MUSICTEACHERS.CO.UK VOLUME 2 ISSUE 2, AUGUST 2000  
Online Journal
"Smartie people are happy people"

MT.co.uk editor, John Woodford, ponders on present attitudes towards culture in governmental circles.
 

The futuristic sci-fi film Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, hit the silver screen several years ago. It's like many other films that have recently left Hollywood, and although it contains numerous touches of irony, there is an aspect that we, as musicians, have to feel somewhat worried about. Amidst the chaos and carnage that is meted out throughout its two hours, we are provided with a few touches that allow us to see what life might be like in the future. Criminals are reprogrammed, their violent tendencies eradicated by the need to do knitting or crochet, the American chain Taco Bell has become the model of gourmet cuisine and the police camp around Los Angeles arresting all and sundry for the use of profane language. From the word go, we get the feeling that it's not the future any of us want. But this is not the most disturbing aspect of the film; the most horrifying prediction is that the advertising jingles of today will become the art music of the future. God help us!

But, in some respects, that prediction is already becoming a fact - we cannot hide ourselves from the fact that the last government started a ball rolling that this government is keen to speed up. Arts funding has never been at such an all-time low. Granted, untold amounts have rightly been fed into the Royal Opera House, but more has been awarded to keep open a tent in Greenwich, or provide pop music exhibitions that no-one ever visits. Last month's rant came courtesy of the dumbing-down of the recording industry, and several readers have rightly pointed out that the problem is more deep-seated than that. Take for instance, the minister who is in charge of the arts. A pretty important job - well, at least that is what we would like to think. His role, however, is multi-functionary since he is also in charge of media and sport. Media and sport? I'm not knocking either of these: without some control of the media, we would have television and radio programmes of the same moronic quality that they have in America; no matter how much we might dislike football, cricket or ice-skating, they are nevertheless popular and need representation. But to lump these with the Arts is something that no sane person can comprehend. Is it not really a symptom of the disdain that many in government have for music, theatre and visual arts, and is not this because they patronisingly view these to be too elitist for their electorate? The recent problems surrounding Oxford University's elitist attitudes are a case in point. So, a young lady from north of the Watford GAP was refused entry. So what? Presumably, she didn't have the right stuff; many of us don't and there are many other universities out there that would provide just as good an education. Perhaps she was being a little too elitist in trying to get there in the first place!

When will this attitude filter down into music? It can't be far off - perhaps we should start lobbying the Associated Board to make their exams easier since for some of my beginner piano pupils, Grade 8 is far too hard and they won't be ready to take the exam for many years. Joking aside, there is a something sinister afoot that we have to be ready for. Let's not fall into the trap of believing that because Tony Blair went to public school and listens to his old Beatles tapes when he's driving in his Jag he's on the side of music. Arts funding will inevitably fall to an all-time low, peripatetic funding for schools will completely disappear and the music of the future might just consist of a 1970s song about Smarties.



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