Music I’m in something of a routine with The Proms; having decided to listen to all of them, I’ve started the almost pathological process of forever checking broadcast times and whether they’ll be appearing on BBC Four or Radio 3 or at all and made sure that I’m working everything else around them and when I can’t that I’m able to record for listening later.
I don’t think I’ve committed to something ‘cultural’ with this much vehemency since Big Brother 4, or the last time I really paid attention to that (although it’s a shame that Chanelle’s walked -- she was the most interesting character in there this time and the one I wanted to win for reasons you might never get to hear now). Well alright, there’s the Hamlet marathon and this, but both of those are spread out and in neither case am I developing an awareness for a branch of the arts I was only dimly aware of before.
It’s never a bind. It’s helpful and useful to have something solid to look forward to at the end of the day or to do at the weekend, a fixed point when I know I can relax and let everything fall away. I’ve even taken a break from the stream of rental dvds from Lovefilm for the first time in a couple of years which is a good thing because what with the BBC’s British cinema season I’ve lots of other things to watch anyway.
Sometimes I’m disappointed as in the case of Peter Wiergold’s He is armoured without, which closed out Prom 21 and Brass Day and simply didn’t work on the radio, coming across as a messy cacophony of random musical noise but obvious worked much better in the hall where you could actually see the whole ‘performance’ and perceive the sound better as it emanated from the whole space (the piece was written to be played from the posh boxes as well as the stage).
But they’re more than made up for by the sense shattering majesty of items like Bizet’s L’Arlesienne (Prom 22), the Polyphony set at Cadogan Hall and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto which received its European Premiere in tonight’s Prom 30 and was a total surprise since it demonstrated to these amateur ears that not all contemporary music is minimalist, that it can still very specifically draw influences from the past whilst still motoring forward.
I’ve noticed the influence some of this music has had on film composers but here the traffic was in the other direction, with Salonen (who was also conducting) obviously enamoured (as the BBC Four expert suggested) by John Williams and Danny Elfman, and I’d say Bernard Hermann. It was more like a rock track in that sense, drawing on other composers in all kinds of fields and reflecting them in your own work.
With Prom 23 I’m now around a third of my way through. I still haven’t caught up on Prom 3, but I’ve reheard the Blue Peter Jamboree (on Saturday night would you believe -- I listened to nine hours of Proms that day) so I’ve about fifty to go. I’m trying not to look ahead, allowing each new concert to provide a few new surprises but I do hope there’s some Mozart and Chopin in my future. The former appeared in a chamber concert but it’s almost as though he’s not being included for being too obvious which seems a strange choice given all the Beethoven which is rattling about the place. We’ll see.