Magazine article The Spectator

The Right Voice

Magazine article The Spectator

The Right Voice

Article excerpt

Music lovers hate music, said Sir John Drummond, a former Controller of Radio Three. This startling remark was made two Sundays ago in the last part of Humphrey Carpenter's The Envy of the World, three programmes celebrating 50 years of the Third and what it became, Radio Three.

Drummond, Controller from 1987 to 1992, discovered that there were 30 separate minorities among the music audience, each marked by an intense dislike for the other 29. They weren't actually music lovers: `They hate music except for the little bit they like,' he went on. As a result, he thought there was no such thing as the music audience. There were people who liked opera, the organ, chamber music, symphony concerts or new music. But they didn't like each other.

I thought this was probably true up to a point and very funny, particularly as Drummond spoke like a man who'd emerged from a war where the enemy had come at him from 30 different directions at the same time. Having one enemy is bad enough but 30 is sheer carelessness. Drummond, the intensity of his voice and the pace of his speech accelerating in tandem as his shell-shocked recollections from the Radio Three war zone flooded back, asked with desperation, `How can you schedule for them? Any schedule you put together is going to displease more people than it pleases. All you can say, as at Lourdes, is your candle will burn sometime during the year.' There, there, John, you're out of it now . . . take this tablet.

He found it amazing that well-educated people could write letters `of such idiocy, selfishness, bias and bigotry'. The head of a large polytechnic once told him to take all this piano music off the air. `Why are they so thick? Why can't they understand their taste is not the only norm by which something works?' It is possible that Drummond caught a whiff of nerve gas during his fiveyear campaign at Broadcasting House and, no doubt, he isn't overstating his case as he was on the receiving end - but I wonder if he took his audience a little too seriously.

He was a tremendous workaholic, putting in 18-hour days trying to do three jobs at once, Controller of Radio Three, Controller of Music and directing the Proms. I would see him hurrying around Broadcasting House with baggy eyes, barking comments at people trailing in his wake. Some people who work like this don't know how to delegate effectively, neglect vital thinking time and consequently can't discriminate between the important and the less important. I'm not saying that applied to his reign because he rejuvenated Radio Three and was generally a successful Controller, but there are people who can be described as music lovers, not swallowing everything, but possessing catholic tastes; however, they tend not to bully Radio Three Controllers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.