Music on TV

If music is the least accessible art to many people, because of its technical mysteries, the organ must seem the remotest, most mechanical of instruments, though unofficially crowned their king. Many music-lovers and musicians are unable to come to terms with the organ, and deny it has any real musical quality worth speaking of. A music critic recently told me that the organ repertoire wasn't "real music". The image of the organ buff is a man in a dirty mac, probably single, and distantly related to trainspotters.

Howard Goodall's Organ Works (Channel 4, Sunday evenings, 7.30pm) has been trying to put a bit of sex appeal into the organ, Goodall flitting all over the world in a frock coat with a velvet collar, cute blond curls and still cuter dimpled smiles - always sideways or over his shoulder. Goodall himself is a clever chap; he knows a lot but puts it over simply without making you feel silly; he drives a car and cracks jokes; and he actually plays the organ rather well, though you don't hear more than rather flashy snippets, including the inevitable Widor Toccata.

Perhaps the most interesting programme in the four-part series was the second, screened on 9 February, because we saw and heard an unspoilt early 18th-century gem in a tiny village near Leipzig, the fabulous Baroque organ in the church of St Baavo in Haarlem, and one of Cavaille-Coll's alluring romantic instruments, in the Paris church of St Sulpice.

Last Sunday's programme traced later organs and ventured beyond churches, to try out the Duke of Marlborough's "Father" Willis instrument at Blenheim Palace; then up to the model industrial village of Saltaire in Yorkshire to see a museum of harmoniums; westwards to Blackpool Tower Ballroom to sample the Wurlitzer as well as to give Goodall a spot of waltzing practice; and, most alarmingly, sending him climbing around the 20,000 pipes of the vast organ in the chapel of Westpoint Military Academy in the United States. The organ there is still growing as families donate pipes in memory of their dead. Apparently, the largest organ of all, with 29,000 pipes, keeps the shoppers happy in a Philadelphia department store.

This coming Sunday's programme will reflect on the future of the pipe organ in the light of the challenge from electronic organs and, needless to say, Goodall is optimistic. He's certainly entertaining, and the director Rupert Edwards seems to have a good eye for atmosphere in some beautiful, and if not beautiful, some intriguing locations. But the opportunistic jokes - not least the series title - and the focus of attention are all on the organ merely as a machine, a phenomenon that attracts, it seems, eccentric millionaires and elderly people. Only the most cursory and superficial mention is made of how the organ serves the music played on it.

How music serves political objectives was the subject of a German documentary, Songs of Seduction, shown as the first of a six-part series, Windows on the World, on BBC 2 on Saturday night. Karl-Heinz Kafer's film showed horrendous scenes of rabble-rousing by the right-wing rock group Skrewdriver, whose fans gyrated clumsily in a kind of brawl to neo-Nazi slogans set to primitive punk rock. Explicitly violent and racist, their songs made those of the Hitler Youth, photographed "artistically" in old propaganda films, seem elevated and even "sacred" by comparison. But the point was made that, whereas the latter were aimed at seducing the entire population, the New Right were aiming strategically at an avant-garde, or disaffected, minority. For the present. A psychoanalyst, originally from the GDR, said that there was little difference between the Nazis' songs and those of the Communists. More contentiously, perhaps, he boldly asserted that motoric music could easily lead to motoric action, including violence. But even more sinister were, on a purely musical level, the apparently harmless, tuneful guitar-accompanied songs of the right-wing cult figure Frank Rennicke, who regaled after-dinner gatherings of comfortable-looking middle-aged people with paeans to the German race. They got the message in no uncertain way, and outfaced the camera with grim and unregenerate expressions on their faces. You felt they could, in the long term, do far more effective evil than the tattooed hooligans in the cellars. At least, some day, one might manipulate the other. Although music, even stamping marches, may be morally neutral, the frightening truth is that, in conjunction with words, it can make us swallow ideas we would normally question and reject. How much nonsense have many of us sung in church or school assemblies? Hence today's edited versions of "All things bright and beautiful", leaving out the verse:

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

God made them, high and lowly,

And order'd their estate.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms