arts notebook

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Can the popular song embrace more of life's experiences than falling in and out of love and the purchase of blue suede shoes and other accessories? When I discussed this once with Roger Daltrey of The Who he said he had hoped for a long time that rock and pop would deal with middle-aged angst just as it dealt with teenage angst. Indeed, he had thought that his old sparring partner Pete Townshend might be the very man to compose such lyrics, but it hadn't happened. Another part of life seldom put to music is the joy or otherwise of bringing up children.

An exception is the British jazz singer Gina Harkell. As well as being a singer and composer, she is one of the leading lights in a new committee to lobby for, amongst other things, more jazz on mainstream music radio - any jazz on mainstream music radio would be a good start. Gina is a strange animal in jazz circles as she sings not about the usual jazz themes of dives, drugs, dead horn players, lost love or, if the tempo is upbeat, found love. Instead, many of her numbers are about motherhood, rare enough in pop and middle-of-the-road, and a radical departure for piano, tenor sax and bass.

One of the numbers she sang at a New Year gig I attended was called "Granny O Granny Please Comb My Hair". With words by the poet Grace Nichols it dealt with a little girl's delight in having her grandmother tend to her coiffure. It's a brave move to domesticate the jazz idiom, and it leads to the larger question of why children feature so little in music generally. They are welcomed as babies (David Bowie's "Kooks" for his son, Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" for his daughter etc) but once past the nappy stage, are never sung of again. Why?

I appeared this week on a radio programme (I know, one can't appear on radio, but what is the correct word?) about the arts and the national lottery. BBC Radio 4's Agenda programme had Richard Eyre of the National Theatre and Stephen Daldry of the Royal Court continuing to warn of the potential iniquity of lottery money being used to fund a revenue spending in the arts rather than just for buildings as was the original intention. And I felt rather like the chap in the Bateman cartoon in advocating that this should happen in some regulated way. In fact, of course, it is happening already. The new Arts Council initiative, Arts For Everyone will give lottery money for the commissioning of new writing for the theatre and there is every likelihood that some of this new writing will end up on the stage of the Royal Court and quite possibly the National.

It should not be beyond the wit of government, the Arts Council and leading arts practitioners to earmark other areas where lottery money can be used in what have traditionally been revenue funded parts of the arts. As for breaking the apparently sacred principle of additionality (by which lottery money should not be a substitute for annual Treasury grant), it should also not be beyond the wit of those responsible to draw up legislation saying that lottery money should never fund more than a certain percentage of arts spending.

David Bowie's 50th birthday was marked by the BBC by an interview with the singer. It was plugged us being particularly "candid." In fact it contained virtually nothing new, and much of it was taken up with clips of interviews gone by. There was one moment though when Bowie was about to be candid. He mentioned, unprompted and most unusually for him in a live interview, the troubles in his own family. He has never spoken on TV before about his late brother's schizophrenia, but the interviewer, the illustrious and exalted Alan Yentob no less, did not pursue it at all. There are times when one wants to strangle the television.

Comments