Top Classical 20th Century Pieces: ABC Classic FM Edition

Fabulous concept, fabulous consequences: you’re a radio station that broadcasts classical music exclusively and you ask your listeners to vote on their absolute favourite classical pieces from the 20th century. Each listener gets 10 votes and they can nominate whichever piece of music they fancy. The top 100 pieces are then broadcast over the space of a week, concluding with a concert featuring the top 5 pieces, live-broadcast to conclude the event. And since it’s 2011, the whole broadcast event comes replete with facebook discussions and a twitter hashtag. Go. The countdown began at number 100, naturally, and John Adam’s The Chairman Dances¬†from Nixon in China¬†seemed about right. But over the course of the next 10 or so entries things began to unravel. Schmaltzy and ersatz contributions were mixing it with works commonly regarded as masterworks, and straight-out film scores even got a look-in. We all knew this was a popularity contest, but even so it felt as if voters

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Saving Classical Music, which is what exactly?

Ever since the Music Council of Australia-hosted Classical Music Futures Summit held in July (and in all honesty probably since I was in high school in the early 1980s) I’ve been thinking about this issue of ‘saving’ classical music from its uncertain futures, rescuing this immense tradition from unthinkable oblivion and unthinking ennui. And in all of my nearly 30 years of thinking about it, this notion of salvation has bothered me immensely. It’s the anti-evangelist in me, without doubt, but it seems to me that salvation is always transitory, conditional and even illusory. And the idea that salvation can be imposed upon a thing really only makes sense if the thing is a building about to be demolished, or a person on death row. But let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and accept that salvation can be offered, proffered and successfully accepted when we apply it to the entire field of classical music. What is it exactly that

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