About Me

I'm a music student at the University of Bristol. I like to distract myself from my musical endeavours with film, food and friends, amongst other things. I'm very opinionated on religion and politics and I'm a big fan of Chelsea FC.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Cult of the Manufactured Celebrity

I recently realised that I do actually appreciate celebrity culture. Initially, it seemed as though this was a serious revelation for me, but after a little thought I established that is not the concept of admiring strangers to the point that you want to know what their favourite clothes/music/book/politician/animal is etc. that irks me, but the average quality of celebrity that exists today.

Celebrities are generally celebrities for a reason, in the past they may have been composers, singers, playwrights, or poets; now they are primarily actors, popular musicians, or comedians. There is nothing wrong with this change of type, but in the 21st century there has been an unnerving, and huge, boom in the manufacturing of celebrities through reality TV. Whilst some people on the X-Factor do occasionally have a shred of talent, what do people from Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex, or The Real Housewives of wherever actually contribute to the world?

It’s not unfair to say that the people from these shows are not special. Some of these people are quite clearly horrible, but the majority of them are just fairly normal people whose lives are broadcast on TV to over a million people. These people are manufactured celebrities, simply created by producers to make a fast buck, and because people watch the shows, and gossip magazines leap on it, suddenly the lives of normal, sometimes unpleasant, people become a multi-million-pound/dollar industry.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to make the point here that, ‘yes; these celebrities aren’t as talented as other celebrities, but their shows are entertaining and I should be allowed to watch them.’ This is true, we are all free to watch what we choose. However, this entertainment is simply the screening of slightly above average daily gossip, barely more interesting than your own, ramped up for the camera, and edited with music and club scenes. The world is more intelligent than that. If you want to want to watch the sordid lives of rich people then watch The Wolf of Wall Street, trust me, it’s way better (and more sordid) than Made In Chelsea. I should clarify that the root of the problem is not the ‘manufactured’ celebrity that we see on TV and in gossip magazines; they are the result of the dumbing-down of entertainment, and the condescension of entertainment networks to their audiences.

We have a vast population of valuable celebrities who have created great television, film, music, and more, and Alain de Botton has shown just how valuable they can be, but still we aren’t satisfied, we need more strangers to talk about, whose private lives are invaded for the sake of mild entertainment. This is why the market for the manufactured celebrity exists.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra @ Colston Hall

The Democratic Republic of Congo has had to deal with an enormous amount of adversity. There have been two civil wars since 1996 and the country is still stricken by conflict. From this difficult position, in one of the poorest cities in the world, rose the only Central African symphony orchestra, and the first all black symphony orchestra in the world.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

An Interview with Matt Olyver

Matt Olyver is a second year Music student at the University of Bristol, and one of the most active student composers in the department. Just two weeks ago Bristol's Bierkeller Theatre hosted three nights of his chamber opera, The Boar’s Head, along with Jake Bright’s The Madness Game. Over the three nights 150 people crammed into the small theatre to see the two new pieces. Unsurprisingly, this was Matt’s first foray into opera, which he described as ‘an important learning experience’ for him as a composer, that would help him to move onto a larger scale in the future.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Railway Man

Yesterday evening I went to the first showing in Berwick-upon-Tweed of 'The Railway Man', a film that is in cinemas across the UK from the 10th of January. It was screened sooner in Berwick because the man upon whom the film is based, Eric Lomax, lived in Berwick for many years until his death in 2012.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Music is NOT Too Hard to Teach

There has been a bit of a boom in the discussion of music in education in the last week or two. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, on announcing his retirement, also criticised the attitude in the education system towards 'classical' music, describing it as elitist. There has also been criticism of the music 'hub' system Michael Gove put into place last year. It's encouraging to see that people as well respected as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Nicola Benedetti speaking out against the current state of musical education, as they are the very people who will be the most influential in helping to fix the way we approach the study of music today.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Music & Language

Vocal music is a fantastic art form because it combines both music and poetry. According to advocates of 'absolute' music, music can transcend the expressive capacities of language; if this is the case then vocal music provides us with the opportunity to extend the expression of a text alone. Because of its fusion of music and language, for me, vocal music has more of a capacity to stir the emotions than instrumental music.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The 'Classical' Problem

‘Classical’ is an extremely misleading term in music. We use it to describe a whole variety of music that has developed over more than five hundred years; so perhaps 'classical music' is what we might call a supergenre. The term really describes the period around 1750-1825 covering composers including the famous triumvirate of Haydn, Mozart and (early) Beethoven. But even this is a simplification of the truth and so the term 'classical' really holds very little real meaning at all.

There’s no denying that the word ‘classical’ is used everywhere in the modern age, there is a ‘classical’ category in the culture section of the Guardian, as well as in the music section of the Telegraph, not to mention the BBC ‘Classical Music' magazine and Gramophone’s claim of being ‘The world’s authority on classical music’. So it's fairly clear that this alienating term is the popular choice when referring to this 500+ year period.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Problem with Music Journalism

It's no secret that the arts is making its way to the periphery of journalistic writing. It was only around two months ago The Independent announced the hefty cutting back of its arts section, and if you were to open any other newspaper you'd be hard pushed to find more than a couple of pages on any of the arts. Despite only having a few pages to discuss their respective mediums, arts journalists cover relevant and interesting topics and make the most of their limited page space. That is to say, all arts journalists but the 'classical' music journalists.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Rambling about a piece I wrote

I'm not a composer, I sometimes like to dabble but it's certainly not what I consider as my 'thing'. As a singer (and someone who doesn't play many instruments) I prefer to compose choral pieces. I like trying to evoke the mood of the text through the music, and I feel like sometimes the mood of a piece is not really well captured by a composer, I felt like this when I sang 'Go Lovely Rose' by Eric Whitacre. It's a beautiful piece of music, but I think in the middle stanzas the music is not quite reflective of the text, particularly on the lines 'That hadst thou sprung/ In deserts where no men abide,/ Thou must have uncommended died.' In 'A Boy and a Girl', however, I think Whitacre reflects the text brilliantly, particularly at the appearance of the word 'waves'.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Mainstream vs Alternative

I’m sure it’s not news to anybody that there seems to be a bit of a rift in music between the ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ fans. I think many people who come under one or other of these titles would probably refer to the other as total crap, probably without ever giving it a great deal of attention in the first place. I’d place both groups firmly in the wrong because they are both guilty of blatant intolerance and are probably not very well informed one their opposing genre anyway. The existence of social networks like Twitter and Facebook (and Blogspot) allows everyone to be a critic; their opinions are visible to everyone they’re connected with. I think this is probably a contributor to this divide that has formed between the two sects of music fans.

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