Classics seen as 'mood music': Regular CD purchasers have little knowledge of works or composers. David Lister reports

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REGULAR buyers of classical music have little or no knowledge of the works or their composers but are buying the music to throw dinner parties to.

This is one of the findings of private research carried out by the record company EMI and has led to the company releasing four compilation CDs of mood music - all excerpts from famous works - entitled Tranquility, Melancholy, Power and Passion. All four have entered the classical chart and today Tranquility will be number one in that chart.

Two thousand people were surveyed by EMI and large numbers said they bought classical music as mood music, either for dinner, to wind down and relax, to let off steam, or because 'it transports you'.

The confidential research also reported that 'Radio 3 was almost universally felt to be dirgeful, self- servingly precious, uptight, gay and too posh and exclusive. But many sporadically persisted for 'it must be what classics are about'. Many were delighted with Classic FM which 'played only the best bits.' '

A number of those surveyed read classical reviews in the papers, but felt the layout was heavy and 'it was like reading about a world which existed, separate from the everyday values of everyday life'.

The research report concludes: 'The classical music market has more than doubled since 1982. In spite of this huge surge, consumers' understanding and knowledge of classical music is really no more developed than it was in the past. The people we spoke to held fear of making expensive mistakes. Some were genuinely ignorant and didn't know where to turn to for help.'

Classical music turned out to have a wide definition for the members of the public surveyed. It included the Proms, Gilbert and Sullivan, West End musicals, film and television soundtracks, Torvill and Dean soundtracks and military music.

The discussion groups with members of the public set up by EMI also revealed that some people's introduction to classical music was not always of the most welcoming kind. One of the main findings reported that classical music in the home is often 'a specific family member's piece of music, often used to impose territory or gain attention'.