28 November 2004
The Beatles, classical music and why the commies will never win

I’ve just seen one of the best programmes I have ever seen.  It has left me stunned, amazed, sad even.  It was a programme on the Beatles, part of Howard Goodall’s Channel 4 series on the musical greats of the 20th century. 

He began with the baleful influence of the classical avant garde.  At the beginning of the 20th century they had been granted the greatest legacy imaginable: the knowledge of harmony, melody and the other thing, rhythm perhaps?  And they threw it away.

What the Beatles did (though they probably didn’t know it at the time) was to pick up and embrace the very techniques that the classical avant garde had just thrown down the garbage shute.  Didn’t know rock was a conservative art form did you?

Of course, the Beatles weren’t the only ones to pick up the rules of Western music the classicalers had so carelessly discarded.  What made them great was their ability to combine it with many, many other influences eg rock, jazz, church, big band.  And then Indian (think Maharishi).  And then new techniques only recently invented in the studio eg. tape looping (think Tomorrow Never Knows).  (Ironically, this last form was originally invented by the avant gardists though it does rather put me in mind of monkeys and typewriters.) 

What is even more amazing is that, according to Goodall, the Beatles had no formal musical training.  But what does this mean?  They couldn’t put a name to a note or a chord?  Didn’t know what a key was?

Goodall reckons (and I have no way of knowing if he is right or not) that the Beatles provided a shot in the arm to classical music influencing people like Glass, Tavener and Gorecki.

Oh and why the commies will never win?  Well, they can’t win formally - they know that.  So, what they have to do is to infiltrate institutions and destroy them from the inside.  That’s the idea of the Frankfurt school.  Their problem now is that as soon as they take over an institution other ones start to appear.  Here they took over classical music but within 20 years it had been superseded by rock.

One final thought.  I know we internet types like to think that we will supplant TV but there’s clearly life in the old dog yet.

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  1. I saw this show too, and I liked it also.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 November 2004 at 11:30pm

  2. But, my name is Brian Micklethwait and not Patrick Crozier.  Teething troubles eh?  Don’t you just love ‘em?

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 November 2004 at 11:32pm

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