November 11, 2020

What we lose when television ignores the arts

Given the choice between a cartoon of cats watching television and a video of musicians playing music, I opted to go with the latter this week. (You can let me know whether or not I chose wisely.) This video ties in with last week's clip of Glenn Gould discussing Mozart, in that it's from a time when arts programming was more common on television, although it comes from a BBC broadcast in 1954, and the Beeb still devotes some time and effort to this kind of programming today.*

*It should be noted, however, that the BBC can afford such programming because 1) it's a state-financed television network, and 2) people pay an annual television fee that subsidizes the BBC family of networks. I'll also mention that BBC news coverage is considered to have a decided liberal bias, which in turn has provoked a move against the fee. I'll have more on this kind of thing Saturday.

Anyway, back to the video! The conductor is the immortal Leopold Stokowski, and the piece in question is "When I am laid in earth," popularly known as "Dido's Lament," from the 1688 opera Dido and Aeneas by the English composer Henry Purcell (being performed with an orchestral arrangement by Stokowski himself). In Stokowski's prefacing remarks, he mentions how known and loved this piece is; it's annually played as part of the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in England, and since today is Remembrance/Veterans Day, it's an appropriate example for us to us. 

I don't know how familiar it is in this country other than for classical music aficionados; It's been used in movies and television shows over the years, including Band of Brothers. If it is true, as I believe it is, that music can soothe the savage breast, what better for our savage and discouraging age than something like this, which demonstrates the often-otherworldly quality that music possesses. This is the kind of thing that should be familiar to us, and of all the responsibilities that television has abrogated in the last few decades, that ability to provide this kind of programming is perhaps the most unfortunate.


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