Category Archives: Notes on Music

The philosophy of music: or the music of philosophy ?

Culture Secretaries are like buses…

As usual, the arts have become a political football in the run-up to the election, with each party avowing its commitment to the arts and its funding in one way or another.

If, like me, you’re interested in the future of the arts, with its implications for which way you might be planning to vote next month, then this will be useful to you: Tom Service, music critic for ‘The Guardian‘ and broadcaster for Radio 3, recently interviewed on-air the Culture Secretary from each of the three main parties.

There is a concise summary of his interview on his blog here, plus a link to the programme which will be available on iPlayer until Saturday.

Interesting stuff…

Let’s Get This Party started: Guest post on ‘Election Views.’

Screencapture
Hitting the campaign trail: 'Election Views'

 I’m delighted to have been invited to launch the University’s new ‘Election Views’ blog with its first post.

The new blog is kick-started by ‘Let’s Get This Party started,’ a look back at some of the Labour Party’s campaign music choices, whilst we all nervously wait for this season’s tunes-tastic selections to be announced.

There’ll be a follow-up post when all the musical choices have been announced.

Click here to read the post.

How do you solve a problem like Lloyd Webber ?

The full, commercial horror of the Lloyd Webber / Graham Norton Juggernaut has finally struck me this week.

Following on from the success of ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria ?’ in 2006, where young hopefuls competed on national television to take the role of Maria, the series ‘Who will be the next worthy Dorothy ?’ (or something similar) is currently in full flight (‘Over the Rainbow’ – see what they did there ?), with similar youngsters competing to be the next Dorothy in the forthcoming Lloyd Webber-backed Wizard of Oz

Connie Fisher
And the winner is ... ?

When The Sound of Music opened, I’m sure a lot of people flocked to the show,  in order to see in the flesh the former call-centre girl, Connie Fisher, who won the television contest and became Maria in the production. The television programme regularly attracted around six million viewers each week. There’s a real fascination in seeing people live that you’ve seen on television: the same phenomenon surrounded the RSC production of Hamlet in 2008, in which David Tennant was playing the Dane, fresh from saving the universe each week as Doctor Who. 

You can see a pattern emerging here: the series isn’t about television entertainment, or the chance for one young wannabee to be rescued from obscurity and cast into a glittering and well-deserved career. It’s not even about giving the national population some input into the show (viewers can vote for their own favourite in the form of a ‘wild card,’ voting to rescue a contestant who has been knocked out by the panel of judges). 

No: it’s about cashing in on the tie-in between the hysteria surrounding the show and the lucrative ticket sales that will be generated by the theatre show following on from the television series. It’s all faintly nauseating: Lloyd Webber sitting on a golden throne like some sort of benevolent deity, tearful young girls earnestly describing their commitment to the show: ‘We eat, breathe and sleep Dorothy all the time now,’ gushed one contestant recently. The Sound of Music opened scarcely four weeks after Fisher won the series: hype needs to be translated into ticket sales quickly, or the momentum is lost. 

And before anyone leaps up to reach through the screen and poke me in the eye, yelling ‘It’s just television: it’s just entertainment!’ I know it is: Saturday night television along the lines of X Factor, Pop Idol or Strictly Come Dancing is at its heart just entertainment. But there’s perhaps a cynical cashing-in by the ‘Dorothy’ series that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. 

In fairness, though, 14 pence from each telephone vote is going to a fund to support the arts. 

Cynical hype-to-cash-generating merry-go-round, or top television entertainment: where do you stand on it all ?

Jazz @ 5 gets LondonJazz blogged!

Jazz @ 5I”m delighted to announce that the most recent Jazz @ 5 has been reviewed on the LondonJazz blog, one of the top ten London blogs and a mecca for jazz-enthusiasts.

Run by Sebastian Scotney, the jazz critic for the Daily Telegraph, the review is penned by Adam Tait, and highlights the nature of what Jazz @ 5 is really all about. Click here to read the review.

Congratulations to everyone who has helped make Jazz @ 5 a success again this year: bring on the next one!

Announcing the new Friday Feature

This Friday sees ‘Music Matters’ launch its new series profiling musical alumni from the University of Kent.

Musical students
Making music.

Each week will feature an interview with former students who were involved in music-making at the University, from soloists to orchestral-players, Chamber Choir members and conductors, and Music Society committee members.

It promises to be an exciting odyssey, and a chance to visit some old friends.

Make sure your RSS feeders are primed to deliver them direct to your desktop by clicking on the blue feed-link at the top of your screen!

Exposition…

As this blog gets underway, it seems useful to begin by reflecting on what it is about collective music-making that is so crucial both to members of the University community, as well as to the human experience in general.

The larger musical activities that occur on campus here – Chorus, Orchestra, Concert Band and Big Band – are events at which people from different aspects of the university’s community can participate on an equal footing: an English professor sits next to a first-year undergraduate reading Maths; a member of the IT department rehearses with a final-year Drama student; or a departmental administrator sings alongside a postgraduate student reading Law. The opportunity to rub shoulders with, and participate alongside, others from the same community is a great leveller, and also widens one’s social circle. The sense of a collective discipline – attending regularly, rehearsing, performing – shared by so many, whatever their occupation or background, and often one that is outside of one’s profession, gives communal music-making its great appeal.

The University Concert Band, conducted by Ian Swatman

For a short time, whether in rehearsals at the end of the day, or during a performance in Canterbury Cathedral, everyone achieves the same goal as a result of sharing the same rehearsal and performance experience that led up to it. What you do during the day makes no difference: you are in the same boat as all the other performers around you, striving to create a musical event  that will move both yourselves and the audience, working as part of a larger team. For those working in an office or at a quiet table in the library the rest of the day, these moments offer a chance to get away from the solitary and join in with a communal activity – often creating a lot of noise!

University Chorus and Orchestra
University Chorus and Orchestra in Canterbury Cathedral: Photo: Robert Berry

Apart from solo practice and recitals, music is inherently a social activity: it demands that people work together, share the same experience, support one another: perhaps most importantly, that they make mistakes together in an environment where mistakes are expected and assistance is offered in rectifying them (at least, in early rehearsals!). Few other undertakings offer so supportive an environment in which to work. And events such as WorldFest are a celebration of this, of the collective community coming together to celebrate its unity in working and performing.

I sat in the midst of the Chorus on Sunday’s rehearsal, bolstering the tenors (who this term really don’t need any support – how often can one say that about a tenor section ?!) – and was immersed in the sound-world of Poulenc’s Gloria and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater; along with everyone else: counting bars’ rests like mad, frantically pitching the note for the next tenor entry from a fleeting clarinet solo or cello line, not being able to see the conductor, singing the wrong text: it was hard work, and terrific fun. I can say that now after a period of twelve or so hours from the tranquillity of the office: it didn’t feel quite like that at the time!

So, take a moment reflect on your own ensemble music-making experiences: what does making music mean to you ?