Top composer Jenkins defends "accessible" music

Wed Mar 3, 2010 6:05am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Karl Jenkins is described as Britain's best-selling living composer but that doesn't make him immune to critics who call his music bland or trite.

"I've got to be writing difficult music that no one wants to listen to," the 66-year-old Jenkins said, adding that instead of doing what the critics prescribe for him, "I write accessible nonsense."

"It's always a vote of style over content, really," he added in an interview ahead of the U.S. premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall of his "Euphonium Concerto" (March 6, presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York).

"If you write tonal, accessible music it can't possibly be any good because it's not pushing boundaries and it's not 'of today'."

No matter what the critics say, people listen to Jenkins, who trained at the Royal Academy of Music and whose mane of ragged white hair is unmistakable.

His music, including the "Adiemus" album which started life as an advertising jingle for Delta Airlines, has sold more than 3 million albums in 50 countries.

The anti-war oratorio "The Armed Man," which he wrote for the millennium and which comes with a harrowing video, has been performed almost 1,000 times. By his reckoning, that works out to two performances a week, somewhere in the world.

That sort of success lets Jenkins call the tune or, in any case, compose for a semi-obscure instrument like the euphonium which, for those not up on colliery bands, is a dwarf tuba.   Continued...