Wednesday 31 August 2016

And the winner is......

Not everyone thrives on being judged. No matter how proficient, clever, knowledgeable or talented one is, some people just don’t get on with the one-off exam, the test, the competition. Being judged puts some people under performance-stifling stress, while others rise to the occasion and say adrenaline spurs them on to greater heights. 

Some people rise above criticism, and are even stimulated by it - “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” while others are crippled by it, but flourish with encouragement and praise.

Of course competition is of the essence in a race, for example, or a football match. There is a winner and a loser. In many sports, success is primarily judged on set rules and technicalities that can be evaluated, in which case the result is a matter of maths, but even if the judgment is scrupulously fair it still boils down to how the competitor performs ‘on the day.’ 

Activities where creativity, artistry and emotion are integral to the whole are often shoehorned into the world of ‘competition’. Music students undergo assessments and competitions all the time, which can be exhilarating or dispiriting, depending on all sorts of internal and external factors. Aspiring soloists go through competitions like a series of lock-gates. The ladder to success is onwards and upwards. Or not.

Which brings me to the BBC.  I have a stack of half-written essays that are out of date if I ever decide to get back to them. A week is a long time in blogging. Perishable goods, they are. But now I have an excuse to revive an idea I began writing about  back in May, when BBC 4 was showing BBC Young Musician.  Here's what I wrote: (note the quote within a quote)
The other day Craig mentioned Julian Lloyd Webber’s article in the Times(£) about classical music on the BBC.
In case you’re deterred by the paywall, Craig has provided a considerable excerpt. Here it is again:
The BBC is killing its classical creation. 
Tomorrow night the BBC will screen the final of its Young Musician 2016 competition. This will probably come as news to you as the BBC has been systematically downgrading its invaluable showcase for young classical musicians to the point where it now comes and goes almost unnoticed.....  
In its heyday the contest was truly The X Factor of its time. Shown live on BBC One on a Saturday evening, the final would attract more than 12 million viewers, ensuring that the winner became a household name overnight. In 1988 it was moved to BBC Two and by 2002 the heats were taken away to BBC Four, with only the final being shown on BBC Two. This year the entire competition has been farmed out to BBC Four and the final won’t even be shown live....  
You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder if the corporation is paving the way to kill off its own creation. If that happens, declining viewer numbers will inevitably be cited, as the BBC continues to remain absurdly in thrall to ratings despite its hefty licence fee. Television ratings are no more a measure of success than police figures telling you how many criminals have been arrested while people feel unsafe to walk the streets.... 

Julian L-W has been interested in promoting music education for quite a while, and has done a lot of lobbying on its behalf. 

I don’t enjoy the competitive aspect of music, but I do know that many of the BBC YM performances we get to see are staggeringly impressive. For me it’s the fact that there’s only one winner that spoils it. It’s not only that I don’t like thinking of the disappointments, but when the standard is as high as it is here, the choice of winner can seem subjective, and even surprising. 

For me the whole point isn’t that the concerto final is relegated to BBC Four. Or the  fact the whole BBC Young Musician competition is hidden away there.  
I would like to see peak-time coverage of music education, instrumental tuition and the ability to follow the development of  young musicians as a whole. Get a taste of what it’s like to learn how to play an instrument. What it entails. The way one can progress. A positive, engaging view of it, the ‘journey’ from novice to virtuoso if you like, or anything in between.  

The BBC could do a great deal towards promoting music education and help inspire people to take advantage of their local music service before it goes completely extinct, which is probably what’s happening right now in an area near you. 

Music education isn’t sufficiently valued by the government, or by most schools. I suppose this is quite understandable at a time when many children haven’t mastered basic language skills. One notices how people don’t know to hold a pen properly these day, so how can we expect anyone to acquire an effective bow-hold? 

We’re always saying that the BBC’s influence is disproportionate to its competence. Too much power, not enough prowess. Instead of gently lifting up our hearts, the BBC stoops to the lowest common denominator. Populism and superficiality, lack of originality, repetition and timidity. All crap and no craft.

Anyway, that’s the gist of the nearly finished piece, which missed its deadline. Now I have a fresh excuse to return to the topic.
Can you guess what it is yet? Possibly not, unless you watch BBC Four.  It’s that amateur orchestra programme. The Great Orchestra Challenge.

AAArgh! They’ve shoehorned it into The Formula! I should have guessed from the title.

Please. Why have they used that tired, exhausted, clapped-out format? The ‘who’s going home’ format, with the suspense of the long-drawn-out announcement, the elimination rounds, the judges, the mentors, the individuals with a heartrending backstory. Give us a break! 

It’s only episode 1, and forgive me if I'm being premature, but I’ll say it anyway.
Yes, it’s another Masterchef / Great British Menu / Bake-off / Interior Designer thingy, /Sewing Bee/ Strictly Come Dancing, etc. they’ve tried to fit everything into it. 
Pottery, once, wasn’t it?
Gareth Malone used a broadly similar outline for his choir series, but much less rigidly. I enjoyed his programmes. 

There’s a wealth of material in orchestras, so what do they do? Instead of imaginatively letting the topic lead the production, they squeeze it in to their tired old blueprint.

They’re determined to sap the life-blood out of everything.  
Katie Derham is very annoying.  What is her role? Gurning? Ah, now there’s an idea for The Format. A gurning competition, and a great opportunity for nepotism - the BBC could offer up plenty of in-house contenders.

1 comment:

  1. Wait until racial identity politics work their way into the discussion. It invaded the Proms years ago, and shows no sign of slowing down. Not enough effnicks in BBC YM until recently, so it wouldn't be surprising if the BBC thought it wasn't proper public service broadcasting.

    To be honest, though, if I was in one of those amateur orchestras (which I have done in the distant past), I'd probably enjoy the competition.


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