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
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003