Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 01 Jun 2006

Rock Me Amadeus

Seb Hunter, Rock Me Amadeus: 
or how I learned to stop worrying and love Handel,
Penguin, Michael Joseph, large format paperback

With a collection of review comments like 'Hilarious', 'Wickedly funny', and 'Hilarious' twice more times, you are pre-primed to think it will be funny. Whether or not you do will depend a little about how you feel about dumbing-down and the idea that popular culture is actually a good and useful thing. Oh yes, and your attitude to the word 'fuck'.

So, if you disparage the culture of yobs, casseurs, and English soccer players then you will already know that this is not for you at all. Not that the author is any of these things (or at least admittedly) and there are signs of a significant amount of reading on the way through. The conciet of the thing is that the writer is a full-on rock 'n' roller converting himself to classical music.

There are quite a few historical snippets that can be enjoyed on the way through. The trouble is, if you don't already have a very good grounding in the history of music you're liable to be led for several circular walks in the bushes.

One case in point is that in sacred music, the protestants stood for rich complexity while the catholics were for monophonic drones? In fact there are historical tides which regularly sweep puritanically over complexity in sacred music no matter what the denomination. Another is value-judgement -- it's fine for him to dislike Lully, for example, but to state his dislike in pub-bore absolutes is just plain silly. Or the idea that the Proms are some sort of apex of classical music. Please! They might be pleasant enough but they are a fairly good example of dumbing-down as well.

Simplicity might be the pub bore's friend but, of course, history is rarely simple and getting a really good idea of anything that has happened in the past is actually quite hard to do and requires real work, and its dessemination requires more than sound bites.

What if I lighten up a little? There are funny bits, for sure.

(Baron K)

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