TV Review

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The Independent Culture
"This is music that has lost its balance," said Simon Rattle, introducing a passage of Mahler, "and though the harmony is very clear, there is a feeling that everything is collapsing beneath our feet." This theme of imminent catastrophe returned again and again in Leaving Home, a seven-part journey through 20th-century music which began last night on Channel 4. Rattle described the enterprise, in the on-air trails, as "a treasure trove, a delicatessen", but you have to wonder how long a delicatessen would last which offered only loss, fear, destruction, anguish and terror (all words employed by Rattle to describe the effect of this radical music). Rattle's task is by no means as easy as that seductive metaphor suggested.

That may not matter. The nights are drawing in, evening classes are starting again - so the audience may well be in the mood for some dutiful self- improvement. This is the year, you think, that I'm going to learn to love modern music. I really mean it. And in this respect Rattle's intellectual probity is both a help and a hindrance; his script is unusually literate, even for an arts documentary, offering hard-centred confections for your mind to chew over as the performances unwind. "It could not have been written by a person who was a profound philosopher," he noted of Strauss's Electra, "...it's a reactive piece, not a thoughtful piece." The remark stayed with you as the music played, governing your thoughts and, perhaps, distracting you a little from the discomfort you were experiencing.

That isn't intended as a philistine remark, incidentally, but one of the difficulties with modern music is that both the hostile and the supportive find themselves using similar terms. "It's just excruciating," says one; "Absolutely. Terrifying," replies the other - the disagreement is not about the effect the music has on us, but on the value of that effect, and its resolute withdrawal of melodic consolation. Rattle won't fudge that, nor the arbitrariness of the straws that atonal composers clutch at (if I've got it right, Schoenberg decided that it would be a good rule, in the absence of any others, to be obliged to use all 12 notes in the same sequence before going back to the beginning and doing it again. You felt that he might just as easily have built a system based on Viennese tram routes). Rattle's honest refusal to sugar the pill gives to his delivery a slightly fretful, troubled air. As his eyes flicker to and fro searching for a phrase (and, occasionally, the autocue) it's easy to feel that this music is admirable, much harder to feel that it's lovable.

Fine Cut's film (Sat BBC2 ) about recovered memory closed the vice on bogus therapy by such subtle degrees that you couldn't, at any given point, detect the encroaching movement. But by the end, Ofra Bikel's quietly angry documentary had its subject in an unshakeable grip - an industry which feeds on personal unhappiness, which shatters families and which devalues the suffering of real abuse victims by turning their experience into an off-the-peg explanation for every intangible misery and discontent.

"I've never had a person come into my office that I don't believe," said one therapist. It didn't seem a good idea for the doctor to exceed the patient in credulity but then the patients would be hard-pressed to catch up in some cases. One therapist described a patient who had "recalled" being stuck in her mother's fallopian tube. Another put her chronic stomach pain down to having her belly slashed in the first century A.D. This is merely grotesque - neither the fallopian tube nor the notional slasher are likely to be affected by the claim. But in many cases, living people find themselves accused of crimes they couldn't have committed, their lives mutilated in the service of a fantasy. Though it presents itself as healing science, recovered memory therapy is actually a corrupted religion - offering troubled souls an exorcism in which the demons turn out to have familiar faces.

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