Coales' Notes: Three-minute culture

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WEDNESDAY Poking around the office at lunchtime, I came across a print-out on Rory's desk. Once, I would have been surprised by this sort of thing. It read:

'The Magnificence Collection: A Revolutionary New Way To Experience Great Art.

'In today's hectic world, few of us can spare the necessary time to catch up on the superb glories of our art and culture in all their living splendour. And, even if we can, few of us are confident that we're 'cultured' enough to fully appreciate the world's great literature, music and painting in their total richness. But imagine a system which offers you the chance to experience, in full, many of the towering masterpieces of civilisation in no more time than it takes to run a bath.

'You Have Imagined Magnificence Casettes.

'How does it work? Using the latest in digital technology, some of the world's most uplifting artistic experiences have now been encoded digitally on to tape in the form of a highly concentrated subliminal signal which transmits messages directly to the brain's alpha waves - allowing you to enjoy the essence of countless great works of art while you are asleep.

'Simply switch on your Magnificence Casette as you're drifting off. What you'll be aware of is a relaxing tone, easing you into sleep. Your brain will instinctively 'tune in' to the inaudible digital signal, absorbing - in only 20 to 30 minutes - entire novels, whole galleries of paintings, complete symphonies . . .

'Next morning, you will awake elated, emotionally and spiritually enriched, and with the kind of expanded mental horizons that only great art can give. In a word, magnificent]

'The Magnificence Collection offers artistic appreciation in real depth.

'The Magnificence system does not work on a 'best bits' or 'idiot's guide' principle. We employ a team of expert 'appreciators', selected from among some of the world's most informed critics and connoisseurs. It is their alpha-wave impulses, monitored during a complete, first-hand, in-depth experience of each magnificent masterpiece, that we have encoded on to tape. Listening to Magnificence Casettes, you will be personally 'mainlining' artistic responses of unparalleled intensity and perceptiveness, exactly as if you were 'one of the experts'.

'The moment your head hits the pillow, you could find yourself wondering before the frescos of Michelangelo through the eyes of Sir John Pope-Hennessy . . . thrilling to Wagner's operas with the ears of Dr Michael Tanner . . . devouring the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, in the original Russian, via the mind of Professor George Steiner. Within weeks, you will be the most cultured person you have ever met.


'Try it yourself. For a foretaste of your forthcoming Magnificence adventure, simply send off for our special introductory tape offer. In only half an hour of gentle slumber, you will experience: Wagner's Ring (16 hours of stunning opera in just 9 minutes); Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (7 minutes); Leonardo's Last Supper, Mona Lisa and other well-known works (3 minutes); and finally, for fans of 'popular culture', a change of mood with a complete edition of The Men from the Ministry (11 minutes).

'Please note: after listening to a Magnificence Cassette you may find that you do not actually recall any specific details of the works of art you have enjoyed. All you remember is an overwhelming artistic 'hit'. The technical reason for this is that what your brain has absorbed is the total neuro- psychological impression of the works in question - the sense of having experienced them - something which, in the long run, will prove more lasting than any memories.'

I said to Rory later, no doubt this was a freelance project, but he had better not leave it lying around when we have the playwright in to do his research. It was just the kind of stuff he would latch on to.