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MacMillan, Marketing Master?

img  Tobias

James McMillan is not only one of the most eminent Scotish composers of his generation, he is also one of the most sought after and regularly played composers of our time. As Michael Tumelty points out in a fine article, MacMillan's works have furthermore been recorded by various labels, with the Swedish BIS imprint a firm believer in the genious of this artists. Some of the compositions are even available in more than one recording - something only a select group of modern composers manage. In a small row, the still only 46-year old has been accused of deliberately provoking the public in order to get attention for a new performance of one of his pieces.

The story behind some harsh criticism from Brian Wilson, a member of Parliament, is the dedication attached to Nerno te condemnavit, a Choral work - which goes out to Michael Fry. Fry is a Historian, who claims that farmers were actually not evicted from their land in grand scale by landowners (this is referred to as the "Highland Clearances"), but rather left because their patron (such as the Duke of Sutherland) offered them new opportunities elsewhere. The real reason why this thesis has caused mayhem among historians and politicians probably has less to do with its real content but rather with its potentially threatening impact on every-day life in Scotland and the danger of new conflicts arising.

James MacMillan however, saw Fry's book "The Wild Scots" (which explains his claims in detail) as "refreshing" and was happy to see it challenging the views of the Scotish establishment. He felt that rather than censuring Fry (which is talked about in earnest at the moment), debates like this one needed encouragment.

We believe that this conflict is a classic battle between censurship and freedom of expression. Should a historian be able to express his views, no matter how contentious they may seem? By all means! Shouldn't politics have a better reply at hand than the hardly appropriate holocaust-comparison and personal attacks? Absolutely! Should MacMillan rather talk about things he really knows something about and refrain from utilising his distaste for the "Scotish establishment" (whoever that may be) for marketing purposes? Probably. But however you look at it, controversies and provocations like this one have always led people to re-think their rusty views on the world and take them one step further. That's why an artist such as Madonna was truly one of the most important figures of the last decades: Her motives may have been commercial and egoistic, but her influence was universal. Let's see if James MacMillan can match that.

And now, decide for yourself.

Homepage: James MacMillan at
Homepage: James MacMillan at Boosey & Hawkes
Source: Extensive article on James MacMillan in "The Herald"
Source: James MacMillan dedicates work to Michael Fry at "PlaybillArts"
Source: Article on the Higland Clearances-debate at the "Sunday Herald"

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