The “Arts” worry about being elitist and how to attract the young and/or ethnic (in particular) to partake of their wares. I was once young, though never very ethnic or elite (and two of these three things haven’t changed), but do now partake of quite a wide range of the Arts – so if I knew how this came to pass (and if – a very big if – my “journey” is a guide to that of others) I could be in line to make a decent living providing advice to the aforementioned “Arts”. Sadly, I’m not really sure how it happened – as a child my primary activities were reading and listening to radio comedy (though never both, it just doesn’t work). Pleasingly, both could be done in the warm, dryness of indoors and while prone on my bed. I do recall occasional visits to local productions of Gilbert and Sullivan – but that was all I can remember of the Arts from my formative years. Perhaps I just formed unusually late? It could explain why I remain rather childish…
Actually, not all the Arts worry about being either elitist or attracting the young – or at least, they save any hand-wringing on this score to be performed behind firmly closed doors. Current popular music (in its widest sense: which seems to be music that is neither classical or jazz and which is of a style once aimed at teenagers) seems unconcerned – and makes few concession to attracting the grey, or even middle-aged, pound. I feel far more out of place when I go to see such music than I do when I go to soi-disant “high” culture – despite the age gap between me and the more typical audience member being roughly the same (albeit in the opposite direction). I don’t know why – perhaps it is easier to be the youngest person in the audience than the oldest? This sounds worryingly ageist – and as we older folk do most of the voting around here, something should be done about it! Mosh seating, anyone?
Right, that’s the preamble over – let us settle down to the diary-based meat (or TVP) of this post. As last week drew to its inevitable, but nonetheless welcome, conclusion I spent three successive nights enjoying culture – and this was all at some remove from the science fiction, radio comedy and G&S of my youth.
I started with cinema and Fyodor Dostoyevsky – or at least an adaptation of The Double, directed by Richard Ayoade. This was my third attempt at Mr D’s oeuvre: a previous reading of Crime and Punishment and an Estonian cinematic-take on The Idiot had gone down rather poorly, not to say painfully (though I did stick with both until the bitter and depressing end). The Double was rather good – and even contained actual laughs – and at no stage did I wish to leave or be overtaken by the sweet bliss of unconsciousness.
Day two, and we moved west from Russia to Germany and from cinema to the theatre. An adaptation of Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind at the Nuffield. This was jolly good, if rather under-attended, and continued the mix of fun and depression. Whilst the adaptation had clearly updated the play – I doubt mobile phones and laptops figured in the 1906 original unless Herr W was a much better forecaster than I – the themes remained all too relevant after more than a century. As a species, we seem rather better at technological progress than social.
Day three, and I stayed with Germany – though adding something closer to home to the mix – and moved from the theatre to choral music. A concert by the Esterhazy Chamber Choir of Parry’s Songs of Farewell followed by Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem. I’d been meaning to go to a concert of the Brahms for 20+ years – sometimes I can take a while to implement my plans (so if you’re still waiting, do not despair) – but despite the decades of anticipation the piece did not disappoint. What a stunning piece of music – and well worth the wait to ensure that my first experience was of a live performance!
After this triumvirate of events, I realised that like a true vulture of culture I had surrounded myself – at least thematically – with death (apologies to any readers for which this comes as somewhat of a spoiler, but I feel that after a century I’m allowed to give away vague plot details). I have become a consumer of cultural carrion. I think it must be time for some culture with a sunnier disposition, less I become sucked into a black slough (or nearby Eton) of despond.