Custodians of high journalism

September 23, 2008 § 3 Comments

In his op-ed piece in the Weekend Australian, Greg Sheridan writes of his recent attendance at an Australian Chamber Orchestra concert that “There is precious little consolation to be found in classical composers of the 20th Century…. ..My complaint, really, is that the ACO played four Bach fugues but between every one interposed a Kurtag movement. That’s not really playing the game.”

Let’s examine these statements for a moment. With the flick of a keyboard, he opines about the worth of all “classical composers of the 20th century”. Granted, the generic descriptor of music performed by the ACO and other Australian orchestras is classical so I won’t have a semantic debate about the term here, but his description is a powerful reflection of the sort of music he feels is appropriate at a gentile gathering of “older women”.

He also referred to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” as having the ability to “cheer one up”, as if they’re some sort of musical anti-depressant. Follow that line of argument, and we’ll never get to experience the musical depths of despair that some great examples of “Western Art Music” have to offer.

What exactly is “the game”? Is it one played by his rules? That is, we are consoled, or we are not consoled. The arts should know their place. They should not ever challenge their audiences.

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§ 3 Responses to Custodians of high journalism

  • Yvonne says:

    There are so many holes in the original article that I don’t know where to begin. The thinking is muddled, especially when he gets to the point of describing art deco as “high culture” when in a sense it wasn’t and isn’t (as beautiful and consoling as this style is).

    And this is the problem, isn’t it? Isn’t high culture by his own implied definition the culture that challenges us and compels us to spend time nutting it out? (All those 50+ women reading their “serious literary novels” and struggling in from the suburbs to hear Togger’s inventive programs.)

    The culture that consoles and cheers and is concerned with surface, the culture that we in effect consume and “use” (Hindemith’s Gebrauchsmusik perhaps? Mozart serenades in their day? art deco?) – is this high culture? And if it isn’t, what do we call it without denigrating it (since a Mozart serenade can indeed be very great music, no question!)?

    [His reference to “classical composers of the 20th century” is just passable given the very specific context, but only just.]

  • Josh Devlin says:

    Nice new design Al.

    Long overdue for a ‘gar…

    –J.

  • alexmillier says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I just had to say something. Perhaps Mr Sheridan should stick to foreign affairs…. or long lunches with Alexander Downer….

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