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LETTER : Pop ain't what it used to be

From Mr Raymond Berger

Sir: The debate about the death of the Modern Review grows ever more spiteful. I declare no interest whatsoever in the demise of the magazine or what it stood for.

However, the defence of the popular arts needs little further ammunition. The case has been argued and won. Why otherwise do arts programmes on TV offer hagiographies of such alumni as Cliff Richard or George Michael? Why otherwise do the broadsheet newspapers devote pages of serious critical attention to pop music? So why not critical studies of Arnie, or Neighbours or Emmerdale for that matter? Deconstruction is the name of the game. I must declare myself to be a dissenting voice in this matter, as I well recall the birth of pop culture over here, and what it meant to us then. I was a student at the time and Pop Art especially seemed exciting because artists took what they enjoyed from the popular media and recycled it into something richer and more complex. Need I mention Hamilton, Lichtenstein, or Blake? Something similar was done earlier this century when Debussy, Milhaud, Weill and others recycled jazz and popular music into their work. This was the nullification of the high/low Art debate.

The difference now? The enthusiasm is for the thing itself, untrammelled. Pop music is pretty banal, geared as it is to the youth market. Adolescents are not noted for sensibility, patience or restraint and their music reflects that.

The only pity of it is that older and wiser heads seem to endorse the same shortcomings in their cultural tastes. Or are all newspaper articles the product of teenage writers? I only ask.

Yours sincerely,