Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Beethoven, culture and Corrie

The concepts of “culture” and “popular culture” have cropped up on the blog before. And I suppose that “culture” is anything that is still “popular” after the substantial passing of time (purely on its own merit). Like Beethoven.

Excuse me donning the pretentious arty-farty critic guise here, encouraged by a few holiday riojas, but I am reading “Beethoven the Universal Composer” by Edmund Morris, and it’s really quite good.

I had always imagined that writing a symphony would be a pretty daunting project, but was nonetheless stunned to learn that Ludwig’s second contained 1,925 separate ciphers on its opening page – equating to music that lasted no longer than 15 seconds. Then throw into the mix the fact that the man (who had perfect pitch) was battling deafness - on the way to losing his hearing completely by the time he’d written his Ninth Symphony (the Ode to Joy part of which is now the EU anthem) – and it is truly, humiliatingly, stunning.

That was on the roof earlier. Then there was Coronation Street later this evening. If you watch it – and I do – you’ll know there’s a character in it with a touch of the Annie Wilkes of “Misery” fame about her. In recent episodes she more or less held hostage a gossipy, interfering, nosey, short-arsed little bollocks called Norris Cole in an isolated cottage in Bronte (or Brunty) Country. He eventually escaped and lived to tell the tale... something he’s quite good at.

Anyway, he was sipping half an ale (a half!) in the Rovers when he shot out of the pub the millisecond his captor arrived on the threshold. “He always leaves skidmarks whenever I appear”, she observed. You would probably have to see it and know the characters to appreciate it, but it was classic comedy.

So what is culture? Real, living, unsubsidised culture?

It is culture that transcends national boundaries. Just as Beethoven’s work was good enough to gain an appreciation beyond Germany and Austria (for much of his career he was based in Vienna) and is now world culture. Just as football – as the majority of the Earth understands it – is a game appreciated in every corner of the globe. Just as Corrie has an audience way beyond Weatherfield. Something that no amount of subsidies for Ros na Ruin and the like will ever achieve.

And why? Because they have universal merit, they are truly part of all our cultures.

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Paul McCoch said...

Boss Post GM lar.

Anyways.. I'm off down the Woolpack for a liquid lunch xD

The Gombeen Man said...

Partial to such myself. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Beethoven and Corrie who would have thought it GM in the one blog? Your right though IMO, GM, there is that magic quality in both, which speak to us on a different level. Alot of people dont like Beethoven, alot dont like Corrie or the soaps - I dip in now and then - but nobody can deny Beethoven knew how to compose something beautiful, or that Corrie has that little something?

The way both transend cultural barriers is fascinating. I suppose its due to the fact that Cornation Street and all soaps for that matter, are nearly all set in small local communities. They all portray a world which has all but gone now. People long for this sense of belonging. But you never know GM, with peak oil on the horizon maybe people will be spending far more time in their immediate community!

The other popular cultural mainstay, soccer, also provides this sense of belonging. This is a fundamental human need which I suppose is one of the building blocks of national and popular culture. Again this current way we interpret and demonstrate our need for a sense of belonging, will be of no end of fascination for historians in the years to come?


The Gombeen Man said...

That's right, D. Some people would consider the two mutually exclusive, but I don't think they get it. Sure anything that brings us all together is a good thing. Anyway, finish off this Big Mac (it's getting like that film "Supersize Me" here!


Tomaltach said...

Gombeen, the sense of belonging must be a factor. Though I think there are other sides to it. We (and the world) have become voracious consumers of American cultural products. Whether it is litterature, music, or film and tv, America is where it is all at. Part of that is because they do it so well: the quality of American tv is amazing (and I don't mean the rubbish you see when you turn on a random station in a hotel room in say, Atlanta). I mean the most successful of their home produced products. You might not like them but from Columbo, to Fraser, to Friends, to ER, or stuff like the Sopranos, the Wire etc. Usually amazing talent. The same of course applies to music and litterature: Elvis, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Kurt Cobain, whatever you're having yourself. Litterature, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Ford, Faulkner, DeLillo, McCarthy, and so on.
American cultural products are now among our primary reference points.

Of course, the picture is more complex. We are anglo-phone and are deeply hooked in to the Anglo-Saxon world, more so than say, the French (though even there, American culture is big). America became the dominant empire of the mid twentieth century, and led the way into the age of Television and Internet, all of which provided massive opportunity for it to channel its wares around the Globe.