Monday, May 25, 2020

Fifty years on traditional institutions still remain


In his masterly cultural history of the demise of 1960s counterculture The Bad Trip James Riley puts the premiere of Britten's War Requiem - seen above - into politico-cultural context. Sadly his description of how traditional structures and institutions remained in the '60s, despite transformative opportunities offered by modernisation, still applies today to both the UK's political and social establishment and to the classical music industry:
Please Please Me may have been a standout pop record of 1963, but probably the most critically acclaimed release of the year was the recording of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem (1962). Britten's composition was dedicated to the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral, a building that had been destroyed by bombs that fell in November 1940. Filled with a sense of loss but marking also an act of triumphant reconstruction, Britten's piece served as an accurate barometer of the national pulse. The country would prevail not because of its transformative embrace of the modern, but because its traditional structures and institutions remain. Similarly shored up by Conservative rule, Britain's political and social establishment, despite its concessions to reform, also remained secure: as strong and steadfast as the Albert Hall during an air raid.
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2 comments:

Daddy Hardup said...

Thank you for this - how did they manage with the awful over-resonant acoustic?

The traditional structures and institutions of now-multicultural Coventry are beginning to shift, perhaps in anticipation of the UK City of Culture events here in 2021 (assuming public gatherings are possible by then...)

Two years ago I attended a free performance in the cathedral of (highly amplified) Sufi devotional music and poetry by Lala Qadeer and others, who were sitting cross-legged in the nave with Graham Sutherland's Christ tapestry as backdrop. Refreshments were provided, the only time I have ever eaten a takeaway curry while sitting in an English cathedral pew.

I look forward to more events of this kind.

Pliable said...

Daddy Hardup, thank you for providing a reason for a link to a video of Lala Qadeer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gKUETNsMtg