For over two years I have been researching and writing for a book about idols who are accepted as Christian (or accepted by Christians). The adoration of such idols makes them millstones around our neck. We are encouraged to act in imitation of them, to construe their behaviour as Christian, even though on closer inspection they disregarded most of God’s commands and set themselves up as saviours of mankind. By worshipping such men and women, we lead others into idolatry and far from their duty before God.Read More
The Canon of music is not an organic process by which talent is filtered. In Music Mania I show how the Canon is deliberately controlled to produce and promote a particular type of "new music". The musician may be:
- a) Remembered with reverence and cherished in memory
- b) Forgotten completely, buried while still alive under change of style
- c) Remembered with derision as an example to others
Group (a) are the Canonical composers (from J. S. Bach to David Bowie). Group (c) are mocked as composers of Light Music - no matter how well they wrote (from Johann Strauss Jnr. to Ron Goodwin). Group (b) is less easy to characterise by dint of their obscurity. We might say that Vera Lynn is unfairly idolised compared to Gracie Fields, who had a much longer career and did a lot to support the troops. (Ask the generation who are now in their 80s and they smile at Gracie's name.) But there are people even more forgotten. I have given them a voice in Music Mania. We meet G. H. Clutsam, Stiles Allen, Frieda Hempel, Reginald Somerville, Hubert Bath, Ivy St. Helier, Thorpe Bates and Harold Fraser-Simson.Read More
The scope of Tim Blanning’s The Triumph of Music is to show the musician at one time a patronised servant of his rich masters becoming (in the 20th century) lord of all. Blanning illustrates that the musician's shackles were cast off by people like Bono, who have the ear of politicians and Elton John, whose homosexuality was once counter-cultural and now is not. It is a book that thinks itself far cleverer than it really is, for Blanning is merely repeating the accepted narrative that has been imposed on the history of music. He disregards any history that has not already been told ad nauseam. We might be lulled into believing the model by the simple fact that we have heard the tune so many times before. But it creaks under the scrutiny of a few counter-examples:
- Is the signed artist today really so free from the shackles of patronage that he can say what he wants? No. If he oversteps the boundaries of “modern values”, he will be unsigned and out on his ear. So he is not free.
- Is the unsigned but successful artist free? No. Because if he says something that offends his fan base, they will damn him to musical oblivion.
John Berger's life and death are being celebrated by the BBC today. His Ways of Seeing programme joins the BBC litany of works that "changed British culture".
The BBC's apparently guileless reporting disguises that fact that from its conception it sought to change British culture. In Music Mania I show how, 1 year after it was granted a Royal Charter, the BBC squandered £2,000 of public money to perform a work by Schoenberg. English composers were aghast that a German composer should be promoted instead of native talent. The amount of money was deemed obscene but was necessary to perform a work with 8 flutes, 5 oboes, 7 clarinets, 10 horns, 5 trumpets, 7 trombones, 6 kettle-drums (and other percussion), 4 harps, full strings, 5 solo singers, 3 male choirs and an 8-part mixed choir. In spite of criticism by the public, the BBC produced another Schoenberg work in 1930, even though in the eyes of the British public his name was "mud".Read More