer featured, but it was always a Bruckner symphony that formed the main focus of these events.

It can be seen from the above accounts that Goebbels Regensburg address focused on four important points.

  1. Providing a link between Germany and Austria which would help in securing the subsequent annexation or ‘Anschluss’.
  2. Promoting the blood and soil ethic exemplified by the Volkische ideal.
  3. Gaining support for the recent ban on art criticism, and
  4. Promoting Gottlaubigkeit as the new religion.

I have tried to show above how Bruckner’s symphonies have played a key role in supporting each of these goals. The Regensburg address drew attention to Bruckner’s life and works by unveiling a commemorative marble bust of the composer. The commemorative function of this event though, may be considered as of secondary importance. The main goal can be seen as promoting Nazi ideology through the appropriation and aryanisation of a cultural icon.

Post-War Reception

After the war Bruckner’s symphonies could not easily be freed from the Nazi appropriation. This was mainly because their performance was still tied to the scores published under the Nazi government. This is an area of Bruckner scholarship which remains contentious up to the present day. Benjamin Korstvedt (1996) says that, ‘Establishing “authentic” editions of the composers works is still largely governed by arguments and interpretations that originated in connection with the first critical edition of Bruckner’s works’ (Korstvedt, p.141). These editions, edited by Robert Haas were published between 1930 and 1944. Korstvedt shows that these ‘gesamtausgabe’ editions overcame initial criticism to become ‘established as the authoritative source of Bruckner’s works’ (Korstvedt, p.143). The gesamtausgabe project also received support and funding from the Nazi government. This may be seen as good reason to reject them outright. It may be hard to imagine why the Nazi party would fund such a venture, if it was not in their interest to do so. The Robert Haas editions though, did seek to present a credible version of Bruckner’s works. In Haas’ view the earlier publications had been corrupted. The new critical edition aimed to rectify this situation by referring only to the original autograph manuscripts. Korstvedt addresses some of the problems faced by this view and the rejection of the first editions. ‘Bruckner never attempted to suppress the editions published in his lifetime nor did he ever publicly renounce or even criticize their authenticity; moreover, substantial textual evidence exists that testifies to the authority of these editions’ (Korstvedt, p.142). These issues are obviously extremely important and may be felt to have a profound effect on the reception of Bruckner’s symphonies today. The various editions may highlight or hide certain aspects of the score, and it may be difficult to verify the validity of these changes. Korstvedt notes that ‘Haas’s scores are considerably sparser in their notation of nuances of tempo and dynamics than are the texts Bruckner published’ (Korstvedt, p.142). Haas also supplemented his editions with material he had composed himself. Although only small sections were added, some may question Haas’ approach in this matter. The gesamtausgabe editions have also been criticized because of the ideological motivations behind them. It may be considered more than a coincidence that the first edition, which was rejected as corrupt, employed editors of a Jewish origin. It is also stated by Korstvedt that ‘part of the covert mission of the gesamtausgabe seems to have been to remove Bruckner’s scores from the purview of the Viennese publishing house Universal Edition’ (Korstvedt, p.145). This may have been a reaction against Universal Edition’s identification with ‘such deleterious forces as modernism, atonality, Bolshevism, and Judaism’ (Korstvedt, p.145).

A later edition of Bruckner’s symphonies was published by Leopold Nowak. According to Korstvedt, ‘he revised all of Haas’s editions and rectified Haas’s most questionable leaps of faith, notably those found in Hass’s editions of the second and eighth symphonies’ (Korstvedt, p.149).  Even so, Nowak still used the original autograph manuscripts as his source. It seems that the rejection of the first editions is still a prominent factor today. This may be unjustifiable if we consider Bruckner’s willingness to have them published at the time. It may be seen from these accounts that the problems surrounding Bruckner scholarship are not easily overcome. The reception of Bruckner’s symphonies has inherited a dark cloud of ideology which is not easy to ignore. It may also be considered unwise to ignore such a problem. Bryan Gilliam (1994) suggests that maybe, ‘important postwar Bruckner interpretations (exemplified by slower tempi and luscious sonorities) have unwittingly carried over this phenomenon of Bruckner as Nazi religious icon to the contemporary symphony hall or recording studio?’ (Gilliam, p.600)

In an attempt to separate ideology and methodology, Julian Horton (2004), investigates two musical analyses. The first, by Hans Grunsky is of the ninth symphonies first movement. This analysis ‘clearly pre-empts Nazi cultural politics’ and also defends Bruckner against his critics. The second is Robert Haas’ analysis of the eighth symphony finale. This is also shown to be imbued with political ideology.

‘In Haas’s philological, hermeneutic and analytical inclinations the imprints of Nazi cultural politics are plain: an emphasis on the spiritual over the intellectual, and a concomitant notion of textual ‘purity’; a sense that this project was embattled by the forces of Jewish liberalism; a nationalist context seeing in Bruckner’s music the embodiment of an unadorned ‘German essence’’ (Horton, p.84).

Horton concludes that it is possible to separate the ideology from the methodology. Grunsky’s account is seen to rely heavily on metaphors. These are used to establish links between the politics and the music. Once these links are removed, it is posited that the details pertinent to the composition may still be judged on their own merits. A similar situation is found in Haas’ analysis, where ‘a fundamental shift of politics and philological strategy has little more than a peripheral impact on the structure and analytical interpretation of the music’ (Horton, p.87).

Analysis may be considered one of the most important areas regarding the reception of Bruckner’s symphonies. This is especially so, if the autograph manuscripts are the chosen source. The lack of essential markings in these scores may leave room for various interpretations of the music. All that may be left to decide is how an analysis of these scores should proceed. The performance of any given symphony may bring out certain features of the piece. It could emphasize Bruckner as the church organist or mystical genius. It may focus on the harmonic implications of the music and the influence of Wagner’s music dramas. Another choice may be to opt for the first edition where more detail is provided in the score. Botstein (1996), favours the first ‘Schalk’ edition of the fifth symphony saying that,

‘I believe the 1986 edition to be valid biographically (in terms of Bruckner’s relationship to it; it may bear his explicit approval), historically (this was the version that helped establish Bruckner’s fame and reputation and was in use for nearly half a century), and musically (I have performed it several times and plan to record it next season because of its persuasive structural balance and economy and its effective orchestration), (Botstein, p.2).

It may be the case that any performance of a Bruckner symphony contains a certain amount of subjectivity. Botstein compares this scenario with that of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies, and suggests that modern performance practice does not entirely reflect the composer’s intention.

‘One suspects that the surface of sensuality, scale, sentiment, and mere pathos in Mahler has been highlighted by smug devotees who in their nearly hysterical attachment to a particular image of the music and the man satisfy a need to demonstrate to others their own presumably profound artistic sensibilities’ (Botstein, p.4).

It may be inferred from this statement that the ‘artistic sensibilities’ described differ somewhat from Botstein’s own. This only underlines the subjectivity that is involved in any musical performance. The most brilliant and passionate of musical performances may well be the product of Botstein’s ‘smug devotees’.

Conclusion

The symphonies of Anton Bruckner have had a more colourful reception history than most. The Nazi appropriation can still be felt to affect certain aspects of Bruckner scholarship today. Among the most important of these is the choice of performing editions. The underlying problem being how to distinguish which editions are authentic, and which are a product of national socialist ideology. The use of Bruckner’s symphonies as cultural propaganda is not something that can be swept under the carpet. In searching for a truly authentic performance of a Bruckner symphony, its reception history must be taken into account. This situation seems to be complicated further by the modern conception of the musical work, whereby an authentic performance is tied to a definitive version of the score. The music on the page may be one half of the story, the symphony only really coming to life once it is performed. If there is no general consensus as to which score should be used, then there is no reason why this should stand in the way of a good performance. The autograph manuscripts contain enough detail to enable a performance. A certain freedom of interpretation should be encouraged. It may be that a new performance alters people’s perception of that piece. There will always be good and bad performances and it is hopefully the good ones that will be remembered and influence further performances. In the same way that the history of Bruckner’s symphonies should not be forgotten, the present day will obviously make its own impression. As much as some would like to realize an authentic nineteenth century performance, this may be as impossible as Bruckner composing a twenty-first century film score. The thoughts and ideas that inspired Bruckner to compose these pieces may forever be a mystery. Even if we did know exactly what this motif, and that crescendo meant to Bruckner, a twenty-first century musician would still only provide an interpretation of these thoughts. Regarding the Nazi appropriation, these are aspects of the music which are almost impossible to translate into a modern-day performance. In this day and age where sympathy for the Nazi party is almost non-existent, it may be felt that the only possible translation of the music in this way would be as a bitter reminder of one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

Bibliography

Julian Horton: Bruckner’s Symphonies: Analysis, Reception and Cultural Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2004), Erik Levi: Music in the third Reich (Macmillan Press, 1994), Leon Botstein: ‘Music and ideology: Thoughts on Bruckner’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.80 No.1 (1996), pp.1-11, John Michael Cooper: ‘Appendix: Joseph Goebbels’s Bruckner address in Regensburg (6 June, 1937)’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.78 No.3 (1994), pp.605-609, Bryan Gilliam: ‘The annexation of Anton Bruckner: Nazi revisionism and the politics of appropriation’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.78 No.3 (1994), pp.584-604, Bryan Gilliam: ‘Bruckner’s annexation revisited: A response to Manfred Wagner’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.80 No.1 (1996), pp.124-131, Benjamin Korstvedt: ‘Anton Bruckner In the third Reich and after: An essay on ideology and Bruckner reception’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.80 No.1 (1996), pp.132-160, Gyorgy Ligeti: ‘On music and politics’, Perspectives of new music, Vol.16 No.2 (1978), pp.19-24, Margaret Notley: ‘Bruckner problems in perpetuity’, 19th Century Music, Vol.30 No.1 (2006), pp.81-93, Martina Viljoen: ‘Questions of musical meaning: An ideology-critical approach’, International review of the aesthetics and sociology of music, Vol.35 No.1 (2004), pp.3-28, Manfred Wagner, Response to Bryan Gilliam regarding Bruckner and national socialism, The Musical Quarterly, Vol.80, No.1, pp.118-123

Posted in Classical Music, Music Essay, Musicology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bridging The Gap: Modern Music and Popular Opinion

How many people could name their favourite composer as one that is alive today? I imagine the number would pale in significance compared to those that prefer say, Mozart or Beethoven. Reading a post yesterday on ‘The Future Of Modern Music’, prompted me to start writing my own piece on the subject. I have been meaning to do this for a few weeks but had put it off until now. The article mentioned above highlights how many modern composers are not getting the recognition they deserve. In doing this it focuses on two books, which are believed to give an unfair appraisal of modern music. The argument being that far more attention is given to the ‘master composers’, while modern works are either summarized briefly, or ignored entirely. This seems to be a trend that extends to

Mozart

portrait of Mozart

encompass a far wider area than just the written literature. A quick look at the forthcoming concerts in my local area supports this claim. The next few concerts include works by, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Vivaldi, Handel, Mendelssohn and Monteverdi to name a few. Most of these composers, if not all, will be familiar names to many. There were also a few more modern composers, like Elgar, Vaughan-Williams, Satie, Copland and Gershwin, but these would hardly be considered the cutting edge of new music. Of the forthcoming events I looked at, only one featured a brand new work (‘Three Oxford Songs’ by Philip Moore), and although more modern works can be found, they are usually short pieces that serve to fill up a more traditional program. Concerts devoted entirely to contemporary music do appear, but they are greatly outnumbered by the more ‘classical’ events.

Today’s music it seems, is essentially yesterday’s music. Many of the most revered pieces of our time coming from a hypothetical ‘golden age’ of composition. An age in which the likes of Haydn and Handel reign supreme and everything else is considered second-rate in comparison. This was not always the case though. In Richard Taruskin’s ‘History of Western Music’ he describes the fifteenth century as a time when the opposite was far more likely to be true. Music theorist Johannes Tinctoris is quoted as saying in 1477, that pre-fifteenth century music was “so ineptly, so stupidly composed that they rather offended than pleased the ear”. The music Tinctoris refers to though, is music of the literate genre. Music for the nobility and the learned upper classes, which the majority of the population would not have been familiar with. This situation highlights a distinction between popular and art music that still exists (although in a slightly modified form), to the present day. So why is it then, that in the present day we tend to give more weight to the achievements of the past, than the present? And how is this effected by the cultural division between ‘popular’ and ‘art’ music?

folk music

Folk Music Group (Photo by Markvall)

The conception of the artist as genius may have a part to play in answering these questions. The artist-genius being recognized as someone who is born with some kind of divine gift. A gift which is necessarily beyond the reach of the average person. This conception may lead to the familiar idea that great works of art are not understood in their own time. A notion that I believe is an integral part of the way we understand music as art today. If we subscribe to this way of thinking, then popular opinion can have little impact on what is defined as art. A recent post by Andreas Bick, entitled ‘Revolutionary or Critical Music’, provides many valuable insights on this subject. Music critic Tom Service explains how contemporary classical music is valued in the exact opposite way to any other type of music. This seems to support the idea that works are not appreciated until a later time. Popular music is just that, popular, whereas contemporary classical music is far less so. Tom Service is quoted when he asks the question, “Is it enough to write music that ultimately will probably only ever be accessed by a tiny minority of new music nerds, as opposed to even attempting to communicate with a wider public, and having a genuine chance of changing people’s minds or influencing their approach to the world?

It could be suggested that the classical music of the master composers, has almost become a genre of popular music. Contemporary classical music on the other hand, prides its self on the fact that it is unpopular. It may be the case that certain masterworks were not understood in their own time, but today’s new music shouldn’t be judged by the same token. I think it is extremely unlikely that today’s experiments with different tonal systems, complex rhythms and unusual timbres, will ever become popular in any age. Personally I find this kind of music fascinating, but it is an acquired taste and I understand why a lot of people are put off by it. It may be the case that the masterpieces of the future are the ones that find new and original ways to bridge the gap between pop and art. And in doing this realise that it’s okay to make music that appeals to a wider audience. By paying more attention to producing music that moves people, we may look forward to a healthier musical culture for all involved. This is not meant as a criticism of experimental or progressive music, and I don’t mean to imply that all modern music is inaccessible to the average listener. What I am suggesting is that if music is to make progress, and also be valued by more than a select few. It may have to find a balance that relies less on pushing boundaries, and more on creating new forms of expression through traditional means.

Please feel free to comment on this post, any input good or bad will be gratefully received.

Posted in Classical Music, Contemporary Music, music philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul Lewis Plays Schubert At The Sheldonian

The Sheldonian Theatre

The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (picture by Xavier de Jaureguiberry)

Last Friday (17/6/11) saw the return of Paul Lewis to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. His last appearance featured the Schubert song cycle ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ with the tenor Mark Padmore. This week saw Lewis play a selection of Schubert’s solo piano pieces, which included, the twelve waltzes (D145), four impromptus (D899), the Hungarian melody in B minor (D817) and Piano Sonata No.18 in G major (D894).

Paul Lewis is already recognised as one of the leading pianists of his generation. After a program of education that has included private studies with Alfred Brendel, he has gone on to receive many accolades for his performances and recordings. This weeks program of Schubert pieces was the perfect illustration of why he has received such positive feedback. What he offered was far more than an interpretation. After hearing Lewis perform these pieces it is difficult imagine them being played in any other way. The ebb and flow of each musical idea seemed to express an inner order and logic that could not be questioned. All the subtleties found in this music were executed with the utmost of delicacy and precision. While the more vigorous passages were played with a passion and energy that is not easily matched.

Lewis began the evening in a very business-like manner. A quick bow to acknowledge the rapturous applause, and then straight into the first of the twelve waltzes. A similar routine followed at the interval, and then again at the end of the recital. I did find it a little strange that Lewis did not speak at all. Maybe this is part of the ‘understated persona’ that is alluded to in the concert programme. Looking back over previous concerts I had attended, I tried to think if this was a common trait of any other performers, or one that is unusual to Paul Lewis. I don’t suppose it really matters that much. The performance was of the highest standard and that’s what the night was all about. It is nice when performers give a bit of themselves away when performing, but Lewis seemed to give one hundred percent to the music. And if that’s what it takes to get this kind of performance, then who am I to argue.

Here is Paul Lewis playing the first movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor.

Paul Lewis is back at the Sheldonian in November to play another selection of works by Schubert. For more information follow this link

Posted in Classical Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Should You Download Music For Free?

Home Taping Is Killing Music

Picture by World of Oddy

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a bit more about free downloads. Specifically, the ethical issues involved when downloading music for free. The wide availability of free music online is no secret. File-sharing networks and BitTorrent technology have made more music available to more people than ever, but how does this really effect the artists, the labels and the music industry as a whole. The average music consumer may not lose much sleep when large corporations report a decline in sales, but what about the smaller record labels and independent artists.

A better understanding of these issues can be found by looking at the brief history of piracy and its relationship with the music industry.  Robbert van Ooijen’s blog ‘Have You Heard It’ has been an invaluable resource in this respect, shedding light on some of the common misconceptions involved when talking about music piracy. The music industry is shown to rely on rhetorical devices and a good-guy bad-guy narrative to fuel its anti-piracy campaigns. The message of these campaigns is always the same, warning us how piracy is killing music. The counter to this claim, being that piracy provides the consumer with an alternative. Cutting costs when products are felt to be to expensive, and making them available when consumer demand is not met by the industry. This can be seen by a pattern that emerges throughout the history of music piracy, whereby music piracy is at its lowest when consumer demand is met, and also when the reproduction of music is very expensive.  Before home recording, the photocopier enabled people to distribute sheet music freely. This, coupled with an increase in demand lead to a wave of piracy in the late nineteenth century. Vinyl, cassette tape, and then the Compact Disc made recording and copying music easier and cheaper. Over time piracy shifetd from an industrial to a domestic phase, where copies could be made by the individual and piracy became ever more difficult to track. It is worthwhile to remember that before music became an industry, there could be no music piracy. Before copyright there could be no theft of music. It was only when music became a commodity that it was protected in this way. Before this music was freely copied and distributed. It is only in the modern age of the music industry that artists can expect to make money from their back-catalogues. A luxury that was not available to the likes of Chopin or Liszt.

Money bag

Picture by dolphinsdock

It can be seen from looking back over the last century or so, that record labels have had to constantly re-assess the way they protect their investment. This is true now, more than ever. New recording formats have opened the door to an ever increasing availibility of music. Now, in the digital era, with Mp3 and online streaming of music the challenge for record labels is even greater. The music industry is reliant upon copyright, and as it is becoming more difficult to enforce, record sales are dwindling. How much of the recent decline in sales is due to free downloading is hard to say. Figures provided by record labels may be unreliable in this respect. It is also difficult to say how much the artists themselves are affected by free downloading. Record companies always depict the artist as needing their protection from piracy, but this is largely a social myth constructed by the companies themselves. Copyright is what the record companies depend on more than anything, and they continue to use moral rhetoric in order to persuade people to buy their product.

It is clear that the current situation is not one that the big record labels like. As in the past they will have to adapt with the times. In the 2010 Gallo report industry bosses seem to agree that online streaming is the way forward. It is realised that today’s music consumer is used to having music when and where they want it. With online streaming this is possible, sites like Spotify and Deezer having access to millions of songs online. These services can be paid for by subscription, or without payment, by adverts between tracks. Some of the biggest labels have already signed deals with streaming sites, and it seems as if this may be where the future of online music is heading. If this is the case then it signals a departure from music being seen as a product, to being packaged as a service. This involves a big shift in the way we think about music. It is a move that has been influenced by sites like you tube, that have given the consumer instant access to a large selection of media at no cost.

all rights reserved

Picture by no3rdw

Although a return to the free for all days before copyright doesn’t seem likely, it does seem as though we are entering an age where music will become a lot more accessible. Initiatives like Creative Commons enable artists to promote their music online in a less restrictive manner. Musicians can upload their music so it can be listened to for free, but still retain certain rights over their work. This type of initiative realizes that people are not willing to spend money on an artist just by looking at the CD cover. Consumers nowadays want to listen to a number of different songs before they decide to make a purchase. Creative Commons also allows artists to use the massive marketing potential of the internet in a more positive way. Something that is not possible under the traditional copyright label of ‘all rights reserved’.

Returning now to the question posed in this blog’s title, should you download music for free? Well, no you shouldn’t because its illegal, but hopefully the above discussion should make the whole issue a little clearer. It is interesting to note that both Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have made massive profits on material they have first released on a free download. The fact that these artists are already very well known obviously makes there job a little easier, but it does show that the general public are willing to pay for something if they value it enough. The fact that the music industry is having to adapt to fit the consumer’s needs is a good thing, and hopefull this will lead to better value for everybody involved.

For more information on Creative Commons follow this Link,

For Robert van Ooijen’s complete blog article/thesis ‘Home Streaming Is Killing Piracy’ Look Here,

And for quotes from artists and bands on how they view this debate go Here

Posted in Music Copyright | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Three Cheers For The Oxford Coffee Concerts

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford

The Holywell Music Room in Oxford maybe the oldest purpose-built music room in Europe. It was first opened in 1748, thirty-three years before the Gewandhaus concerts of Leipzig found themselves a similar venue. The Sunday Coffee Concerts series is relatively new, but recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. This occasion was marked with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet and a Mozart string quintet, both played by the Adderbury Ensemble. I attended this event and was very impressed with the performance. I had not heard either of these pieces before, but had seen the Adderbury Ensemble perform at the Holywell in 2010. That was one of the first coffee concerts I had been to and I think it was Schubert’s ‘Trout Quintet’that they played then. As this is my first blog I thought I would take the opportunity to write a bit about the Oxford Coffee Concerts that I have attended over the last year or so. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started taking a real interest in classical music, my usual listening habits consisting of mainly rock and electronic music. When I started my music degree at Oxford Brookes in 2009, I realised that my knowledge of classical music was very limited. This realization prompted me to start attending more classical concerts. The majority of these concerts have been at the Holywell Music Room and I have learnt a lot from the various performers that have played there. All the concerts have been of a very high standard and last Sunday (22/5/11) was no exception. This concert was given by the Turner Ensemble, a group founded by principal players from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields amongst others. The first piece they played was Schubert’s Allegro for string trio

Holywell Interior by David Jennings

Holywell Interior (Picture by David Jennings)

in B flat (D.471). Founder member Ania Safanova played violin, with Andrily Viytovich on viola and Naiomi Williams playing cello. Although this piece was originally intended to be the first movement of a string trio (the second movement abandoned after thirty-eight bars), it sounds perfectly wholesome as a single movement work. The lyricism and playfulness of the piece was brought out beautifully by Safanova on the violin. Viytovich and Williams providing thoughtful and tactile accompaniment, which gave shape and fluidity to the performance as a whole. The second piece was Beethoven’s septet (Op.20), for violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and french horn. although this piece is larger than the previous work with its six movement structure, it still maintained the upbeat and lighthearted tone provided by the Schubert. Listening to pieces like these, played in the intimate setting of the Holywell, really breathes life into the music. Works composed centuries ago become part of the present day, setting the tone for the afternoon ahead. Over the last year or so these concerts have provided me with inspiration and delight. From Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s breathtaking Ravel violin sonata, to Alaisdair Beatson’s fantastic Beethoven ‘Appassionata’, the quality is always impressive. For more information and tickets to forthcoming events follow this link to Tickets Oxford and view by venue.

Posted in Classical Music | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment