After that, we really have to listen to the piece:The list of upcoming gigs on Anna Meredith’s website is boggling in its range: band shows alternate with concert performances of a recorder concerto, a symphony for body parts, music for jazz orchestra and a reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Varmints, her debut album, is where she turns her work as a contemporary composer up to 11: she’s said in an interview that her iPod is “90% Queen” and it certainly shows.This “international launch party” begins, like the album, with Nautilus: a pulverising instrumental track that swells through a series of rhythmic detonations designed, at a guess, to demolish buildings.
Ohkaaaayyy... It is hard to hear that as anything other than the perfect music to accompany the cartoonish video. It is like a children's animation from a Saturday morning tv schedule in hell--or Bizzaroworld. However, since I am way out of the intended demographic and besides a noted reactionary, let's look at a video review:
Ohkaaaaayyy... I managed to listen to about three minutes of that babbled out word-salad before I had to stop. By that point I was pretty sure he was not actually going to say anything either comprehensible or worth hearing. My guess about the background and training of many of the Guardian writers would seem to apply to this fellow even more. He is talking to consumers of music who have even less basic knowledge than he does, so I suppose that is ok. But I think what we are seeing here is the inexorable defining down of aesthetics to the point where albums like Anna Meredith's Varmints and reviews like this one are counted the new normal, i.e. this is an acceptable level of aesthetic achievement.
Anna Meredith (follow the link for the Wikipedia article) is a young Scottish composer with an impressive resume and what seems to impress everyone is how easily she moves around within genres and styles that are very contemporary and hip. But still she is a classical composer with credentials. Wikipedia tells us she has a master's degree from the Royal College of Music, but don't tell us who she studied composition with, which to me would be more interesting.
Her breakthrough composition seems to have been froms written for performance at the Proms in 2008. That doesn't seem to be available on YouTube. But we do have this piece, Handsfree, from the 2012 Proms:
It is only six minutes long so you should be able to listen to the whole thing. UPDATE: I was fooled like the audience into thinking the piece was over. But it goes on for the whole clip.
Creative and innovative, sure. Plus it is entirely free of those unforgivable sins of racism, mysogyny, orientalism, otherism, sexism and so forth. You might, at a stretch, be able to accuse it of cultural appropriation, but only if you consider kindergarten an actual culture. Apart from the fact that by the end, it is probably quite tricky to keep all the gestures and movements straight, this is a perfect example of the infantilization of the culture. I wonder that the orchestra even agreed to perform it. If I were a member of the orchestra I would be asking myself, "is this what I spent years learning my instrument to go onstage to perform?" Just good fun or humiliating absurdity? I guess that after a few decades of stringent propagandizing both young musicians and audiences are able to watch a display like this with little or no sense of incongruity or embarrassment.
Still, this is undoubtedly a triumph because there is no danger that a piece like this will make even the least educated audience member feel out of place or in danger of misunderstanding the music. This is about as egalitarian as you can get. Plus, bonus, no problem of clapping in the wrong place!
The only problem is, while music like this richly deserves to be parodied, it seems to be rather beyond parody.