“Music is one of the achievements that truly elevates man above the beasts, one of the ways in which he gives expression to something within that is greater than himself, older than himself, more universal, more enduring. Music makes manifest the aspiration of the human soul ...
“... what offends me is that these eager little slut-monkeys are not interested enough in the music to particularly have a taste. They'll sing anything they're told to, they don't care what. They're not interested in music. They're only interested in locating the path of least resistance between themselves and the cover of “Heat” magazine” - from “A Snowball in Hell” by Christopher Brookmyre
Well, the latest BBC kitsch-fest,“Over the rainbow”, limped to its ghastly conclusion last night, and the great British public predictably voted out the one cool, self-possessed, beautiful young woman who gave flawless performances throughout. They preferred to support the two needy little schoolgirls, the girls-next-door who “wanted it so much” and who will disappear without trace in a year or two, while Lauren Samuels cheerfully took her leave secure in the knowledge that her name will be up in lights before long.
Apart from the weird and rather unnatural presence of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, the world's least attractive charisma vacuum (what's the point of calling him “The Lord” and trying to build up a personality cult around him? He HAS no personality), the young and rather engaging contestants were watchable enough. I mean, who doesn't enjoy watching nubile young things prancing about on stage and singing sweetly?
“Sweetly” might be overstating it a bit. All the vocal clichés were there – the long tortured vowel sounds (“What happens NAAOOW ...”), the long notes that start flat and gradually haul themselves up to pitch, swelling and gaining vibrato as they go, the inability to understand the shape of the melody they are performing, the over-active facial expressions. There are thousands of nice young girls who could have done as well, and they'd all have sounded the same.
Most irritating were the audiences. The mindless clapping on the beat and the obligatory swell of applause as each song reached its climax (how would it be if we all stood up and cheered at the beginning of the Dies Irae in Verdi Requiem?) showed that they were not actually listening to the music at all. They can't go home thinking they've enjoyed themselves unless they've made more noise than the contestants, preferably at the same time.
This syndrome is not confined to popular music competitons. There are plenty of people who can cheerfully watch the classical Young Musician of the Year, talking non-stop about the contestants and how much they like or dislike them. They cannot be listening, and nor can anyone else in the room.
So ... we've invented music you can apparently appreciate without actually having to listen to it. What'll it be next?
Plays you don't actually need to watch? Oh no, they already exist, because they're on TV so you can talk all the way through them. Books you don't need to read? Ditto. After all, when you get to the end and you haven't understood the plot at all, you can always ask your husband. Games you don't actually have to play? Plenty of that. It's called football, usually hosted by Gary Lineker.
A life you don't actually have to live?
Our emotions are subject to the same syndrome, too. We don't recognise ordinary emotions any more, we can't process what we are feeling or what we think we ought to feel.
Take ambition: “This is the most important thing in my life. I want it more than anything ....” What does that mean? Is it more important than, say, having your legs cut off with a chainsaw? If you thought it would help you win, would you agree to donate all your internal organs to infirm Labour politicians? Chew off your own nipples? Shag Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber? No, scrub that, it's probably happened already.
When in a former life the GOS was a teacher he saw this kind of distorted idea of emotional life every day. “Sir, sir, Tracey can't come to your lesson 'cos someone said something about her and she's too upset!” The usual teacherly response was “Well, tell her she can come and be upset in my lesson. I'll upset her by asking for her homework, so that'll take her mind of it”.
Or in adult life, “Sorry, officer, sorry that I puked all over your shoes and knocked your helmet off, but my dog just died and I was feeling very upset”. This works better if you're either (a) very fat and drunk, or (b) rather pretty and drunk. Just being drunk is a bit risky.
We just don't know how to handle emotions. In some cases one suspects we don't even know how to FEEL emotions, we just have an idea of the emotions we ought to be feeling. “I used to really love him, but he said something about me to my friend and I hate him now” - yes, this is little girl speak, but that's a language a hell of a lot of people are fluent in nowadays.
And even our ideas of the emotions we ought to feel are based on what we see on television, so the routine response to any setback is violence, hatred, shouting or victimhood.
Here's another thing you don't have to do any more – work. Far too much work these days is quite pointless and unnecessary. I was eating a burger at Corley Services on the M6 the other day (what? Oh, westbound. And it was a cheeseburger) and listened to the mobile phone conversation of the cheap young suit at the next table. He took more than half an hour to “synchronise diaries” with someone. Then another cheap young suit turned up. They greeted each other like long lost brothers and spent another fifteen minutes discussing whether to hold their “meeting” there, or go on to Starbucks somewhere else. I expect they were just looking for a quiet spot where they could synchronise their diaries too. All this without doing a hand's turn of real work. Work used to mean actually doing something – sawing a plank, teaching a child to do long division, curing someone's sore throat, mending a car, painting a picture, clearing a drain, making a little difference to the world. Now it just means synchronising diaries and networking. Just imagine what these drones and their company BMWs are costing the economy. Still, so long as their diaries are synchronised.
After all people work online now, you can shop online, bank online, chat online, listen to music online, watch films online, travel the world online, buy spectacles or medicine online, date online, have cybersex online, drive cars or fly planes online, fight people or monsters online, indulge in extreme perversions online, write to your MP online, pay your tax online, soon you'll be able to vote online ... why bother to go out? Ever?
There was a sci-fi story some years ago that postulated a world where no one leaves their beds but are permanently plugged into the internet, being fed by machines through tubes. Imagine the conversations ...
“Hi, Presley! Pick up, darling, there's a good girl, it's me, Beyoncé-Jean. Come on, sweetness, I know you're there. Hallo, Presley? Presley, seriously, I really need to talk to you because I'm a bit upset. Presley? Answer the phone, you slag, or I'll ... oh, you're there. Hi darling.
“How are you? You've got your webcam switched off, so I can't see you. All I get is this little gif of the Holy Michael Jackson twirling round. I love him. It's his hair, I think. D'you suppose I could vote for him in this election thingy they're doing? You know, for President of the World or something? Oh, no, silly me! Holy Michael's dead isn't he? I don't think you can vote for dead people. I'm going to vote for that one with the funny name ... you know, what is it? ... Chthulhu Hitler ... I love him. The way his hair flops over his eyes! He's the one who wants to cull all the first-born, isn't he? I think it's really cool the way he foams at the mouth when he shouts. Yes, I think I'll vote for him. I used to like that black guy, O'Barmy or something like that. But he changed his hair and started wearing a sports coat, so I hate him now. I hope someone kills him. And his family, 'cos they're all slags.
“Speaking of slags, do you know what happened? You know that girl Brit'nee that lives two beds down? The one I used to be best friends with only we broke up because I heard she'd said something about me so we had this massive fight? She's only started cyber-driving a green Fiesta, hasn't she? I went an' said to her, “'Ere, you slag, how dare you disrespect my family? You know very well my little brother was run over by a green Fiesta, and now you're flaunting this in our faces, you slag!” and I hit her. Three times, actually, they said I'd broken her nose. Or would have if her avatar hadn't switched itself off, the cowardly slag. The police logged in, but I said it was self-defence. Well, it was, wasn't it, because I was upset. So they said if I was upset that was all right and they aren't going to charge me. But they said she might decide to sue me, but I told them she couldn't because my brother's dog has just died so we're all upset about that. What? Yes, the same brother. The green Fiesta only ran over his foot.
“Have you seen the new Matrix film? I think it's number 73? We watched it last night. It was wonderful. No, you silly slag, of course I don't know what it was about. I was having this conversation with my cousin, the one I used to hate but I love her now because she's got this, like, really serious problem with her toenails because they're growing sort of the wrong way, so I've told her I'll always be there for her. So no, I don't remember much about the film, but it was very good.
“No, Presley, I don't like my cousin better than you. I'll always be there for you too. We'll be there for each other. Oh look, it's just saying the deadline for the election has passed, and I missed it. Oh well, I didn't like him that much anyway. Did you vote? What? I don't believe this! You voted for that ginger one? How could you? Don't you know I was once dumped by a ginger bloke? I hate you, Presley, you slag. Take that, an' that .....”
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