Changing fashions, if one lives to be, what, past sixty or so, become very confusing particularly in music and visual art, I find. I understood and somewhat appreciated the idea that rather than simply copying nature – landscape, conventional portrait, and so on – there is something to be said for an artist creating a vision that is the artist’s own – the artist as god, I suppose. The problem is that very few totally abstract paintings convey anything to me except perhaps some notion of the artist’s personal relationship with colour and form, which becomes pretty boring pretty soon, rather in the way that poésie concrète becomes boring because the shape is usually inimical to the language and really adds nothing to it. In music, the move away from what might be called ‘tunefulness’ seems to me to be deeply depressing – it’s resulted more or less in the death of jazz, which has now become so abstract that the genre has become deeply unfashionable and neglected (certainly in the USA), and in classical music has proved so unprofitable that composers are resignedly turning back to some idea of form and melody. (Though of course the music of a composer who really has something to say – say, Stravinsky – does almost always reveal ‘a tune’ in the sense of a cluster of notes which impress themselves on the memory and follow one around for days like a faithful dog). As for popular music – don’t get me started. Has anyone in the last ten, fifteen years or so written a pop song which can actually be whistled in the street? Well, maybe they have, but if so it’s eluded me; certainly it seems that the really vastly popular pop songs rely now on performance and lyrics rather than anything which could actually be called a tune. I have no objection to watching Jay Lo’s gyrations, or to her remarkable wardrobe or lack of it – but I can’t be relied on to sing any of her numbers in the shower.
It’s now occurred to me that this is a deeply reactionary blog, in a tone which I recognise to be almost exactly the tone my parents adopted when talking about the Beatles.