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Art guru slams modern composers and says; Think like Damien Hirst

Norman Rosenthal, the art curator behind the Britart exhibition Sensation!, has branded modern composers 'worthy' and boring, and suggested that at concerts of new music, 'box office income is so low you might as well make it free.' He also suggested that music students were too busy getting drunk to listen or engage with new composition, and that 'art students are plugged into the contemporary art world in a way that music students certainly aren't in the new-music world. It's a real riddle.'

Rosenthal was speaking at a seminar in London of the great and the good of new music, run by the Association of British Orchestras with Accord, the Alliance for New Music. 'There is a huge amount of 'worthy' music being written', Rosenthal said. 'While I wouldn't necessarily suggest Damien Hirst as a paradigm, there's no doubt that he broke into something new.'

Rosenthal also suggested that a solution might be a 'rigously and cruelly curated new-music festival in London, like a Biennale.

The seminar also heard from Cathy Graham, managing director of London Sinfonietta, who said that her core subsidy did not allow her to cover the costs of commissioning new music. And Richard King, managing director of Faber Music said it usually took around 15 performances of a new piece of music to break even for a publisher- with a performance average one a year for five years.

David Whelton, MD of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said it cost 110,000 to mount a concert of Harrison Birtwistle's music, and only 10,000 would be made back in box office receipts, assuming an audience of around 900.


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