Friday, March 22, 2024

About art and men

In Tasmania, a man is claiming that his exclusion from the Ladies Lounge, an exhibit at the Museum of Old and New Art, constitutes gender discrimination. The museum’s lawyer contends that his being turned away is integral to what the art is about: “Part of the experience is being denied something that is desired.” 
So Lau’s exclusion from the show is art, as is Lau himself and patriarchy and the court case and the women doing the conga to a Robert Palmer tune, no, follow the link, I’m not making it up. The only question must be, if that’s all art, what isn’t?

Monday, March 18, 2024

About comedians

Once again, I just record these observations with little or no comment. One day, they’ll have a place in my magnum opus about cultural assumptions, the bells-and-whistles box set spun off from my MA dissertation. But till then...

In Radio 4’s slightly contrived panel show One Person Found This Helpful, Frank Skinner feels obliged to explain that Tom Stoppard is a “famous playwright”, and given that the gag is about which of them, Skinner or Stoppard, would grab the headlines if they both perished in an air crash, that need for clarification is significant. (A few years ago Stoppard himself mused gloomily about what needs to be explained these days.)

And on the same day, in The Observer, Stewart Lee, a comic of a roughly similar vintage, lobs in a reference to Messiaen’s birdsong and finds himself under no such obligation. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

About a classical education

An interesting piece by Emma Green in The New Yorker about a resurgence in what’s known as liberal arts and/or classical education. Whatever you want to call it, it stands in opposition to the modern mainstream of pedagogy, favouring the canonical Great Books (and implicitly Dead White Males), which makes it popular with right-wing politicians, although as Green makes clear, that’s by no means the whole story. And if I look at a Trump rally, I wonder how many present, including the main speaker, would understand this gag: 

And then there’s literature: one New York City public-high-school reading list includes graphic novels, Michelle Obama’s memoir, and a coming-of-age book about identity featuring characters named Aristotle and Dante. In classical schools, high-school students read Aristotle and Dante.

And before I’m accused of snobbery, I’m well aware that there are vast gaps in my own cultural knowledge; opera, for example is little more than a blur. That said, I do know that Richard Strauss wasn’t Johann’s son, unlike the poor sap writing on the ENO website... 

PS: And while we’re there, the Arts Council of England is condemning opera critics for, among other sins,  writing “almost exclusively writing from a classical music perspective”.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

About ‘Hallelujah’

A while back, I wrote a book about Leonard Cohen, with a focus on That Song, which had become ubiquitous two decades or more after it had first been released (and mostly ignored). And today, in the midst of an online discussion about the incongruous uses to which it’s been put (see also ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’) I finally realise that I should have called the book SAD JEWS FUCKING.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

About pop

Just came across something I wrote for The Guardian in 2008, offering a sort of “OK, boomer” sigh avant la lettre, suggesting that old people should stop appropriating pop music. Which in turn prompted this delightful response:

Presumably by ‘old’ the author means himself; he’s bald and looks very boring. Probably not intelligent enough for classical though; Andy Williams fan? Nana Mouskouri?

PS: On a happier note, I’m now in the dictionary. For context, go here.

Friday, March 01, 2024

About Brontez Purnell

I can’t claim to know much about the work of Brontez Purnell but it does seem to me that if you’re the subject of the New York Times’s By The Book feature, affecting not to read very much is an, um, interesting look.