Who framed Roger Rabbit?

Responses to my recent e-mail about the significance of nursery rhymes to musical and personal development, has made me think more about cultural continuity. This sin't something most people think about, or if they do, don't consider that they have much control over it. But a composer has to think about such questions, especially if s/he is, as I am, outside the mainstream.

The act of self conscious creation is in any case a curious one, arising from the interaction of subconscious will, genetic predisposition, and acculturation. There is nothing the matter with doing it for money: but until you get beyond doing it merely for other people you don't reach the place where the maps give out and you have only your instinct is to guide you. At that point you reached the realisation that we are like "fleas in the mane of a galloping horse whose route we [think] to influence by what we decided to believe or not believe", as Arthur Miller put it. But there is still this question: if we are 'fleas' what is the appropriate response of a 'flea' to its environment? Even 'fleas' came from somewhere and can consider what direction they want to head. This is significant because every day, every act, every decision has the potential to take us towards our objectives; if we have formulated them, be they conscious external goals or internal subconscious ones.

I think about this a lot in relation to the young pianists I teach. The music they learn needs to be grounded in the music of today and yet link them to the music of the past. If it doesn't you get the idiocy of a quiz contestant who,when asked which film featuring Bob Hoskins shared the name of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, answered "Who framed Roger Rabbit?"

Last weekend I was reading a review of Graves’ letters & was struck by how no writer born after the last war would have Graves' (once, basic) equipment. Almost all knowledge has become compartmentalised - as is exemplified by a current BBC4 series about classical music presented by Suzy Klein which veers uneasily between assuming A) certain elements of musical knowledge & B) general ignorance which apparently demands explanation of rudimentary concepts that anyone who knew A) would already know.
Jonathan Harvey RIP used to say it was not uncommon to find music undergraduates who had no idea about the role of the Virgin Mary - beyond the basic joke - and thus lacked any perspective on western musical history.
But then of course Postmodernism is this lack of perspective writ large. My friend Harry Hough RIP always spoke of ‘the great march of ignorance’; but really where it really gains traction is when it meets Postmodernism to produce the moral foreshortening characteristic of the modern e-world where only the present exists. It’s really true that for today’s youth ‘early music’ is The Beatles. Everything before this is swathed in prehistoric irrelevance.     

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