‘A History of Modern Music’

13th June 2011 | Daily Life, Musings | 7 comments

I yield to no-one in my devotion to The Guardian, which I read every day, but I’ve been struck recently by what seems to be a disturbing policy of excluding classical music from discussions of ‘music’. A few weeks ago the paper published a 50-page guide to summer music festivals. 49 and a half pages were about pop, rock, world music, folk, and jazz, unearthing the smallest, most eccentric and remote festivals. At the end, there was half a page on classical music, mentioning only a few major festivals (Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, the Proms) which need no publicity. What about all the other festivals, the chamber music festivals, the classical equivalent of the adventurous little pop/rock festivals they love to promote? It can’t be simply a question of lacking the information, because I know many musicians regularly send in information about the summer festivals they’re planning or taking part in.

A few days later, the Guardian published a ‘Music Power 100’ list which allegedly contained the names of the most influential people in the UK’s music world. As far as I could see, not a single person came from the classical field.

This week, they’re publishing seven supplements covering ‘The History of Modern Music’. What a great idea! But my jaw dropped when I saw the list: Pop, Rock, Hip-hop and R&B, Indie, Dance, Folk and Jazz. Not a word about classical music. I’m sorry, Guardian people, but this is just wrong. Contemporary classical music has its creative geniuses, its specialist musicians and its committed followers just like the rest. It’s widely used and appreciated in the world of film. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s simply not right to airbrush it from ‘the history of modern music’. What’s the agenda behind this?


  1. Ivan Huke

    Well said, Susan! Whole-heartedly agreed!

  2. peter

    Love of classical music is, alas, the love that dare not speak its name in modern western society.

  3. Roberta Rominger

    Thank you for this observation, Susan. I bought the Guardian ‘specially the day that festivals booklet was advertised. I was really disappointed when the classical festivals were not included. I hope your complaint is noted.

  4. Spiros Bousbouras

    Surely using a search engine is a much more simple and effective way of finding out about music festivals than relying on a newspaper. I just tried searching on Google for “classical music festivals 2011” asking for results from the U.K. I got many matches. Ironically one of them is a page by the Guardian.

    • Susan Tomes

      Personally I don’t agree that printed newspapers are ‘a relic of the past’, Spiros. For me the main difference between reading newspapers and seeking information on the internet is that on the internet, I am the one who starts the search by typing something specific into the box. When I read a newspaper, I constantly come across things I wasn’t expecting to see, things I wouldn’t have found if conducting an internet search. I agree that for up-to-date news and information, nothing can beat the internet, but for quality and ease of reading, give me a newspaper every time!

  5. peter

    And, Spiros, despite the best efforts of the Siliconistas, you still cannot fold your e-newspaper screen as large or as small as you like and fold it back to its original size later, you can’t position it anywhere you like on the table without having to worry about the brightness of the morning sunshine making it unreadable when you’re outside having breakfast, you can’t scribble notes to yourself in the margins, you can’t gain any mental pleasure from using your hands to fill in entries to the crossword inside it, you can’t tear out an amusing story to put in your wallet to give to your father the next time you see him, you can’t spill fried eggs cooked sunny-side-up on it without causing expensive-to-fix problems, you can’t use it to mop up the orange juce you knock over trying to clean up the egg, nor can you use it to bat away the flies attracted by the orange juice, nor even roll it up and throw it for the dog to catch after you’ve finished reading, and you can’t even use it later for compost.

    And you’re telling me that this Internet thingy is superior to newspapers?


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