Category Archives: bbc

04 Apr

The mellifluous regiment

I’ve taken to listening to Woman’s Hour, because its presenters have such agreeable voices. But why do they harp only on one subject – women? Is that really all they’re interested in? Most of the real women I know – not the politicised BBC types – are interested in all manner of subjects. I think they should rename the programme Feminist Solipsism Hour. Are men interested only in men? I don’t think so, and I know I’m not: I’m interested in women for a start. But Woman’s Hour is a study in monomania. They are in thrall to the ideology of antisexism.

They are interested in politics, up to a point, but not much beyond the suffragists. English Literature consists of the Brontes, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Maria Edgeworth and Doris Lessing. If they talk about music on the programme, it has to be about Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn. Though, credit where it’s due, they did once do a feature about the astounding Hildegaard of Bingen who ranks several notches higher than Clara and Fanny. They will talk about Florence Nightingale, though they prefer Mary Seacole because this gives them opportunity to indulge their subsidiary ideology, antiracism.

They remind me of the mystical communists who look forward to their atheistic version of the end times: the punishment of the capitalists and the dawn of the communist utopia. They are panting for their own wimmin’s paradise: that great and glorious day when all women will be hod-carriers on building sites – stripped to the waist? – and whistled at by brawny men sitting on the pavements and engrossed in their needlepoint. Progress has been made towards this feminist parousia, but there is still a lot of work to be done and women need to show tireless vigilance.

Still, they regularly give thanks for past successes, milestones on the road to utopia. For example, the other day, the script went something like this: “D’you remember the bad old days and the Ladybird learning to read books featuring Peter and Jane? Jane was always in the kitchen helping mummy and Peter was out in the street washing the car with his dad?”

They can hardly contain their scorn for a bygone age when things were so cliched and unliberated.

But here I draw the line, girls. Here I object. For however much times have changed between the era of Peter and Jane and our wonderfully progressed and emancipated age, that picture of boys washing cars and girls making jam tarts was actually how things were fifty years ago.

Again we notice their resemblance to communists in their fixation on rewriting history.

What damage would be wreaked on the historical tomes if they were to be consistent and insist on role-reversal in ancient Rome: Priscilla would have to be portrayed as an apprentice charioteer and Markus a trainee vestal virgin.

Ladies, you may work to change the present and the future to your hearts’ content. But leave the past alone. It was what it was, for better or worse.

I shall still listen though. As I say, they have such mellifluous voices. That Jenni Murray, for example: you’d never think she comes from Barnsley. 

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09 Feb

In praise of Oik Telly

Three cheers for James Purnell, director of strategy at the BBC. He has just announced that “Civilisations,” a new version of cultural history to succeed Kenneth Clark’s original “Civilisation” series of 1969, will, along with all new documentaries programmed by the BBC, be “the opposite” of Clark’s monstrously “elitist” production.

I’m only sorry that the wonderfully egalitarian Mr Purnell fell short of calling the new series by a title more suitable for the emancipated and enlightened age we now live in. He should have been brave and called the series “Barbarism.” But, as they say, brave new world was not built in a day, and I am grateful that Mr Purnell has dared to go as far as he has along the road to pure oikism.

The disgusting patrician Clark – Order of Merit, Companion of Honour, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and Fellow of the British Academy – is sure to be surpassed by the presenter of the new series who, according to Mr Purnell, will be “a trusted friend” who will deliver “expertise without elitism.”

I’m all for it: let’s hear it for mediocratism!

Even after 48 years, I can still hear Clark’s disgraceful voice, speaking with sickening mellifluousness in grammatical English – in whole sentences, for heaven’s sake! Our new version will feature the iconic demotic of our democratised times innit, like, dropped aitches and t’s, “their” for the, like, sexist “his” and “her,” and as many sentences – though of course these will not be sentences – as possible starting with “So…”

I recall also Clark’s initial reluctance to produce a book of his series, “…because it would have to be without the classical music on the original soundtrack.”

“Classical music”! I ask you – did ever a man so completely condemn himself out of his own mouth?

Purcell, Byrd, Bach, Tallis, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven: the 1969 series was full of such class-ridden rubbish. This was made worse by Clark’s misplaced and undemocratic admiration for so-called “Great Masters”: Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and similar trash. I’ll have you know, Kenneth Clark, your vile era of deference to “masters” is long gone.

The new series will feature the art of the people and its comrade multi-millionaires such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and that other hero of our thoroughly-democratised art who fashioned an installation of the siege of Troy on an exquisite pile of (real, his own) shit.

And there will be no problem with the music. How could there be when we have to hand myriads of downloads of David Bowie, Queen, Eminem, Michael Jackson and the sumptuously adenoidal narcissist, St Bob Dylan?

Our new remake will accomplish a total revolution, amounting to an utter repudiation of the repressive “values” of the original. In that old version there was credulous and mawkish piety in the depiction of St Augustine of Hippo, St Benedict, Erasmus, Martin Luther and other devotees of the primitive and superstitious era of so called “Christendom.” We shall present true heroes of modernity and of the people: Marx, Engels, Lenin Stalin, Mao – with a special section on their greatest prophet Eric Hobsbawm.

All together now, let’s join in a thanksgiving chorus of John Lennon’s great hymn of heroically blasphemous praise: Imagine

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31 Dec

Dear Arthur…

An open letter to my teacher and friend Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Dear Arthur,

I don’t know whether you’ll be able to read this – or,. as today’s quaint phrase has it, “access this” – where you are. And, of course, I don’t know where you are or even if you are. In your great work Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, you drummed it into us that the secret of life is to extinguish the relentlessly insistent will – including the will to live. So perhaps you don’t want to be anywhere. I can’t quite get my head around this. (Another of our irritating modern phrases). You wouldn’t like it here. That incoherent upstart Karl Marx, who was only just getting going in your day, has been tremendously influential all over the world: even so-called “conservative” governments pursue socialist policies these days.

But really I want to tell you about something else. In Britain today there is a national organisation, paid for out of taxation and called the BBC, which tells us what to think and which things to regard as valuable politically, ethically and aesthetically. It doesn’t use books or newspapers to achieve this. Instead every home has a device which enables families to hear, and even see, the BBC propaganda. (I know you will find this far-fetched, but it’s true) The BBC is particularly keen on three things: that we should all be socialists and like crap – excuse my language – “music” and celebrate dead nihilists.

A very rare occurrence: you, dear Arthur, got a mention on the BBC yesterday. It was like this…

There is a feature on the BBC called A Good Read in which celebrities – usually ones who know nothing about literature – talk about the books they are reading. Yesterday, one of the participants mentioned a book by a psycho-thoroughpissed. (It was about death, so I thought you would be interested). The participant was impressed by this book and he praised the thoroughpissed author in  words such as the following, (I paraphrase, but here’s the substance of what he said):

“This is a wonderfully interesting book. The author writes about philosophers such as Nietzsche (worth reading, Arthur) and Sartre (a nihilistic narcissist and not worth reading) and…Schopenhauer. He provides a superb three pages summary of Schopenhauer’s writings. It might encourage you to go on and read Schopenhauer for yourself. But you don’t have to read him: these three pages are adequate in themselves for an understanding of him.”

So, Arthur, finally I come to my reason for writing. I want to apologise. You see, the BBC is not only full of socialists with bad taste in music, it is also – to use another of our tiresome modern expressions, irretrievably “dumbed down.” The very idea – the offence! – that your many thousands of penetrating and entertaining insights in Die Welt  and Parerga und Paralipomena can be distilled into three pages written by a throughpissed is a travesty and an insult.

So, wherever (or if) you are, please accept my renewed thanks for all your glorious works and my embarrassed apology. For I know you won’t get an apology from the BBC. There the philistines are proud of their ignorance and casual in their rudeness

With the best will in the world, I am your devoted pupil and friend

Peter

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30 Aug

Beethoven’s Funk

My first meeting some fifteen years ago with a man who is now among my closest friends ended up in a triple-forte row. Over supper in the restaurant, I mentioned that I had just bought Andras Schiff’s recordings of all the Mozart piano sonatas. My friend, who shall remain nameless – but who’s name actually is Alexander Boot – a man with a well-tuned ear for the apt phrase – said, “I call him Andras S**t!”

He was right. I hardly played the recordings and last year i gave them away. I feel rather guilty about giving them to someone else, feeling it’s a bit like serving your pal a piece of dodgy pork.

Well, I must be a glutton – not for dodgy pork, but for punishment. For last evening I switched on the wireless to listen to Schiff – now Sir Andras – conduct the excellent Leipzig Gewandhaus in a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Proms. The Leipzig musicians played with their usual clarity and tone: but what they had to play, how they were directed to play was an atrocity. I have never heard anything so palpably awful since a performance of Mahler’s Second by James Loughran in the Free Trade Hall in 1975.

That Schiff could do such dirt on Beethoven’s Seventh, one of the liveliest symphonies in the repertoire! It dragged along like a lump of dead meat.

But you know how you do: I persevered, hoping for it to get better. Surely in the presto scherzo he would liven up a bit? No. Not in the allegro con brio finale either – the movement which Nietzsche extolled as “the apotheosis of the dance.” Last night it was more like the apotheosis of lumbago. To say it was spiritless would be to insult all the shades in the graveyard.

Beethoven’s first two symphonies are conventional 18th century style pieces recalling Haydn. (Characteristically, Beethoven, having had lessons from Haydn, claimed he learnt nothing from him. Yes, well, even Homer nods now and then. But the third, The Eroica burst into the world like an exploding galaxy. Music was never the same again. Beethoven seemed – yes, even Beethoven – to need a period of recovery after The Eroica and indeed the fourth is a fairly conventional affair – and no worse for that, by the way. Then he’s back to being a whirling dervish again in the tearaway fifth: that dazzling C-major chord which erupts towards the climax of the last movement…well, it’s what he heard in Haydn’s The Creation, isn’t it? The revelatory “Let there be light!” after the representation of chaos.

The old man needed a breather again and he takes it in the leisurely pastorale of his sixth. Only then does he feel ready to hurl the seventh at us. Another breather in the (almost) dainty precision of the little eighth; before the desert storm of the ninth.

How could Sir Andras perpetrate such an affront to Ludwig van? He made even the costive lushness of Karajan sound spritely. I could have done with a dose of Furtwangler or Leonard Bernstein.

Did Sir Andras get his knighthood for rescuing stray dogs, or what?

(I hope Mr Boot doesn’t mind my telling you this. But you were right, Alex. By hell you were right!)

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29 Jul

Prescribing the disease as the antidote

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

I’ve been reading about pop music again. To make matters worse, I have compounded my fault by reading a BBC preview about tonight’s “Bowie Celebration Prom.” Here is what it said:

“How to turn a David Bowie tribute from an evening of cover versions into something better? The key seems to be the Berlin collective Stargaze, a young group of post-jazz players who will be the backdrop against which a sequence of guest singers (including Marc Almond and John Cale) will perform Bowie classics. Earlier (7.30pm), veteran maestro Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony.”

I am having difficulties with some of the wording in that preview.

What is “post jazz”?

How can the word “classic” appear next to the word “Bowie”?

Blasphemously, the providers of this rubbish describe Bowie as a rock “icon.” In truth, he was an overblown representative of the trashy mass culture industry, which is not about music of any sort, but about advertising and money.

Remember H.L. Mencken: “Nobody ever lost money by underestimating public taste.”

I don’t mind – big of me, eh? – if those deprived of a decent education by generations of lousy state schooling and the dumbed down mass media want to get together to listen to trash.

But I do mind when the trash is imported into the realm of what formerly stood for quality. Classical music concerts are the antidote to the banal noises of pop music.

The devotees of pop music have hundreds of TV and radio stations which broadcast nothing but pop and rock.

Is it so unreasonable to ask that one station might remain clear of this disease?

(That review reveals very clearly the Beeb’s order of values: “Veteran maestro Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony” is appended as an afterthought.)

Furthermore, Father, I confess to being an elitist. But what’s the alternative – to be a mediocratist?

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28 Jul

Defiling the stars

Evil communications corrupt good manners.

The brilliantly successful programme to land a spacecraft on a comet has come to an end. Contact has been lost with the module and there is no possibility of its being re-established.

So – the ineffably fatuous BBC Radio Four programme Inside Science, presented by Adam Rutherford, mourned this moment of loss, said how touching and evocative the whole experience had been

So – how does the BBC do “touching” and “evocative”?

By saying  goodbye to the spacecraft by means of five or six extracts of rock music

I thought; O music of the circling spheres, accept this audible filth, our only tribute

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05 Apr

Music as junk food

The BBC call The Today Programme their “flagship news and current affairs” coverage, so we can confidently turn to it for serious comment and analysis of those things which matter most to the nation. And indeed The Today Programme does not disappoint: this morning, for example, they were discussing the burning cultural issue, “Which year was the best year ever for music?”

As a musical amateur I was captivated, turned up the volume and prepared to receive the experts’ learned assessment. Surely a contender would be 1727, when J.S. Bach first performed St Matthew Passion? Or perhaps  Mozart’s composing his last three symphonies – in E-flat, G-minor and C-major – inside six weeks in 1788. Another candidate would surely be 1805 and the first performance of Beethoven’s Eroica in Vienna? Chopin’s Twenty-four Preludes first delighted the world in 1839. Messiah given in Dublin in 1742. Schoenberg’s plunge into atonality in his String Quartet Number 2 in 1908 perhaps? Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony in 1941?

These are only a few memorable years from the abundant riches of European music, and chosen off the top of my head. Which year would the BBC experts choose as the pinnacle of musical creativity?

Nah, none of the above!

This is the BBC and its presenters faithfully represent the culture of the society in which they earn their daily ciabatta. So for them, “music” is pop music, aka crap, junk, rubbish, noise, fashion, trending, narcissism. Anything else is “classical music” – a niche for elitists and snobs. Tune in to any of the quiz shows and the category “music” will come up. But it will not be music as we know it. It will be “the charts.” The Corporation is in thrall to pop stars. Recall the way they cut short an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury to prattle everlastingly about the decease of of the great fraud and self-promotion guru David Bowie. Some years ago, when one of their very own presenters of pop – John Peel – died, the entire half hour of the 6pm news was given up to the subject. When Michael Jackson snuffed it, the coverage went on for three days. I turned on the TV and heard that he had died. I went out to dinner and when I came back they were yet talking about him. Next morning the news was, “Michael Jackson: still dead.”

And even the BBC’s music station, Radio Three has been poppified. All gushing chat and golly-gosh as the presenter tells us how much some piece “made me tingle.” Everything reduced to sentimentality and me-me-me. No evaluation, no enlightening comment. No critical apparatus at all. All most unmusical.

So which year did they nominate for the great accolade, the best year ever for music?

Was it The Beatles’ first LP? Or the year when The Rolling Stones chucked all them tellies out of the hotel window? Or the memorable year when Bob Dylan decided that henceforth he would always “sing” with a peg on his nose, so to elevate his pretentiousness to a height previously un-scaled even by that prince of doggerel-mongers? How about the year we were given the shuffling nihilism of John Lennon’s Imagine? An offering from Freddie Planet of the Apes? The Boomtown Saver of Africa? Or something by the most suicidal pop-junkie ever to smash a guitar?

Actually, I can’t tell you. I’ve forgotten. 

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26 Feb

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Dame Janet Smith has produced her report into child sexual abuse at the BBC and concluded that the whole of the senior management were completely innocent of anything untoward during those forty years when such as Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall were a blight on children’s lives.

I slept on this shocking judgement and then it dawned on me that Dame Janet’s report is not an isolated example. My mind went back to that other Establishment figure Dame Butler Sloss who was rejected as a candidate for the chairmanship of an earlier enquiry into the sexual abuse of children on the grounds that she was considered to be too close to some of the people her enquiry would be investigating.

And then in a startlement of terrible realisation, I understood that it is always like this.

But before I turn to the generality, let me outline one more particular case: 

Mrs Fiona Woolf was interviewed by a House of Commons Select Committee concerning her eligibility to be chairman of a new enquiry into historic child abuse. Charities supporting the victims of such abuse objected to Mrs Woolf’s appointment on the grounds that she is too close to the very Establishment which is suspected of covering up the abuse. They have singled out in particular the fact that Mrs Woolf was at five dinner parties with the late Leon Brittan, the former home secretary.

Mrs Woolf denies being a member of the Establishment. I suppose the next thing we shall hear is Bill Gates telling us he’s not rich.

Not a member of the Establishment? Of course she isn’t…

She was Aldermanic Sheriff of London.  Then 686th Lord Mayor of London and residing in Mansion House. Global ambassador for UK finance. President of the Law Society. Honorary member of Middle Temple and on the Court of three City of London livery companies. A governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Chairman of Chelsea Opera.

And now I must call her Mrs no longer for, following her year as Lord Mayor of London, she was created Dame

Nah – not a member of the Establishment – just an ordinary gel!

Not only is Mrs Woolf at the very centre of where it’s at in the traditional Establishment, she is also at the very centre of the new Establishment of Fashionable & Politically-correct Causes. Her declared project when she was elected Lord Mayor was the furtherance of women in executive careers. She is also a big noise in the Raleigh Trust which promotes sustainable development.

Last year she said on the BBC that she has to maintain her “network.” More dinner parties with cabinet ministers, I suppose, and fellow members of the Great and the Good. One of the ways in which she maintains her “network” – so she told us – is to send 3000 Christmas cards. She was asked if she sent a Christmas card to Leon Brittan and replied she couldn’t remember – which might seem to undermine the purpose of sending Christmas cards in the first place.

Not a member of the Establishment?

I must remember to ask her about that at the next Mansion House banquet

In every enquiry into the conduct of a public institution that I can recall, the Establishment figure chairing it invariably pronounces that indeed there have been grievous faults but no blame must be attached to those who had been in charge..

You might object: “But Lord Hall took the blame on the part of the BBC”

It’s all a sham! For then you ask, “What exactly does taking the blame mean here?”

Lord Hall keeps his job and all those senior managers keep their jobs.

Are we then forced to the shocking conclusion that the Establishment covers up for its members?

It’s much worse than that: the Establishment IS a cover up and nothing else..

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31 Aug

Is the faux-estuarine seer here?

The brilliant faux-estuarine seer Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser came on Thought for the Day for our further enlightenment. Of such incandescence was his thought that the wireless was briefly on fire. He started by talking about the Notting Hill Carnival – that annual celebration of druggery and thuggery before which honest men board up their shops against the looters and at which  the police traditionally ignore gross acts of violence and the ingesting of illegal substances – out of respect for diversity and our multicultural utopia

Come to think of it, the carnival is mono- rather than multi- and the word culture is inappropriate here unless, I suppose, we are using it according to the usage of the pathology lab..

But the BBC’s in house semi-sacerdotal Trot went on to discover a far more profound meaning of carnival. After much ferretting around in the archives of the bleedin’ obvious, the seer took us back to the carnivals of the Middle Ages, to the Feast of Fools, the Festival of the Boy Bishop and the Lord of Misrule. Gratuitously, and out of the copious resources of his unsearchable understanding, Dr Fraser informed us that these were high days when the usual hierarchies were turned on their heads, the lowly were exalted for a day or a weekend and the high and mighty were put down.

The seer thought that this was a jolly good thing and that we could all – especially the church – do with a lot more of this role-reversal.

What he failed to notice, however, is that the reason we don’t keep these feasts of social inversion, insubordination, rudeness and ubiquitous oikishness as special days in our calendar is because our society, and particularly the church, is now like that all the time.

Perhaps, Dr Fraser, the Church of England and the rest of the nation might actually invert the inversion and, for just a couple of days in the year – it would be impossible to do it all the time of course – be serious, dignified, noble, reverent, God-fearing and proper?

By the way, I wonder if, when he becomes leader of our great nation and inaugurates misrule as a fundamental principle of society, Jeremy Corbyn will appoint the faux- estuarine seer as his chaplain?

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13 Aug

Hey dude, Mozart never got downloads!

At last that upstart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been put in his place. Following something that was billed as A late night Ibiza prom, became the most downloaded of all thirty-five proms so far this season, “disc-jockey” Pete Tong was heard to exclaim “Take that, Mozart” after conducting a rendition of Cafe Del Mar, the 1993 Ibiza classic by Energy 52.

One aficionado of this work of inspired genius cooed:

“Tong kicked off proceedings with Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now, a dance classic with a whole lot of violins. Other tracks included ATB’s Till I Come, The Shapeshifters’ Lola’s Theme, and a host of other ‘90s and ’00s house music classics. If you’re an Ibiza regular or you remember the days when your legs worked properly and you could down a pint in seconds rather than hours, then this particular Prom will provide goosebumps, neck tingles, and perhaps even a tear or two.”

I confess that, after having listened to only a few bars, I shed many tears. In fact, I couldn’t stop weeping.

“Our arm muscles were burning… but we didn’t care,” said violinist Kerenza Peacock in an interview for the BBC’s Newsbeat. “That was during the epic rendition of Insomnia by Faithless, one of the most iconic dance tracks to ever grace Ibiza’s shores.”

We must be glad of such progress in our aesthetical assessments. In Mozart’s day we had to rely on hearsay and the mere opinions of fogeys such as Joseph Haydn who told Mozart’s father, “Before God and as an honest man, I say your son is the greatest living composer.”

But heck, what did Haydn know? His was just one opinion – and the opinion of a notorious elitist fuddy-duddy at that.

At last – led by the BBC Proms’ brave DJs and other innovators – we are emerging from centuries of stuffy pseudo-musical appraisal into a truly scientific, and genuinely democratic, method by which to judge the quality of music. I speak, of course, of what will surely come to be referred to as the Democratic Phenomenon of the Oiks’ Download (the D-POD).

The beauty of this is that, when it comes to forming a judgement, no musical understanding whatever is required. The D-POD ingeniously by-passes the issue of quality and provides us with a method which is purely quantitative and thus truly objective.

And, as we have belatedly recognised, this is the only way to arrive at valid aesthetic judgements.

In future, don’t ask of any piece of music, “How good is it?” Just count the downloads.

And, if further proof of the superiority of the new method is required, just think of this: Mozart didn’t get any downloads, he never went clubbing in Ibiza and was never known to down a pint in seconds.

Thanks then to the BBC for providing us with what will become our one true Centralised Register of All Performances (CRAP)

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