Thursday, January 04, 2007

The role of the blogs

Alex Ross noted in a recent posting that Entertainment Weekly had published a massive "best of" end of the year issue without mentioning classical music. I noticed that, too. And I noticed that "The Week" magazine published a list of obits for 2006 that didn't mention Ligeti. And I noticed that the two local "alternative" magazines published year-end music issues which mentioned jazz as well as rock but which didn't mention classical music at all. And I've noticed that NPR's "Fresh Air" interview show seldom mentions modern classical music (Steve Reich was a very rare exception) although it doesn't show the same animus toward jazz. Many other examples could be offered.

It's interesting to contrast the miserable support structure for modern classical music with various ways jazz fans are supported and nurtured. When I became more interested in jazz a few years ago, I discovered there were national broadcasts of jazz that promoted recordings of modern musicians (NPR's "Jazz After Hours") for example, magazines such as "Downbeat" which made it easy to keep up, and recordings that somehow didn't need grants from foundations and the government to persuade record companies to issue them. (Would a "Downbeat" for modern classical fans be able to circulate and stay in business?)

I think what this illustrates is that classical music fans cannot rely on the "top down" model of classical music news and criticism -- articles in publications such as the "New York Times" and "New Yorker" which rely on critics such as Ross. I hasten to add that such criticism is very important and I myself follow it religiously. When the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Donald Rosenberg mentions modern classical music, I try to note it here. But with the decline of circulation at newspapers, and the limited amount of news they can cover, and the limited number of people they can reach, newspapers and magazines can't do the job alone. There is a role for blogs, which can provide "grassroots" coverage. Even small blogs such as this one!

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