Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The repertoire safety index

A "safe" repertoire. What does that actually mean? According to Eamonn Kelly at the Weekend Australian, the ASO has an older audience than elsewhere in the country, which means that it has to stick with a safe repertoire, presumably on the understanding that older audiences can't cope with an "adventurous" repertoire.

Aside from the ageism implicit in this statement (are older people really unwilling to stray far from a "safe" repertoire?), it raises the question of how repertoire can be classified as "safe" or "adventurous", and if it can be classified, how the various orchestral programs around the country stack up.

In an effort to put some kind of objectivity into this process, I've constructed an index consisting of two parts: a composer safety factor and a repertoire safety factor.  I’ve sourced these from a number on online “top 100” type sources, including:



The Naxos 200 Essentials list, from the world’s leading producer of classical recordings


ABC Classic FM classic 100, as voted by listeners



I don’t know who they are either, but they have tons of great music related lists



The name alone warrants inclusion

The composer index pans out as follows:


These composer scores are then modified by the repertoire safety factor, which reflects the popularity of individual works. For example, anything by Gershwin will rate 8 points (composer factor), except Rhapsody in Blue which is scaled to 4 points owing to its appearance on the favourite works list.

Any program can then be rated by averaging the scores assigned to each part of the program. For example, the first ASO master series of the 2010 season was:


Beethoven - Violin Concerto

0 points

Dvorak - Symphony No. 6

1 point


1 point



In contrast, masters series concert number 11 scored a little more highly:


Adams - The Chairman Dances


Milhaud - The Creation of the World


Bernstein - Prelude, Fugue and Riffs


Dvorak - Carnival Overture


Gershwin - An American in Paris


Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue






1 comment:

Ben said...

Weatherman - Ben Eltham from Crikey and the University of Western Sydney's Centre for Cultural research here.

I'm very keen to get in touch with you and discuss this index. I'd like to write it up in an academic paper (happy to co-author). I also have access to FOI data from the Australia Council that might be useful.

Can you email me or give me a call?

0422 987 538 / ben.eltham@gmail.com

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