Saturday, 29 May 2010

Karaoke nation

Some months ago my car radio, intermittent for some time, stopped working altogether. I could get a static laden AM signal but no FM. I don't drive a lot and didn't especially miss it but a couple of weeks ago I discovered the aerial was missing. Replacing it was simple and now I can listen to clear a clear AM signal and a slightly crackly FM.

Music in the car is frustrating unless I know it well. I drive a Peugeot, not a Rolls Royce, and the lower frequencies are lost in engine noise and tyre rumble so I have to fill in the bass lines myself. For this reason I listen to talk radio in preference and if I'm driving to a 9 o'clock start this means the news. I oscillate between Radio Brain - serious items about the economy, a dying eco-system and politicians on the make - and Radio Bloke - sport and stories about celebrities I've barely heard of.

I have long felt that our obsession, in the UK at least, with 'celebrities' does nothing for our economic plight. Reality TV ( Big Brother being a prime example) and karaoke programmes, like the recent 'search' for a Dorothy to be the star of a West End staging of The Wizard of Oz, give hope to a whole generation of people whose sole game plan is to become famous and then rich off the back of that fame. Why bother working hard at school when, with a little make-up and the talent you know you have in spades, you can sing your way to success. And if you can't sing, well, just being witty and pretty ought to be enough. Let sociologists worry about the devaluation of celebrity status that comes with there being so many celebs.

Wednesday saw the end of a project in a seaside primary school that has gone on for some months. The sun shone and the outdoor play was, somewhat against the odds it must be admitted, a great success withessed by many smiling parents whose behaviour was a credit to their offspring. Afterwards there was to be a steel band from a local high school. Instead we were treated to a small group of girls taking it in turns to sing along to a backing track.

Now there is nothing wrong in that. They had lovely voices and it was very good of them to come and enhance the event. But this isn't an extra-curricular activity. They do this as part of a course of study.

I used to think it was just the high school where I teach woodwind that took performing arts just a little too seriously but it seems to be endemic. You can't really blame the TV companies. Programmes about plumbing and engineering that appeal to the young? The X-Factory? Charisma transplants for nerdy inventors? My glove is on the floor if anyone would like to pick it up.

But perhaps I'm just failing to adapt to changing times and a day will come when we are all celebrated, as Andy Warhol predicted. Still, I can't help wondering who will be left to build, manufacture, repair or even grow anything. Will anyone still know how?

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