Saturday, 6 December 2008

i was asked last night why I've been giving poor innocent Andre Rieu a beating "when he is doing the good of bringing classical music to folk who wouldn't other wise experience it." I sought and found and read Roger Scruton's excellent 1999 essay, Kitsch and the Modern Predicament, from which these are a few choice morsels. Do read the whole thing.
It is in America that kitsch reached its apogee, not as a form of life but as a way of death. In Forest Lawn Memorial Park, death becomes a rite of passage into Disneyland. The American funerary culture, so cruelly satirized by Evelyn Waugh in The Loved One, attempts to prove that this event, too—the end of man's life and his entry into judgment—is in the last analysis unreal. This thing that cannot be faked becomes a fake. The world of kitsch is a world of make-believe, of permanent childhood, in which every day is Christmas. In such a world, death does not really happen. The "loved one" is therefore reprocessed, endowed with a sham immortality; he only pretends to die, and we only pretend to mourn him.

...This experience provided another kind of insight into kitsch. Ketelbey's music is trying to do what music cannot do and should not attempt to do —it is telling me what it means, while meaning nothing. Here is heavenly peace, it says; just fit your mood to these easy contours, and peace will be yours. But the disparity between the emotion claimed by the music and the technique used to suggest it shows the self-advertisement to be a lie. Religious peace is a rare gift, which comes about only through spiritual discipline. The easy harmonic progressions and platitudinous tune take us there too easily, so that we know we have not arrived. The music is faking an emotion, by means that could never express it.

Kitsch art is pretending to express something, and you, in accepting it, are pretending to feel.

…work of the imagination is not possible for everyone; and in an age of mass communication, people learn to dispense with it. And that is how kitsch arises—when people who are avoiding the cost of the higher life are nevertheless pressured by the surrounding culture into pretending that they possess it. Kitsch is an attempt to have the life of the spirit on the cheap.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last night I was visiting my Gran, who, bless her heart, insisted on playing for me her new Rieu CD. Now my gran doesn't know the level of contempt I have for Rieu, but I was patient as she called me over to give me my Christmas present. The first track was a polka by Strauss Jr. "Ah, Strauss", I commented. She gave me an odd look and replied, "No, I told you, its Andre Rieu!" She then gave me my present, which is presently sitting unopened under my Christmas tree. It looks like a CD. I'm not game enough to open it.


6 December 2008 at 01:28:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that marvelous Scruton essay with we, your site readers!

You should probably reevaluate your relationship with anyone questioning why Rieu deserved the Wrath of God treatment suggested by Best. You can give them a chance to redeem themselves first by giving them a Yo Yo Ma cd, maybe. But if, after that, they *still* don't get it? Cut them out of your Universe. Life's too short and you're a busy man.


Pam in Los Angeles

6 December 2008 at 02:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks , Pam.

and anonymous, let's hope this blog isn't on your granny's RSS feed.

'best' to you too.

7 December 2008 at 16:22:00 GMT-5  

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