Evidence given by the composer Mr James Stevens,
Head of Music Department of The Churchill Society,
to House of Commons Select Committee.
I am addressing you in reply to a request received from the so-called "Classical" Music Alliance regarding the PRS* "Classical" Music subsidy.
*(Performing Right Society - the body charged with collecting music royalties)
The purpose of the Music Department of this society is to upgrade the standard of contemporary music and to achieve recognition for so many of our first class composers who are blacklisted by the BBC for non musical reasons; and to retrieve some of the acclaim for which this country was renowned from the time of Purcell until the early part of the latter half of the 20th century.
In the first place we have to state there has never been such a subsidy. Classical music has been in the public domain for at least 125 years and hence is copyright free even under the latest European legislation. Beethoven does not need a subsidy.
However, we are very concerned about the promotion of contemporary concert music, especially in view of the complete disregard we have received from the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Jamie Cann MP put down two questions in the House on our behalf on December 15th 1998 on this very subject. We are still awaiting a reply (September 15th 1999). Yet the Minister made claims in his recent interview with the Independent newspaper concerning the promotion of music in this country which were total fabrications.
The newspaper itself refuses bluntly to publish our reasoned response, whilst the most we get from the Prime Minister's Office is a circularised note saying that he has noted our views with interest and passed them on to whatever department seems appropriate.
Certainly we wish to have any subsidy available for serious contemporary concert music restored by the PRS, but even more important, we would like the PRS to promote some of our decent but neglected composers in the same way as the smaller and much less affluent copyright society in Holland, Donemus, energetically promotes Dutch composers. Despite much pressure in the past, the PRS claims it does not have the money or resources to do this and that it is the job of publishers. But publishers are in the business to make money, not out of any commitment to the good of the art. Hence they are only interested in composers whose publicity machine gets them a hearing regardless of talent but saleable to a gullible and musically uneducated public.
Both the BBC and the public are in the hands of the image makers, and in the absence of any objective criteria, they are susceptible to conditioned prejudices that have nothing to do with the quality of music, whilst certain composers, who have made their feelings only too clear, are totally rejected despite their undeniable gifts. Not only is their rightful recognition denied them, but also the modest income that might accrue to them; whilst the public is denied a valuable creative experience, which incidentally it has paid for in its licence fee.
In brief we wholeheartedly support a concert music subsidy from the PRS and deplore the current decision, but we would also like to see some intervention from your committee, justifying its claim to represent media and culture - as well as sport - and some indication that you are prepared to back up the claims made by the Minister in his interview in May 1999.
What composers need are broadcast performances.
The BBC and Classic FM have completely failed British composers. Without performances there is no purpose in composing - thus many very talented English composers have long since given up.
One only has to question why there is no new light music today to suddenly become aware of our huge cultural loss.
The broadcasters are wholly responsible for this state of affairs.
1996 CHRISTMAS LECTURE
The Battle for REAL Music. "Experts on tap - not on top!" by Norman Harvey Rutherlyn. Composer of THE CHURCHILL MUSIC (Excerpts) and Founder (in 1990) of THE CHURCHILL SOCIETY.
To The Music Department.
THE MAIN INDEX
Search the web site.
Contact the society.
TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE CHURCHILL SOCIETY.
To purchase an 80 minute CD of
Churchill's War Time Speeches
(one is given free to new members)
To purchase a Bust of Churchill.
(All the profits go towards the society's educational work).
To purchase the Double CD (or Tape Cassette)
THE CHURCHILL MUSIC.
Reviews of The Churchill Music.
THE CHURCHILL SOCIETY
Internet pages provide general information only.
Whilst we make every endeavour to check our facts, mistakes do occur.
The society cannot be held liable for any special, direct, indirect or consequential damages.
It is your responsibility to verify the accuracy of any information supplied by e mail
or contained on any of these pages.