a new renaissance?

Sunday past I went to a performance of Philip Glass’ 1000 Airplanes on the Roof in a hangar, at East Fortune in Scotland, that has been built around a decommissioned Concorde. It was a promenade concert – allowing us to walk around as the piece – a “melodrama in one act” – was acted out, and the music played. I found the conductor Jessica Cottis to be more worth watching than the actor. She conducted Red Note Ensemble – a small chamber orchestra consisting of synthesisers, some wind instruments and a soprano – with amazing control, delicacy and precision: the whole a tad surreal as the musicians played beneath the belly of the giant ‘paper dart’ of the Concorde.

This was as mesmerising a performance as I have seen anywhere – not unworthy of New York, never mind rural Scotland! It was part of the Lammermuir Festival (my little house nestles in the foothills of the Lammermuirs) that is only (as far as I understand) in its second year and, from the size and enthusiasm of the audience, I can hardly believe it will be it’s last. That such an ambitious undertaking should even be attempted in the countryside near Edinburgh, and so soon after that city’s own massive festival, left me pondering…

Ever more people live on this planet of which an ever increasing proportion are becoming ‘educated’. Consequently, audiences for all kinds of art are swelling, as are the cohorts of artists and performers producing that art. That these ‘creators’ must surely form a normal distribution implies that there must be unprecedented numbers that are extremely skilled – including the Red Note Ensemble and their excellent conductor.

These things taken together may perhaps suggest an explanation as to why rural East Lothian might be capable of supporting an arts festival of its own. Could we be living in a new renaissance? Certainly there is more of every kind of art out there than there has ever been, and more people able to appreciate it. But perhaps more is less. Is so much art now being created that it is in danger of becoming a consumer product like any other…?

6 thoughts on “a new renaissance?

  1. I think it’s because there’s NOTHING ELSE to do in drab Scotland than sit inside the hoose and practice, practice, practice at whatever craft tickles one’s fancy. It’s like in the olden days, when everyone did an art of sorts. I think it’s being active, instead of being passive that makes the difference.

    Now, whenever the BBC decides they’re going to expand their television signal to the Scottish highlands, or when telephone cables will be laid north of the Hadrian Wall and the people there will have Internet… Then you’ll see that the Scottish art scene will completely collapse!

  2. *grin* that’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard, and you know it! We’re not hobbits up here you know?

    To treat your comments with some seriousness: the point I was trying to make – admittedly it was all a git of a struggle (for all kinds of reasons), but I had promised to write something about the concert – was about the sheer quality of musicians around today. For one of his choral pieces (it may have been the St John Passion), Bach wrote music for a clarinet or a trumpet (I’m making up the instruments because I can’t remember what they were), but not for both at the same time – because they were being played by the same person! And this person may not even have played very well. Good musicians were rare. Whereas today, even the lowliest player in a provincial orchestra will probably be – at least technically – excellent. And this goes for everything – writers, filmmakers, all the skills employed in film making – there’s just a flood of highly competent people in all the creative industries… What I wonder is if this actually means we’re producing better (or even as good) art…

  3. To be honest – I think there’s always been a lot going on, everywhere. I think, however that the nature of the arts (less craft, more art) may have changed, modern travel methods have allowed people to get together more, and (in cities) there’s more media outlets to make people aware that stuff is happening.
    In Belfast, yesterday, we had Belfast Culture Night, with 170(!) participating venues.
    Another thing is of course that we may be more critical of what’s on – as in your “and that person may not have played very well”. It was all live; it wasn’t studio polished. Give me any musician who can play live, with atmosphere and charm, and I’ll forgive a lot of rough edges! Actually, brings to mind: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/aug/13/nigel-kennedy-violinists-bach

    1. I wasn’t suggesting that there is more going on, rather that the number of musicians trained to a high level of proficiency has never been higher. I don’t know this for a fact, but am generalising from the growing size of the creative community at large. My core point is that there has never been a time when there are so many people capable of (both technically and having the opportunity) of being creative. Whether this actually leads to more and good art, Kennedy in your quote states ‘no’, while in this post I merely ask the question…

    2. I wasn’t suggesting that there is more going on, rather that the number of musicians trained to a high level of proficiency has never been higher. I don’t know this for a fact, but am generalising from perception that the creative community is growing ever larger.

      My core point is that there has never been a time when there are so many people capable (both technically and having the opportunity) of being creative. Whether this actually leads to more and good art, Kennedy in your quote states ‘no’, while in this post I merely pose the question…

Leave a Reply