I’m a freelance music journalist and radio producer based in Vancouver, B.C. My work has appeared on UBC’s TheThunderbird.ca, The Vancouver Courier, Vancouver Weekly, and CBC Radio’s North by Northwest and The Story From Here.
I first became interested in the idea of canonicity in classical music when I was studying trumpet performance at the University of Alberta. About a year into my Bachelor of Music degree program, I realized that I was being introduced to two sets of “classics.” One of them was the canon I was learning about in my music history classes. These were the same masterpieces I heard at symphony concerts, and I even learned to play a few of them in orchestra rehearsals. The other canon was the music I was learning in my private lessons: the treasured masterpieces of the solo trumpet repertoire. I was being steeped in the trumpet music of people like Hummel, Hindemith, Arutiunian, Tomasi, and countless other composers who very few people have ever heard of, and who tend not to show up on music history syllabi. But, my fellow trumpet students and I rather liked these little-known gems. It seemed like many of my colleagues elsewhere in the wind department, flautists, bassoonists, saxophonists, and so on, were having similar experiences.
So, I began to wonder: why is it that such a relatively small group of composers (Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, etc.) came to occupy such a large space in our collective psyche? And, why are all of the most famous ones, including those for the trumpet, dead? I started looking into it. This project, produced in partial fulfillment of the requirements for UBC’s Master of Journalism degree, outlines what I’ve figured out so far.