Monday, June 25, 2007

Crotchets in the Mud

“You're just an old fuddy-duddy,”says my wife, “and don't appreciate modern pop music.”
“Right on both counts,” says I.
The fields are alive, with the sound of music, or they were for the past few days in a soggy area of Somerset. But did 177,000 or so people go to listen to music?
Somehow, I doubt it. They went because it was one of those things to do.
The other day I was chided gently by a correspondent for a remark I had made about a group called Bon Jovi, who would be performing at that overgrown circus tent, now renamed O2. Quite rightly he pointed out that one man's rock is another man's roll and that there would be something for everybody in subsequent offerings. (Snow White on Ice, is one!) Where he was in error, however, was in assuming that I knew who on earth Bon Jovi was, or perhaps were.
I'm sure they're jolly good if you like that sort of thing, but, 'if this be musick,' as the bard might have said, surely it should be listened to in peace and quiet? Standing shoulder to shoulder in a group of twenty thousand frequently arm waving fans, many of whom are watching the performance on huge screens, since they can't actually see the stage, doesn't strike me as being a musical experience, more of a cult following..
From a musical point of view, it's as strange to me as trying to listen whilst walking down the street or riding on a train with an earpiece plugged into your lughole. I listened to an iPod once (when I finally discovered what it was) and it was reminiscent of the description given to the gramophone when it first appeared. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said the name derived from the Greek, “Gramo” - I shout, “Phono”- through a tin tube.
A guitarist friend of mine, defending Pop, admitted that he'd tried jazz but the chords were too difficult. Rock, he said, was much easier since there were only three chords per tune on average – and it also paid better.
Which probably explains a lot.
I'm told that Elton John was trained as a classical musician, in which case, he hides it very well, but at least I can discern a melody and form in his compositions – more than I can do from most of the other groups, showing there is something in having a musical education.
Bach was an exponent of the pop music of his day and the Jacques Loussier group exploited this in their fine recordings of updated performances of his works, 'Play Bach.' Loussier had studied for six years at the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris. Jazz at its very best, played by real musicians with not a guitar between them and able to manage a sequence of more than three chords.
But Bach, luckily for him, never performed before 170,000 fans in a muddy meadow and I understand that there were few arrests at any of his performances for drug taking, drunkenness or theft. He also earned less than most of the performers on display at the weekend.
His music is, however, still appreciated and performed 250 years after his death.
I wonder how much of the present day output of Pop will still be around 250 years hence?

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