Friday, 16 December 2011

Fear of singing

Is anything as terrifying as that singing by choirs of Bulgarian women in -- is it unison or close harmony? an image of an unthinking, totally conforming traditional culture, in which individuality can find no expression. It’s beautiful and heart-rending but also repulsive for what it suggests about what we might be reduced to.

Like those scenes from old British documentaries in which a thousand men pour out of a factory, all with flat caps, all heading the same way, all having to be back on the dot of 8 on Monday morning. Or where a shed full of women in oilskin aprons gut endless baskets of fish, with movements so rapid you can’t follow them, all subordinated to a mechanical rhythm.

Medieval plainchant, too. My terror of institutionalisation, total socialisation with nothing left over. Even stretches to community singing. Singing at football and rugby -- though the Welsh national anthem never fails to raise hairs on my neck. Mass rallies, all shouting, open mouths, faces uplifted...

Thank God for orchestras and conductors since Beethoven, lonely poets in garrets, plays with recognisable people, not Vice, Avarice, Charity...

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