GLASWEGIAN composer Tom Harrold is still in his mid-twenties, and, like L P Hartley once said of the past, they do things differently there. Fortunately, Harrold and his generation are the future, and – foreign or not – we should all embrace the way they do things.

In terms of his composition work itself, this does not present many difficulties. It is exciting and approachable and he clearly sees himself working in a contemporary Scottish tradition, a product both of Clackmannanshire’s David Horne, who was one of his teachers at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied after Douglas Academy in Milngavie, and Ayrshire’s James MacMillan, who has shown just how globally successful a Scots composer can be.

Importantly, Harrold and his peers are – almost as a matter of course – able to present and explain their music with a clarity that far exceeds anything to which previous generations even aspired. Introducing his newest work Into the Light before it was premiered by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, he took those who had arrived in time to hear his pre-performance talk through a lucid presentation about himself and his nascent career, and then in detail through the piece itself, with musical illustrations both played on the piano and as an annotated score projected on a screen. For anyone of any level of musical education it could only help them to a better appreciation of a new work, which they would hear played in its entirety minutes later.

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What Harrold was doing – and musicians of all disciplines now know to learn to do – was filling an ever-growing gap in communication with the audience. Although there are a few honourable exceptions where pockets of resistance persist in the media, the professional communicator in the field of serious music – the critic, the interviewer, the commentator – is an endangered species. Young people making a career for themselves in music now understand that building bridges with the potential audience will not often be undertaken by someone else. Creating the work is only the beginning; being able to explain it, sell it and document the creative process is also part of the gig.

Photographer Beth Chalmers is of the same generation, and you can currently see some fine examples of her work at The Hub in Edinburgh. Counterpoint is an exhibition of the fruits of her August as this year’s International Festival Photographer, supported by the Morton Charitable Trust. She took a good many of the production pictures that appeared with The Herald’s Festival coverage, but she also captured some fascinating backstage moments, as the show reveals. Opening it, EIF director Fergus Linehan spoke of the importance of documenting the annual event, and how the 70th anniversary of the Festival had revealed historical gaps in past commitment to that ideal.

I have been privileged that playing a part in documentation has been central to my practice as a journalist, and for my colleague Conrad Wilson, whose funeral was held yesterday, it was a lifetime’s work. He could look back to attending the very first Festival as a schoolboy in 1947 and speak with unimpeachable authority – and forthright opinions – on the achievements of every one of Linehan’s predecessors. I would wish to add nothing to the fine appreciation of Conrad’s career that my predecessor as arts editor, John Fowler, wrote last week, but I do recall that when he joined The Herald after many years at The Scotsman, which ended during a bitter industrial dispute, our visionary editor Arnold Kemp wanted to buy billboard space in the capital proclaiming “Conrad Wilson joins The Herald”. Perhaps with an eye to relations with our East Coast rival, he was dissuaded by the management, who held the purse strings.

If Conrad’s passing marks the end of an era when a critic might feasibly be considered worthy of poster-sized promotion alongside the product being written about, some might opine that is no bad thing. What is certain, however, is that artists of the generation of Tom Harrold and Beth Chalmers are already on to the next chapter, and working on the assumption that the voices of any professional critics who are still audible will not be the only ones that audiences hear.