Sunday, 30 December 2007

The threatened Cultural Review of 2007


2006 was the year when I tentatively ventured out from my folk and classical backwaters and realised that actually some of this popular beat combo stuff was quite good, and that these days I could afford to buy it. 2007 was the year when I really embraced popular music. So much so that I own 2 of the top 3 albums of the year (although the Amy Winehouse was a Christmas present last year, so I can't technically count it as one of my albums of the year, which otherwise it might well be). No, I don't own an album by Leona Lewis. The other is Mika's 'Life in Cartoon Motion', which was certainly a candidate for my rock/pop album of the year, along with Rilo Kiley's 'Under the Blacklight'. But then towards the end of November I finally followed up Knititch's recommendation of Rufus Wainwright's 'Release the Stars', and at that point the competition officially closed, and I went off in search of his complete back catalogue. For sheer musical audacity it cannot be beaten (I mean, who thinks "I know what this song needs, it needs some borrowed chords from 'Phantom of the Opera'. But wait, that's still not enough, it needs, it needs - incredibly distinguished actress Sian Phillips declaiming in the grand manner, that's what it needs!"). But there's also the apparent simplicity and miniature perfection of the song 'Going to a Town'. I could go on for hours, but I won't.

Classical album of the year is a lot simpler, because I only bought one, Elin Manahan Thomas's 'Eternal Light', which Chris and I heard reviewed on Radio 4 and immediately decided we had to have. The best way I can recommend it is to say that I don't really like Baroque arias, I tend to find them ponderous, and this is an album almost entirely made up of Baroque arias. My personal favourite is the fabulous final duet of Monteverdi's 'Pur ti Miro' with a counter-tenor whose name I cannot find, but which leaves me needing a lie-down.


I only saw two films at the cinema this year, which is probably the lowest number for a decade, but which reflects how most of my year was spent either shut in my study with a pile of books, or in a library with an even bigger pile of books. The films in question were 'Atonement' (excellent, as I've already said) and 'Stardust' (very good).


Once I've watched every repeat going of 'Doctor Who' and 'Torchwood', then spent several hours on the rolling news services watching nothing happen, accompanied by lengthy discussions, then flicked over to 'The Hits' to watch minor pop stars of ten years ago gush about how much they love the list of videos they've just been given, there really isn't time to watch much actual television. I flirted briefly with Coronation Street, but got bored after six weeks of people arguing about the same thing over and over again, never making any discernible progress, until something unfeasibly dramatic happened. I also discovered that I have an unerring John Barrowman location device - I can find him on some channel somewhere whenever I switch on. Is it a supernatural gift? Or is it because he is ever so slightly ubiquitous? 'Doctor Who' was fabulous, and I even liked the Christmas Special (I could have forgiven Kylie practically anything for not being Catherine Tate, but she turned out to be rather good).


I went to the theatre, for the first time since my school days. We went to the Lyric Hammersmith to see the National Theatre of Scotland's production of 'The Bacchae' starring Alan Cumming (in a gold kilt and not a lot else) as the god Dionysos. I'd read that it was being produced at the Edinburgh Fringe, and thought "what a gloriously right bit of casting" but I was in the final stages of dissertation writing then, and couldn't possibly get to Edinburgh. By the time it transferred to London for a very limited season I was on the point of submitting the dissertation, and it made the perfect treat for finally getting the thing in the post. It was a wonderful production; funny (as this play should be) but also terrifying, and very very moving at the last. I only hope it isn't another ten years before I go to the theatre again.


Books are too big a subject for tonight.


Silas said...

I got all of one theatre trip in as well.

Kendra took me to the Pantages to see Wicked. Distinctly fun, and an interesting take on the story of the Wizard of Oz...

knititch said...

oh dear all the money i make you and your mom spend by recommending things. hope you don't mind-