Classical: Music on Radio & TV

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The Independent Culture
It must have been hard to miss BBC Music Live 97 in Manchester. Streets closed, halls, clubs and cafes filled for 200 concerts over the bank holiday weekend. But, on the air, you had to search. Plenty on Radios 1 and 3, no joy on 4 (just the Daily Service, long wave only).

Two years back, in Birmingham, the networks worked together for a barrier- breaking concert that even got Michael Nyman onto Radio 3. In 1997 each one stuck to its own and gave you what you were used to.

Not so the lone TV offering - presumably the largest single audience of the weekend. On BBC2, Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley introduced a snapshot of a lively multicultural city. First came new bands aspiring to take part via Radio 1. Then it was on to "the biggest Chinese community outside London" and a good look at Manchester's Cantonese Opera Society, kitted out in their finest. Did you see any Chinese music on TV before, outside film reviews and travel shows? Four young composers showed what they were writing for the BBC Philharmonic. Then came the "burgeoning Asian music scene" (meaning south Asian) in the persons of Legacy, a polished and quite mainstream Indian-style pop group who looked as though they had the liveliest gig.

Who got the most national airtime for their music? That's right, the composers. And what happened to all that fine flowering of the city's cultural diversity? Right again - ghettoed off onto the local station, GMR, or kept outdoors in the street festival. The programmers probably didn't even do it consciously, so ingrained is the habit of dividing and ruling. The other day a respected Japanese-American musician told me that his first taste of Britain, this year, reminded him of the US at the time of the civil rights movement. There are signs of New Labour doing something about it in home affairs, but the government mustn't forget that it needs to tackle the arts as much as the immigration rules.

On air, the pattern was similar, if subtler. Radio 3 and Friday Night Is Music Night (R2) between them sewed up the Bridgewater Hall, Radio 1 had the commercial / student venues. Two little histories of the city's music on Saturday started with A Manchester Musical Gallery (R3) that took a leisurely 75 minutes over one decade in a succession of slow choral pieces. The audience sounded about 30 strong and sound asleep (Music Half- Dead 97 perhaps?). Things threatened to wake up with a promise of some John Foulds. But the announcer then said, with apparent relief, "Here's one of his more orthodox pieces" - thus handsomely taking the week's award for successful broadcasting turn-off.

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