I feel like I must apologize for my unusually long absence from the blog. Of course, the holidays (particularly the arrival of out-of-town family) have played a role, as has the worsening of a long-standing problem with my broadband service. And, of course, I’ve been watching TV.
Christmas week is one of the few times a casual TV viewer in the UK can hope to catch a relative wealth of performing arts programs on TV. I’ve caught a few between rounds of turkey, but by no means all.
Bearing in mind that I’m delighted any time a piece of classical music makes it on TV, I have to say, there has been a rather depressing trend on almost all of the new programs I’ve seen this year. Without going blow by blow through each program I’ve seen, there seems to be a complete loss of confidence among directors and producers of music programs.
Even the very slickly-produced Doctor Who concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales shown on Christmas day was deemed too hard to follow for the average viewer. Each piece of music from the sound track was introduced, then interrupted within just a very few seconds and talked over for the duration.
When I finally came across the classic documentary of Bernstein recording West Side Story, it was like being let out of jail. For once, we are spared the unendurable tedium of constant narration, and the wooden dullness of an instant recap of what we’ve just seen. Instead, we get to watch performances and performers. It’s way more interesting, much more entertaining and much less insulting.
Modern classical filmmakers who want to engage young audiences should remember- these are viewers who are used to the fast paced world of video games and action movies. We worry about their attention span, but stopping the action is no way to keep someone’s attention. Beating them to death with talk is not going to get them interested- especially if the talk is not interesting.
c. 2006 Kenneth Woods