CBC Intervention Letter
Mr. Robert Morin
Ottawa ON K1A 0N2
Fax – 819 994 0218
July 5 2011
Dear Mr. Morin,
Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2011-379 – License renewals for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s French- and English-language services.
The Canadian League of Composers wishes to respectfully submit this intervention on the above consultation, specifically with regards to Radio Two (2011-0288-9) and Espace Musique (2011-0286-3). As we represent a large membership, we kindly request to appear at your hearing in June 2012 so that we might advocate in greater detail than what is outlined below, and respond to any questions posed by the CRTC.
The Canadian League of Composers (CLC) was formed so that it may speak as a single voice for composers across the country. In recent years the league has flourished into a visible, active and national network currently representing professional composers of all ages and backgrounds, working in both official languages.
As both the CBC and SRC have historically championed the work of Canadian composers, we are writing in support of the application renewal. However, we would like to alert the CRTC that due to programming decisions in 2007, these radio networks are no longer providing Canadians with adequate access to substantial and detailed musical works of a non song-based nature. Not only has this devastated the classical music community – which represents an incalculable number of musicians of all ages and backgrounds across the country – it has also deprived millions of listeners in every region of Canada access to large-scale and detailed musical works. These compositions are not disseminated by commercial stations and concerts of these works are now largely unavailable anywhere on our airwaves or digital platforms. We hope that the CRTC will closely examine the programming decisions made by Radio Two and Espace Musique and mandate that the network revitalize its commitment to disseminating non song-based works. We believe that supporting and broadcasting pieces of this nature will help to give Canada an enduring cultural legacy, support a multimillion dollar sector, and maintain Canada’s international brand as a place where innovative ideas thrive.
What are Canadian composers writing, and why?
Canada’s composers create music for active listening that reflects the time and place in which they live. They usually do this by composing scores to be performed by classically‐trained musicians, but they also compose for instruments from many different musical traditions, such as the sitar or koto. In addition, many composers are active in the fields of electronic music and improvisation. The music itself – its textures, sounds and shapes – is usually meant to be the centre of attention. The length of time spent composing these works is typically many months, and sometimes years. Moreover, the breadth of styles is huge, reflecting the cultural mosaic that is Canada, and defies categorization.
Composers are trying to create art that withstands the tests of time and helps define who we are as Canadians, in much the same way that Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood, Anne Hébert, Michel Tremblay and Michael Ondaatje have done. Our tradition generally takes a “long view” that will give Canada a body of great music one hundred years from now and beyond. As with the music of Beethoven, and even the works of Shakespeare, audiences may be small at first but potentially very large over the long run.
There is no single “art‐music” style. Canada’s composers produce strikingly different music from one another. This plurality is our strength as a community, and represents a genuine musical diversity. Canada’s composers and classically‐trained musicians come from nearly all cultural backgrounds of the country. It is in fact a testament to, and showcase for, Canada’s cultural mosaic when this music is brought to domestic and international stages.
Since 2007, the music described above has almost entirely disappeared from Radio Two and Espace Musique’s airwaves. The network has systemically dismantled infrastructure that champions the creation and dissemination of large-scale and detailed non song-based works. We are not against change - in fact we applaud Radio Two and Espace Musique’s move into online platforms and their efforts to attract younger listeners – however, we have strong areas of concern regarding their vision that we hope the CRTC stringently address prior to renewing its license:
1. The restrictions imposed in 2007 to increase audience numbers are not working.
In the November, 2010 issue of The Walrus it was reported that: “Since the shift away from classical music, the audience for Radio Two was down 20 percent. Robert Rabinovitch considers this one of the places Stursberg failed, calling Radio Two “a disaster.”” Radio Two has lost its core audience, who have abandoned the network in overwhelming numbers. The plan to replace them with younger listeners - listeners drawn in by the song-based format and who remain to hear non song-format pieces - has not materialized.
2. Monostylism on the airwaves.
Radio Two states in their proposal that they now disseminate many more tracks and represent many more acts and genres. We do not believe this to be a genuine measure of success as the vast majority of these works are by nature shorter, song-based compositions. While song-based compositions can be successful in bringing audiences to the networks (and are artistically valid in their own right), we believe that in addition to song-based music, the country is richer and culturally stronger if there is also world-class orchestral, choral, operatic, jazz, improvised, chamber and detailed electronic music available to Canadians in all regions.
While it is true that the network still plays some classical music during the day, these are mostly existing commercial recordings, rather than those of live concerts, which foster the creativity and growth of the sector. Many of these recordings are those often found on commercial stations, rather than the edgier and more contemporary music described above, which we believe is of more interest to younger listeners.
The League of Composers is grateful to the Radio Two for providing the online station devoted to contemporary concert music, as this has been helpful for the visibility of our membership. Unfortunately, the station is only able to broadcast existing commercial recordings, which is very different from the recordings of live concerts that promote the growth of the art both across Canada and abroad.
3. Impact on music education.
While we applaud Radio Two and Espace Musique’s desire to attract younger listeners, we believe that young listeners are fully able to appreciate substantial and large-scale works of a non song-based nature. The high level of musicianship attracted by youth orchestras and choirs across the country, as well as the success of youth programs such as those run by the Toronto Symphony and the Canadian Opera Company are good examples. Innumerable children across the country are encouraged to take music lessons on piano and orchestral instruments, but now they cannot hear what world-class Canadian musicians have achieved on those very same instruments.
4. International exposure
Canadian composers are at a disadvantage internationally, as nearly all developed nations have specialized departments in place within public radio departments that support and champion their composers. As the online radio audience is becoming global, with listeners tuning in regardless of national or geographic borders, Canadian composers have dramatically less presence than our peers in other countries.
We respectfully request that prior to renewing the licence of Radio Two and Espace Musique, the CRTC review the network’s programming priorities, and do whatever is in its power to mandate the following:
- That Radio Two and Espace Musique commit to recording, promoting and disseminating in all its platforms: excellent, new and substantial non song-based works for symphony orchestra, opera, chamber ensemble, choir and electronic media.
- That Radio Two and Espace Musique identify and encourage contributions by producers with a knowledge and passion for the work of Canada’s composers who create music of a non song-based format.
- That where possible, Radio Two and Espace Musique continue its long tradition of identifying and promoting emerging Canadian composers.
- Seek to commission or partner in the commissioning of large scale and substantial musical works.
We thank you for your attention, and respectfully look forward to representing our intervention in person at the public hearing in the National Capitol in June, 2012.
Advocacy chair, National Council, Canadian League of Composers
President, Canadian League of Composers