Thursday, April 10, 2008

You've spun me round And knocked me off my axis mundi

The 2008 Proms have been announced.

And you know what? There's some pretty darn good stuff in there. Obviously the Stockhausen day will be a highlight for me, but there's also a hefty wad of Messiaen and Carter (and it's not often you get to celebrate the centenary of someone who's not only still alive, but still very active), and a couple of "populist" gigs which I think are both excellent ideas - although not everyone agrees with me.

It's all very well to say "If we build it they will come", but the fact is that kids today have next to no experience of classical music, concert halls are seen as forbidding places, and many people simply won't enter one (a bit like the way quite a lot of people won't watch a programme simply because it's on BBC2 - which is why shows that transfer to BBC1 get such a huge hike in viewing figures). Personally I think that juxtaposing Doctor Who and Turnage is a great idea, not only in terms of getting people inside the hall who might never otherwise go, but putting a message out that it's ok to like both. It's not going to create a brand new audience overnight, but it's a step in the right direction, and puts the whole thing ahead of the usual game for "family" concerts.

The folk day is also exactly in line with what the Proms ought to be doing - a type of music that's intimately linked with so-called classical music, and presented with some of the cultural paraphernalia that surrounds it rather than in isolation like a butterfly in a glass case. I'm looking forward to having a dance round the maypole, so there! And the Ceilidh is a great way to finish it off. If we take it for granted that the Proms is bound to the Albert Hall for the foreseeable future (and I think it is), then for all the place's faults it should be embraced, and stuff like this makes an imaginative use of the space.

Some of the concerts look a bit bizarre to my eye in terms of the wild oscillations between full symphonic works and solo piano pieces, not to mention some strange programme orders (Mahler 5 as an opener??) , but if the Proms are to survive and flourish they have to be open to innovation and experiment, and one of the things about experiments is that they don't always work. The point is, it feels like a fresh breeze is blowing over the season after the increasingly stultifying Kenyon years. There's an eclecticism and a lack of reliance on tired barrel-scraping themes and the like that leaves me feeling uncharacteristically upbeat.

So bring on the daleks, the maypole, the electronica, I say: If it works, great; if it doesn't, at least they tried. Next year they could try putting a big Wicker Man up in Kensington Gardens.

... and everything decays.

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