A mini colloquium about inherent or perceived quality of guitar music.
By Matanya Ophee
Here is the situation: you are the Editor in Chief of an important publishing house. A composer you have never heard of has made an unsolicited submission of an unpublished composition for the solo classical guitar. As part of your daily routine, you are expected to consider this work and decide whether it deserves publication or not. You are being paid a good salary to make these judgments. Here are a few of the questions you want to ask yourself before recommending the piece to your employer, or sending the composer a pink slip:
1. Is it a good piece of music?
2. Is there a chance that once published, the piece would sell enough copies to pay for the costs of producing it?
3. Does the piece appear to be entirely original or does it contained full or partial arrogations from another known work?
4. Is there a chance that once published, the piece would attract the attention of the major players in the field who would then perform it and record it often?
5. What are the probabilities that the piece would attract a host of pirates who would duplicate it for free all over the Internet?
6. What is the likelihood that it will become so popular that one would hear innumerable renditions of it at every guitar concert, every guitar festival and every debut CD of upcoming guitarists?
7. and finally, how would you rank this piece? first, second, third, fourth rate or beneath contempt?
8. And one more important question: are there any pieces in circulation today which sell successfully by their publishers on about the same level as this one? Please name them if you can.
9. Now let’s take all these questions one more time, under a different assumption: the composer is a very well known person who have established a considerable reputation in the field. Would you modify your judgment accordingly?
If you made the wrong judgment, in either direction, chances are you would have acted against the commercial interests of your employer. If you rejected a masterpiece which was then published by a competitor, or if you accepted a piece of crap that no one wants, your employer, the publisher, would lose money. You do this often enough, you could lose your job. There is a lot in the balance. So please pay close attention and come with the best possible honest and impartial opinion you can muster.
Now what? If you want to participate in this mini-Colloquium, you have two choices:
1. you can post your opinion in my Live Journal at http://www.livejournal/users/matanya. To do so, you will need to establish for yourself a Live Journal account (free), and then put the name matanya in the list of your “Friends”, and advise me. I will then program my LJ to accept your posts. MO bashers need not apply.
2. If you do not wish to do so, you can post your comment in the rec.music.classical.guitar newsgroup with an indication that you wish me to copy it to the LJ. If I find your comment useful to the discussion at my LJ, I will copy it there and post it on your behalf. Bear in mind that your comment in RMCG may not generate the same discussion as it would on the LJ. It would be your choice to decide which you prefer.
A few words: I am purposefully obscuring the identity of the composer at this time, so as not to introduce any spurious factors into your judgment. What matters here is not the composer, his or her nationality, social standing, reputation, notoriety etc, but the music itself. The point of this exercise is not so much about establishing the quality of this particular piece of music, but on understanding the processes that contribute to the market forces at work in our midst.
This colloquium will remain on line until August 13th, 2004. At that point, we shall try to establish some sort of a statistical cross section of all opinions.
And finally, if you have any ideas on how to improve this colloquium, I am all ears.
Copyright © 2004 by Editions Orphée, Inc. All Rights Reserved.