Saturday, April 13, 2013

Music, museums and a wake-up call

The habit of many musicians, administrators and other pundits to say that classical music mustn't be a "museum culture" (or words to that effect) has been bugging me. This week alone I've seen such phrases trotted out in interviews with two people whose work I greatly admire - novelist and Sunken Garden librettist David Mitchell, and even Jonas Kaufmann in the German article I linked to the other day. 

I have a think-piece in The Independent today (written before I saw either the Mitchell piece or the Kaufmann one) about why we should rethink this old cliche. Museums are doing rather well. Doesn't anyone ever go to one? 

I have a Tate Buddy. We go to Bankside, have a cuppa gazing out at the best view in London, then dip into all manner of fascinating exhibitions or the permanent collection. We never leave without learning something new. That's part of the point: to discover something, to learn about it, to find your brain and spirit stirred by fresh ideas. It doesn't matter if you go in thinking you know nothing about whatever-it-is, because you will by the time you go home. It's sad to think of the number of people who shy away from trying a concert because they think they don't know enough about it... And at the Tate, the gallery itself is part of the treat; walking through it, you sense the pride that is taken in its sleek contemporary expertise. Contrast that with the recent Royal Albert Hall experience described in the article.

Speaking of the Tate, I went to the premiere last night of Michel van der Aa's Sunken Garden, which wouldn't look out of place there. More of that later.