Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hackety hack

Last autumn, an American friend, a US TV news man in London, told me I should read the New York Times article on what was going on at News International. You won’t believe it, he said. It’s really serious, much worse than I realised. You really should read it.

I didn’t. I kept meaning to. But I didn’t.

Then the other day, I did. My friend was right. I should have read it before. It tells the story clearly and directly and devastatingly without ever spoiling its pitch by joining the Guardian on its high horse cantering across the moral high ground.

Read it here. It’s long, really long, but worth it. In a fun way.

And if that's not enough fun, try this. It's an NPR podcast of Joe Boyd (worked with Pink Floyd, produced Nick Drake, John Martyn, Fairport Convention etc etc) reading from his book. The book's worth reading, too.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Things change . . .

It’s the cliché of anarchism (etc): if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

Well, here is a good, clear of example of how voting changes . . . graphic design.

For something I was writing, I looked up government approaches to music education. Without realising it, I downloaded not, as I thought I had, two contemporary reports, but one produced under the current government and one under the former.

Here’s the old (new Labour) cover . . .

Here’s the new (coalition) cover . . .

Striking, no?

Old (new Labour) a large image, shot on 21mm (I think) lens, adding (rightly or wrongly) drama, with (as always in the last government’s publications) an ethnic minority (as per new Labour usual, a young ‘black’ person); a two-colour title, with the words unaligned (in builder’s terminology, ‘on the piss’); a subhead aiming at inclusion but begging a question (more music than what? more people than who?)

New (coalition) consciously sober title (it says what it does on its cover); conscious, perhaps archaic capitalisation (‘Government Response’ rather than the less stentorian ‘government response’); blue colour (an indication of coalition balance?); a seemingly pointless shadow rectangle with a grid pattern which perhaps hints at an underlying mathematical response to music (for better or worse)

It doesn’t stop at the cover, either, of course. The difference continues inside.

The new (coalition) document opens with a quote from Plato and includes this sentence: ‘Music is an enriching and valuable academic subject. Research evidence shows that a quality music education can improve self-confidence, behaviour and social skills, as well as improve academic attainment in areas such as numeracy, literacy and language.’

The old (new Labour) one aimed, among other things, ‘to develop a world-class workforce in music education’. Workforce, world-class — how quaint and early 21st century those words now seem. It included this statement from the then Arts Minister, Estelle Morris: ‘It's about everyone with a love of music coming together to create the soundtrack to young people's lives.’

Then love, everyone, soundtrack, coming together, young people.

Now research evidence, self-confidence, improve, academic subject, social skills, attainment, numeracy, literacy.

Plus ça change, plus ça change.

Plato (him, again) wrote: ‘Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the laws of the State always change with them.’ And, it seems, vice versa.