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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Here Today Gone Tomorrow?

I watched BBC 4's excellent documentary Sir John Tavener Remembered.

As presenter Tom Service explained, it was made by delving into the BBC's archive to produce a patchwork quilt of clips.  They showed us the early days of an eccentric outsider making music on the margins, to an establishment figure of some stature when Song For Athene was performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

It featured several clips from several items made about him from the early 1970s to more recent times.

His hippie-like countenance and association with The Beatles via The Whale obviously made good TV and you can see why a producer might want to send a camera crew his way.

But what was really interesting was the BBC's investment in documenting what was then new music - and a lot of it not all that easy on the ear.

It was a first class tribute to the man and his music. 

But it was also a tribute to the intelligent programme-making, and a time when artists were documented because they were doing something interesting or different.

Maybe in the age of iPhones, Youtube and social media, the specially commissioned fly-on-the-wall approaches that made up this show are reckoned to be redundant or passé.

Given the continuing squeeze on the arts budget in general, perhaps when programme-makers are putting together a tribute to a great composer in 70 years time, it'll just come down to compiling the best bits of shaky hand-held footage that are out there on the net.

Sir John Tavener Remembered  not only told us something about an individual but also something about the value of having an institution like the BBC.

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