This article makes me so angry. Mainly this bit:
And yet [a speaker at a conference about the arts] would suggest that Andrew Lloyd Webber's show [The Wizard of Oz] belongs to the world of entertainment and not the arts. No matter that there's an orchestra working away in the pit, or that it's a story laden with contemporary symbolism - greedy bankers, freak weather incidents, the dehumanising effects of industrialisation - or that it is likely to reach a broad audience. It is below the salt.
Now, if two music degrees have taught me anything, it is that I don't know how we classify the arts or if we do it right. Not that I am short of opinions on the subject, though. Perhaps a certain amount of doubt is constructive. As far as my opinion goes generally, I would say this: at Cambridge the thing that annoyed me most about the music faculty was the lack of attention given to non-classical music, and I suppose my slight wariness of the general Toriness of the whole place probably exacerbated my suspicion that there was a certain closeted elitism lurking behind (for example) the music tripos’s bizarre emphasis on counterpoint. Me, I like plenty of music which is ‘classical’, and plenty which is not, and—though I do not think that we should treat both of these ‘categories’ of music in the same way—my opinion of the worth, relevance or quality of music is not affected in the least by its categorisation as either ‘classical’ or ‘not classical’. I try and apply a similar sort of approach to other art forms too.
So I don’t think that blanket dismissal of all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work is, in principal, the way to go. As it happens, I think that all his music is terrible, but this is only because it is, and not because he is populist. In other words, I have reached this conclusion about ALW’s (crap) music not because of how I would classify this music, but because of what I actually think of the music. But what Will Gompertz apparently wants us to do is notice the following things about The Wizard of Oz, and then classify—and hence evaluate—the work accordingly:
1. There is an orchestra. This makes it high-brow. Therefore it is ART, and maybe it’s entertainment too, but more importantly it’s ART, because ORCHESTRAS ARE WELL POSH, AND SO IS ART.
2. It is LADEN WITH CONTEMPORARY SYMBOLISM. This makes it clever. Therefore it is ART, because ART is CLEVER, and stuff that is just entertainment PROBABLY ISN’T.
And we should also take heed of the following:
3. It is LIKELY TO REACH A BROAD AUDIENCE. IT IS ALWAYS GOOD WHEN ART DOES THIS. MAYBE IF HIGH-BROW ART HAD PANDERED TO ITS AUDIENCE A BIT MORE IT WOULDN’T HAVE FOUND ITSELF IN SUCH A STICKY MESS.
I don’t particularly want to elaborate on why I think these arguments are completely wrong-headed, because there is not, in my view, any more effective rejoinder than gesticulating wildly at your computer screen and mouthing swear-words. I will only add that, as far as I can see, Mr Gompertz manages to denigrate both ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’, while also misunderstanding the difference between the two (even in his own terms) and simultaneously driving them further apart from each other, which is the opposite of his apparent aim. It’s good to vent.