SURELY a significant factor in the growth in cathedral
congregations in recent years has been an increasing appreciation
of the glory of the music, helped along by the contrariwise
realisation that musical standards in most parish churches have
become so God-awful. Clergy like to think that it is a thirst for a
profound liturgical encounter with the Lord, but it is just as
likely to be the enjoyment of a choir and organ.
The power of music to enhance has been illuminated by Sound
of Cinema: The music that made the movies (BBC4, Thursday of
last week). Neil Brand began with how pre-recorded sound took over
from live cinema bands in 1926. Nazi anti-Semitism played a vital
part: in the '30s, many European composers sought work in Hollywood
to escape persecution.
Many '30s film scores benefit from the great German/Viennese
tradition - leitmotiv, counterpoint, orchestration, all of the
highest craftsmanship. For most people, in the days of mass
cinema-going, far more heard film soundtracks than would ever enter
a concert hall.
The subliminal message, we learned, was surprisingly layered,
our emotions led in carefully managed directions. Good film music
draws us in, engages us with a character; it can build up tension
even when nothing special is happening on screen.
This was enthusiastic, committed TV, willing to take its
audience seriously, knowing we would not be scared off by musical
technicalities or demonstrations of how themes and scenes are built
up from tiny nuggets that we learn to associate with this or that
My only criticism is that it had little reference to Continental
films; I particularly like those that dare for long stretches to
have no background music whatsoever.
I can check my own critical opinion nowadays by reference to
Gogglebox (Channel 4, Wednesdays), in which households
throughout the country allow a TV camera into their living rooms to
record them watching television. It was profoundly depressing.
No doubt the families have been chosen for their fluency in
voicing an uninhibited response to the shows. You could conclude
that the programmes are at least provoking debate, and that there
is more moral disgust at the manipulations of, say, The X
Factor than its production team might appreciate; but the
viewers keep watching, despite their disapproval.
Cultural prejudices are sadly confirmed: a distressing amount of
fattening food was consumed by viewers whose size was matched only
by the elephantine proportions of their sofas - except in the case
of one couple who tuck themselves up in bed to ensure even greater
The one couple who, living in a very grand house, did not
complement their viewing with junk food rather spoiled the effect
by sitting in front of a drinks cabinet so well-stocked as to make
their complementary alcohol of choice a matter for prolonged
The overall impression, I am sorry to report, is less of
discriminating viewing than undemanding indulgence. But then,
perhaps, all the rest of the population is out at choir