Slow set: RTÉ taking its time to appoint replacement for Crimmins
The national broadcaster seems to have studied the Cowen reshuffle of 2011 – but at least Cowen was quick
Music-watching: there are hints that extra-musical information – including visual appearances – plays a role far greater than is generally acknowledged in making musical assessments
You remember the dying days of the last Fianna Fáil-led coalition? The days in January 2011 when a handful of ministers resigned, and Taoiseach Brian Cowen carried out a reshuffle by reassigning their portfolios to ministers who had stayed?
After the retirement of Séamus Crimmins as executive director of RTÉ’s orchestras, quartet and choirs, the national broadcaster seemed to take a leaf out of that book. It added to the workload of Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, head of RTÉ Lyric FM, by appointing him interim executive director until a new appointment is made.
Why such a bleak interpretation of the status quo? Well, I asked RTÉ about the timescale for recruiting a new executive director, to be told “HR are already heavily committed in terms of resources for the next couple of months, but we would hope to address this appointment in the autumn.” HR must be even more burdened than this would suggest, as Crimmins gave RTÉ notice of his retirement in early April.
I also asked about progress on the appointment of a new string quartet, which has been carried out by a tendering process, with the successful ensemble due to start work in the first quarter of 2014. The official reply was that “the closing date for tenders was the end of June. The applications are currently under review so no award of contract has been made at this stage.”
The closing date was actually June 7th, the award of contract was due this month, and you can just imagine how the quartets that entered are keeping their 2014 diaries clear should they be so lucky as to get the new appointment.
In Cowen’s defence, at least he acted quickly. Small wonder that the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, should have commissioned a report into the scope for new efficiencies at RTÉ.
Listening with our eyes
An article by Ivan Hewett in the Daily Telegraph brought Dr Chiah-Jung Tsay and her research to my attention. The newspaper headline said it all: “In music, the eyes matter as much as the ears.” Her paper is available on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (pnas.org), under the headline “Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance”.
The research has nothing to do with visual communication between musicians during the act of performance. It concerns a series of tests to see whether ordinary folk can match the juries of various music competitions with winners when given samples of competitors’ performances.
What makes both the research and its conclusions remarkable is that the people taking part in the tests made both sound-only and video-only assessments, and the video-only assessments turned out to be more accurate in reflecting the expert juries’ actual verdicts.
If you seek out the published paper, you might have your breath taken away by the bluntness of the conclusions. You will read that “the findings demonstrate that people actually depend primarily on visual information when making judgments about music performance.
“People reliably select the actual winners of live music competitions based on silent video recordings, but neither musical novices nor professional musicians were able to identify the winners based on sound recordings or recordings with both video and sound. The results highlight our natural, automatic, and nonconscious dependence on visual cues.”