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Editorial Musings

Fortunes of War

Recently reading a feature on the uneasy state of the classical record market, the background presence of the ruling moguls struck me as almost bizarre. The paraphernalia of the classical music world's cream of orchestras, conductors, singers and others is horrendously expensive, yet we are looking at an outcome of only just 2.3% of the CD market in America, and probably the same inbalance elsewhere. The temptation to ask why the other 97% still remains immune to good music is somewhat fatuous yet understandable. Are the efforts to assist youngsters - who usually enjoy music when provided for them - not making headway, even to the extent of 0.7% of the population?

The answer is quite clear, whatever reasons are advanced. It is the wording of the question that remains elusive. Perhaps the hype has to be reassembled, for if James Horner's score for the Titanic film can sell over 9 million copies as a product that at least resembles serious music, why is the real thing netting a total of under 3% of the total music market?

One could get quite dizzy under the pain of having to provide a plausible answer. Let us, instead, confine our thoughts to the fortunes of war. Despite everything, the avalanche of good music on CD has long spilled over into unfamiliar territory - I am tempted to rephrase that to 'virgin jungle', but only to accommodate some of the extremes of dull music from all periods that is still dusted off and placed in a gleaming package.

I'm not ungrateful for the fruits of the CD revolution, as my friends notice when struggling to find a seat in my study. Nonetheless, we always find those people, often musically inclined, who are startled at the result of a decade or so of incessant growth. The discomforting question comes as they ask where we find the time to listen to all….. There's no satisfactory answer, only the inevitable mutterings about needing a good library of recorded music.

As my lovely Irish neighbour remarks at times like this, 'There's nowt so queer as folk' - to which I have never found a satisfactory reply.

Basil Ramsey, March 4th 1999

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