Who’s dumbing down?Posted: 24 April 2008
Slightly late posting this, but it was substantially complete when I drafted it 2 weeks ago.
The front page of the BBC Proms site describes it as “the world’s greatest classical music festival”. (For anyone who hasn’t a clue about the Proms, the site has an About page with a history of the festival and photo gallery from last year. Other bloggers’ reactions to combining the Daleks with Debussy, the Sontarans with Saint-Saëns, aren’t very glowing. A lot of it has to do with the continued dumbing-down of the Proms to make it more accessible to the masses. (There is actually one cheeky comment that decries Doctor Who‘s dumbing-down by being part of the Proms.) I can’t say anymore about the dumbing-down allegations; before reading about this, I’ve never heard of the BBC Proms.
Wait a minute – that sounds familiar. Oh wait, we Canadians have our own dumb-down row with the changes to CBC Radio 2 and the disbanding of the CBC Radio Orchestra. After my post describing the final phase of the Radio 2 revamp, I’ve been absorbing a lot of reaction in other blogs and in the MSM. While I can understand the CBC’s viewpoint of broadening the network’s programming in order to make Radio 2 more relevant to more Canadians, I just don’t like how the approach to do so was taken. Or maybe my judgment’s being clouded because I’m still smarting that they took away Brave New Waves and Radio 3.
But back to Doctor Who at the Proms. Let me point out that Murray Gold’s compositions for the three completed series so far are very good. “The Cybermen” and “All the Strange Strange Creatures” in particular give that cinematic epic feel to the Doctor Who experience. Some pieces can also stand out quite well on their own, apart from the Doctor Who context. If anything, I think that Gold’s music (especially on the two CD soundtracks for Doctor Who) can be a gateway for listeners to discover other classical music.
I guess one’s dumbing-down is another’s opportunity to expand musical horizons. And it’s not just the supposed hoity-toity who only listen to classical. There is definitely that kind of sensibility among indie hipsters (and you know who you are) who shun anything mainstream. Case in point: Leslie Feist’s indie cred, already given a beating with last year’s iPod ads, is likely considered non-existent after her multiple Juno wins earlier this month. I guess the lesson here is: just cut through the bullshit and listen to whatever moves you.