Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Classical music and the literature of the layman

'Images are the literature of the layman.'
Umberto Eco provides that coda to yesterday's path about the medium usurping the message. Connecting with the layman is the holy grail of the arts. Yet it is one of the paradoxes of digital culture that so much emphasis is placed on communications technology while so little is placed on the visual and verbal vocabularies that populate the technology networks. Umberto Eco's field is semiotics, so I offer two interpretations of the non-photo of Carl Nielsen.

The glass is half empty - as Umberto Eco tells us, the visual is the literature of the layman, which once again points to the path of seeing the music. Yet, as Philip Amos points out in a a thought provoking comment, that literature and the important cultural linkages which sustain it are being subverted in the name of accessibility. Yes, a lot of fuss about a photo of a radio presenter. But just one example of how media organisations are cynically abusing the arts in their frantic scramble for market share. To achieve ratings targets and performance related bonuses they are buying short term audience gains which are no more than the cultural equivalent of toxic mortgages. This debate is not about accessibility versus elitism, although the BBC wants us to think so. Rather, just like the News International scandal, it is about naked ambition and greed, which, contrary to received wisdom, is as virulent in public service broadcasting as it is in commercial.

The glass is half full - since writing my post BBC Radio 3 has a new composer of the week. And, as seen below, on their website is an image of Antonio Vivaldi, not Donald Macleod. Will somebody at Radio 3 now please read this post about Petroc Trelawny?


The Red Priest takes us down an Italian path. Umberto Eco was born in northern Italy and my header quote is from his novel The Name of the Rose. The Abbey in which the action takes place is modelled on the Castel el Monte in Perugia which featured in Music to the Power of Eight.

Photo of German gun emplacement at Sion Sur l'Ocean, France is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2011. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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