Looking into the gaping hole

At a point in time when society is facing-up to new realities, where are the new works of art that capture this moment?

A musical friend, one from many years back, dropped by this morning.

We sat out in the sunshine, drank coffee, and caught up.  It was wonderful to see her looking so radiant. It’s always lovely to see her.

We talked a little about Wagner, me about my recent introduction to the composer’s output, her about her experiences playing Die Walkure at Proms under Pappano, the night Placido Domingo made his Proms debut.

She said it was very hot in the hall, but explained how surges of energy written into the score were what had sustained her throughout. It is a delight to talk to another person about something you’ve recently discovered and know instinctively they understand exactly what it is you’re getting excited about.

She asked me about how many Proms I was planning on going to before adding, “Are you addicted to the Proms, Jon?”

The question took me by surprise.  “I’m not promming when I go,” I said, very nearly with derision. “I’ve got a seat.”

That seemed to shut the question down. But it got me thinking about why it was this season gets me so engaged when, as I’ve pointed out before now, there are plenty of other concert series up and down the country I could just as easily get immersed in.

I think I might have the answer.

It’s a series of widely varied concerts which, because of the range of content, prompts a similarly broad range of thoughts and reflections.

Each concert, and the music contained within it, holds up a mirror in front of me, encourages me to stare at it and then, inevitably, to capture everything I see, think, or feel. The Proms is one long self-induced therapy session.

And for those of us who are comfortable sharing all that in that in a blog, its little wonder the pull of each concert is as strong as it is.

Last night’s concert – Tippett’s Child of our Time – is a case in point. Both its inspiration and the messages it conveyed have left a significant mark, more than anything else I’ve experienced at the Proms in recent years. Music from 80+ years ago written at a tumultuous point in time, still succeeds in resonating today, perhaps more so because the messages remain in 2016 just as they did in 1938.

The performance of it, witnessed by thousands of other people in the Royal Albert Hall, was a demonstration of the kind of community cohesion Tippett set out to achieve. Musically and literally, a work of art has brought people together and left its mark, one that sustains long after the performers have left the stage.

Our world is complicated, populated by a society who have unwittingly gone through considerable change. We are radically different people than we were 20 years ago. Globalisation plays a massive part in that.

So, who are the artists who are creating the works of art today which document this moment in time. Where is the music which not only reflects where we are at the moment but also offers a future path?

All I’m aware of in the classical music world is the need to be more inclusive, as though someone somewhere has done a tally of the club membership and realised that subscriptions are worryingly low. In pursuit of inclusivity, are we risking dumbing down  our commissions and in the process of doing so missing out on creating great art at a dramatic moment in the world’s development?

It might be I’m not looking in the right places. Maybe the things I’m looking for will reveal themselves in the months to come. Right now, it feels like I’m looking into a gaping hole.



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