Over the coming months, I’ll be writing a series of articles on music and the music business, from the inside, so to speak! I start this month with one close to both my heart and head, about a major problem for the traditional classical music lovers, performers, promoters, audiences, record buyers, etc. Question: Are the ‘classical’ music establishment shooting themselves in the musical foot, not willing accept a reality check, maybe, is that the problem? I hope after you’ve read this, you’ll have an answer, and even maybe more questions, because, as music lovers, we all need to keep music, in whatever genre, alive, out there, vibrant and flourishing!Okay, so what is traditional classical music really anyway? At first thought, erm, a load of people in dinner jackets and smart dresses sitting bolt upright, in a concert hall, listening to old, sometimes oldish, music played by a load of other people in dinner jackets and smart dresses. Well, to only a certain extent true, as that is not the whole story.Also, we seem to allowed to develop a situation where there are two tribes at war with one another – two extremes of musical ideologies at work. To quote a few of my professional orchestral and chamber music friends, there is ’squeaky door music’ and then there is ’syrupy sweet’, or ’nice’ music – to quote myself. These, it seems to me, are the only accepted types, by the ‘powers that be’, apart from, possibly the so called Early Music festivals and concerts, but don’t get me started on that – well not yet, anyway! So, we’ve fragmented classical music. Also, classical music is the only genre of music which has not gone out of its way to develop along the same paths as, say, rock music and other contemporary musicians. Why, is this because there’s an inner arrogance that somehow ‘classical’ music is above all that and so important in the world that it will survive untouched and intact into the 21st century, continuing to drive along it’s own road to somewhere – I suggest, a road to nowhere!Festivals of only 20th Century, or even only 21st century music can and are great events – I also know of one particular festival where only melodic, uplifting, nice and tonal music is performed too. So, already we have people dividing into specific musical camps with their only likes, dislikes, etc, etc. Who decides the criteria, the chosen, or accepted works for performances must meet before they are approved, or even allowed the ‘privilege’, of being part of their festival.As a composer, I have had my works performed at both these type of festivals, which is great, but it started me thinking – is this why classical music seems to be dying, two complete musical opposite camps, of just what is classical music and what is not? My music actually sits in the absolute middle, and to be honest, I do think most peoples taste in music is extremely wide too. I also work with many rock, folk, theatre musicians, it’s totally exciting and inspiring for me. A good example of how classical does work in a wider world are events, such as The Three Choirs, Edinburgh, and Cheltenham festivals where all genres of music mingle, interact and share the same potential audiences as poetry, jazz, theatre, etc, and thrive. An interesting fact for thought is, that it is sometimes the same musicians you see on a rock music video, as the ones you see playing in the major concert hall, as a lot of the music profession regard, like me, all music is great, and you play to the same technical standard and with musical expression, whichever music style you happen to be doing at that moment.As audiences of, well, shall we say, ‘ traditional’ classical music grow older – often the average age of a large part of the audience is well over 50-55 years age range, with a few younger faces appearing around the hall – are they enthusiastic concert goers, who really wish to hear the programme on offer, or possibly music students, hoping to absorb some of the music, adding to their musical knowledge, who replaces them? We need to think about this now, not wait until fewer and fewer tickets sell, no more expected regular sales of classical recordings, which seem to be all taken for granted at the moment.The two sides of music, even amongst contemporary composers, are now tribal in a way – modern, or classical, then throw in the standard repertoire of classical, romantic or early 20th century music, we have so much music available for performance by orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists, in this is the so called ‘classical’ world we’re discussing. So, why is this genre struggling, possibly dying, as some people think and say? You get the ‘ contemporary’ enthusiasts, who spout out at you, how clever it all is, how interesting such and such is, what the music invokes, or what it’s supposed to invoke, then if you don’t understand, or dislike it, you’re made to feel very unwelcome and stupid. This is especially true if you ever question, anything in the concert – the music, the ideology behind it, or, well anything in fact really. This of course can immediately alienate a lot of potential audience members from attending, and from what I’ve experienced and seen the concert/ festival don’t particularly seem to mind that – superiority, control springs to mind here! Yes, even in the ’traditional’ classical concert of older works, indeed, the same applies here, some music is regarded as the only true classical music.. I don’t know where all this came from, but I want it to stop now, as classical music could indeed falter and fail unless the ‘establishment’ changes its attitude and approach and opens up its eyes on what is going on in the rest of the musical world. Yes, obviously, there are things which aren’t perfect here either, but at least these different genres are always tackling each issue as it comes along, and is willing to share a forward thinking approach to their industry, but more about that later.There are many great individual musicians, orchestras, chamber groups, concert halls, promoters, who strive to bring the best of ‘new music’ to the fore in their concerts, which are mainly made up of more ’traditional’ works. This means, we have the real opportunity to hear new, contemporary composers works played alongside the standard repertoire, where it stands up there, as an equal and has the chance to speak for itself.I also notice, all the time in fact, that there is way too much written word in contemporary concert programmes, why so necessary, trying to explain in so much detail, way too much in my opinion. There is nothing more irritating to me in a concert, than having your head, literally buried in pages of paper and ink, describing the work we’re supposed to be listening to and focussed on. Then before you know it, the piece is finished and we’ve only half listened – how can you possibly appreciate a work like that? The notes, are so complex, insome cases, you’d need a postgraduate degree in either music, maths, or philosophy – or all of them. Can we not write music, as a musical language that speaks to us anymore, maybe not, but, please let the music do it’s stuff, don’t intellectualise it – please – this would make the music so much more approachable and less intimidating to new audiences.Why Baroque, Classical, Romantic music makes up the programmes of most ‘classical’ concerts now? Obviously, I’d understand if it was the 19th, or 20th, but this is the 21st century, we have multiple formats, internet platforms to listen to such a wide and varied choice of music. Let’s be more adventurous people, and lets invite contemporary music to join the established concert works, and vice versa, imagine this in every concert, solo, chamber, orchestral, even opera, what a fantastic adventure this would become!!Why in the ‘classical’ field do we have such divided lines, where both sets of protagonists have set there own battle lines, dug their own trenches and, it seems, they are antagonistic and possibly arrogant in how and why they are each right, there is no other way than theirs. How did we get here then, especially when the same musicians play both types of music and actually enjoying the chance of playing a varied reprtoire, making them more enlightened as performing musicians? So many lost opportunities to share experiences, for both the artists involved and especially the audiences too, surely thats really important – it’s not all about the organisers, they’re not the reason for music after all, are they. Obviously, a lot of this new music being written and performed then, is so different to the conventional programmes of the classics, atonal, dissonant, experimental with all sorts of effect and unusual sounds, gimmicks, etc, etc. These composers have made a brand new ‘pallete’ of music colours to write an entire new style of revolutionary music, living and playing for the moment, in some ways. But to a lot of the audiences, they still wanted the Beethoven, Brahms, etc, and just absolutely no idea what the new ‘ language’ . That, of course, is why over the the years, we find that so many written words, sometimes accompany the launch of a new work – which can either be interesting, or, just an hinderence, sometimes in equal measure. Anyway, I digress a little. So, from the original avant-garde, or new music, contemporary music, continued on throughout the 20th century and now up to the present day. Because of this, we now have two major musical camps in the classical music field, getting further apart even possibly, I don’t know, but I feel sure they are. We even have quite a lot of individual performers and groups of musicians, who only specialise in playing contemporary on the one hand, some even playing only early music (renaissance or baroque) to me this doesn’t help widen the musical spectrum for audiences, it actually narrows it. Some early musicians even totally frown on others who, play for instance J.S. Bach on a grand piano, not the harpsichord? Whilst some contemporary musicians frown on traditional orchestras, or chords and melodies.Now then, why is it that we can’t have contemporary festivals where all styles of ‘contemporary classical’ (I hate that phrase by the way, but will have to suffice, as it’s easily understood, I think) music; atonal, tonal, minimalist, melodic, soundtracks, experimental, etc, not totally seperated by composers individualistic style, or the promoters/artistic directors personal preference. This would be great, as it would bring the many composers of all these varied artistic ideas together with a mixed audience of music lovers, with their favourite composers, modern and old, which everybody then has the opportunity to hear alongside standard repertoire. This, I think would be a perfect solution, because the system, as it stands, is not suitable for either side in this musical debate, and certainly is not fit for purpose, when it devides the art of music in such a destructive way, creating a war in this tonal conflict of musical ideology.We only have to think of the big, and even the very small music festivals, each summer, Glastonbury, Green Man, Big Chill, etc, where such a wide variety of music can be heard, and everyone, walks around, whilst waiting for their favourite artist/s to appear, take the opportunity to go to other stages/tents to hear, enjoy and devour music and artists, who, strangers at first, but not after the festivals end, they return home and seek out recordings and other concerts and more info on these new, inspirational thoughts and feelings! All music is respected, and appreciated by both audiences and performers alike. Now, this is what classical music world is missing, in a seriously big way. So instead of in fighting about which is most relevant, be open and appreciate the amazing variety of music out here, no one is better than another, all the performers and composers from other genres are deserving of as much respect as every other. The willingness to listen and understand different music, some people may be very much surprised by their own reaction and appreciate – after all music is music.Having spoken at many conferences and festivals, about music, it’s history and future, I remember one, particularly, where I spoke against the cuts to music education in schools, and the possibility that only ‘classical’ music was the only legitimate genre and would be, if any, be taught and accepted. I pointed out at the time to the gathered there, including a few MPs, that all music is equal, there should be no snobbery, bias, etc, and folk, rock, jazz, world music, should be available, and encouraged for study, in a perfect world. Mind you, I did point out that in ‘Pete’s world’ , Prog Rock would be there at the forefront!!So, come on, all composers, performers, admin people, etc, of the classical festivals, record companies, and concert organisers, open up both your arms, minds and ears, welcome different approaches, yes, but also work together for a greater good, and that is music. Remember too, music is not just about the intellect, but also a way of expressing the human condition, it touches everyone around the world, in many, many varied ways all totally valid. The classical world is just a tiny spot in the wider world of musical cultures, and shouldn’t let a personal preferences, or prejudice, influence what the audiences have to listen in concerts. So, instead of shooting off from the hip, and hitting yourself in the feet, remember, we’re all music lovers, otherwise we wouldn’t do what we do, it’s both a vocation and a profession, in equal measure, or should be. If the big divide is spanned, who knows what fantastic music we’ll have and will be available out there. Share concerts, contacts, publishing, recordings with other classical musicians, not just the narrow group you feel you belong to, or enjoy. Thankfully, some enlightened people are taking classical music in all its forms out to the audiences, performing Mozart in pubs, night clubs, house concerts, which all helps develop a new awareness of what this music is and also, takes away some of the mystery and elitism of this stuff, which is fabulous! Thinking carefully about inspiring programmes of music will surely inspire audiences as well performers, and even more creative artwork for albums, all will add a little freshness. Also, what wonderful new works will be inspired, written, performed in this new openess of musical thought. If not, maybe classical music, in all it’s forms, will die, and unfortunately will deserve to, as a dinosaur, no matter how much personal affection for it we may have, will be disregarded and become extinct – please consider this! Other music will thrive, as they have already moved on and strive for continued developments.Also, welcome technology, different online platforms, they are a massive opportunity to show your work, develop it, make collaborative networks, etc. Social media alone has shown to the pop, rock, musicians how a secure forward thinking career is possible, thus helping a secure future for their genre of music – classical, please do the same!! All this said, am I optimistic? Yes, but lets not leave it too late!!!