Thursday, April 21, 2011

Selling monody

I really like this recent release on the Glossa label, performed by Rosa Domínguez, Mónica Pustilnik, and Dolores Costoyas. And you might like it, too. In fact a lot of people might like it, but what are the chances they'll hear it, or even that they'll want to hear it? "Odi Euterpe: Italian monody from the early 17th century" is the sort of title only a specialist could love. The specialist can look at it and say "ah, so it's got at least one selection from Caccini's Le nuove musiche on it" (though then again you could probably say the same about any album of Italian monody from the early 17th century). But for everyone else, well, it sounds forbiddingly academic, doesn't it? You have to know who or what Euterpe is, and as for "Odi", Babelfish unhelpfully translates it as "hatred". And you have to know what monody is. I am deliberately not going to explain any of it to you, because that's the point I'm making.
So in the unlikely event that you are an inexperienced but curious listener of classical music and you've wandered into the classical section of your local record shop and come across this CD, you're probably going to pick it up, look puzzled, and put it down again. But there are so many unlikely events in there that you can't blame Glossa for not making an attempt to appeal to a market that hardly exists. Are there any feasible ways of promoting this kind of music outside its niche? ECM New Series and Alia Vox do seem to be able to attract a certain type of audience that otherwise doesn't go much for classical. But really what you need is someone to draw attention to this particular album, on a blog for example, and say, "hey, I know you don't listen to this sort of thing usually, and the title might be a bit off-putting, but actually really what this boils down to is a woman singing with a guitar-y sort of backing. It's not exactly singer-songwriter or folk music, but... Here, try a couple of samples", and then they listen to it and it turns out they do like it. Or maybe it doesn't sound enough like KT Tunstall for them and they never listen to your advice again.
Maybe the album could have been called "These Are Some Songs".

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