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‘Most leaders never had an emotional event with the arts’

We’ve been sent – a little late – a short blast by Paul Keating, the former Australian prime minister at the philistines who run his country and, by implication, most of the world.

‘Let the geniuses play with your head,’ is Keating’s advice to rulers. ‘Music is the greatest form of the arts, and you’ve got to give it time… It’s a massive promoter of imagination.’

Essential viewing for the cultural and political classes.

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  1. From my point of view, hearing that, “Music is the greatest form of the arts,” is a great step forward, considering how many musicians seem to consider it the *only* art.

  2. This is fantastic. When was the last time a British politician said anything like this (and meant it)?

    By the way, he does have a go at the philistine press corp first: “Try telling that to the numbskulls…of the press gallery.”

  3. Quite an insight. There are other leaders who were moved by classical music and may a felt a similar mental release- I think specifically of President Carter who frequently played Bach when he was working alone. Even Reagan- or at least Nancy- liked music- but hers was Sinatra, especially when she was dancing with the star (him not her husband, Bonzo). Kennedy of course hosted wonderful White House concerts- Casals, et al- though I wonder if it was more due to Jackie than Jack. Finally, we have Condoleeza Rice who was known to perform in chamber music readings (and, if I’m correct an Aspen Music Festival concert) but I’m not aware that Brahms ever helped her think straight or tell the truth about Iraq. She was one piece of work in denial of a series of bellicose female Secretaries of State who left the world in worse shape than when they entered it.

    • I think you overestimate the power of a Secretary of State.

      • Probably right. She blamed Cheney- he was the Dr. Strangelove of the bunch with his inimitable touch of evil – the real power behind Howdy Dubya- yet she was an advisor and mouthpiece, and is still a staunch and unyielding apologist for the indefensible. But please, don’t get me started on the worst of the bunch, Hillary (Albright’s a close second), who has now issued a video targeting women as the constituency for the 21st century (and for her run in 2016). What does this have to do with music? Her taste in it was more rock to get the crowds rolling to her demagoguery.

    • Jeep Gerhard says:

      Why do you call only female secretaries of state “bellicose”? What about George Schultz?

      • True. And even include James Baker, who is considered by many as maybe the best of the more recent ones, except that when you examine it, that Bush Administration did get us into the Gulf War (when the evidence shows that in a Gorbachev negotiated deal Sadaam had offered to withdraw but couldn’t do it in the unreasonably short time demanded by Bush-Baker) That war was suspected of using depleted uranium and other exotic ordinance and was preceded a year earlier by the invasion of Panama, with its unnecessary carnage.

        • But..but…but…a bunch of .right-wingers got to feel like Real Men. That’s worth something…isn’t it?

          • Reminds me of the “Fawlty Towers” episode “The Builders” with Manuel saying “you are ‘men’ “.

          • Mr. Salzberg – Right on. The same whether it is the sisterhood or the brotherhood. (The women have almost seemed to want to outdo the men on their turf- so, instead of breast implants it is something else implanted.)

  4. He was there at the magnificent performance of Das Rheingold at the Brisbane Festival last year: Hamburg State Opera and orchestra, conducted by Simone Young. An unforgettable experience. I wish I had gone up to him and thanked him for his support.

  5. Edward Heath. Actually conducted symphony orchestras and wrote books on music. And what an imaginative, open-minded and successful politician he proved…

    • Agreed re: his appreciation of music (and support of musicians, including his successful appeal to the Soviets to allow Rostropovich and his family to emigrate)..

      • Oh, I forgot to add, while I might not agree with your assessment of his political skills and policies, my Irish friends think he was certainly better than his successor, Atilla the Hen.

    • Note to self – stop attempting to use irony on Slipped Disc.

  6. David Cameron said he didn’t know who wrote Rule Britannia.

    Either he genuinely didn’t know (he mentioned Elgar) or he didn’t feel able to admit that he knew. I don’t know which is worse.

    • Eh? Why on earth would you expect anyone to know? I can think of numerous professional orchestral musicians in British orchestras – who play it as often as anybody bar military bands – who wouldn’t name the composer first off without some thought. Being able to name a composer is no sign of understanding the dots, and vice versa.

      And I will bet that of all the people who do shout “Arne!” (or even “Thomas Arne” if they are being clever), the vast majority can’t tell you who the words were written by, nor would even recognise half of the verses if put in front of them without the chorus. Just because you and many readers here are interested in music and would know the composer… why do you expect that anybody else would?

      • “Why on earth would you expect anyone to know?” It’s called general knowledge. He didn’t know what Magna Carta meant either.

        “Being able to name a composer is no sign of understanding the dots, and vice versa.” Who said it was?

        I think most musicians would at least know that Elgar didn’t write it.

  7. glorious, heartwarming stuff …..and from a politician to boot…. ……not sure if even the new leader of ACE would manage such affirmative action….for him it seems to be all about the commercial side….and sadly he’s not alone…Please Mr Keating can you come on a european tour and repeat this speech on all channels……even Murdoch’s..

  8. The Canadian Prime Minister ‘plays’ the piano but it doesn’t seem to help. The Embassies have no money for culture or arts and he is well aware of the value of the arts. Where there is no will, there is no way.

    • Maybe if there are a few bucks left over from oil and war, they’ll trickle down to the arts.

  9. I wish that one of the U.S. Presidents, current or former, would be bold enough to make a statement about how much music means to them, but I fear, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, that they could not talk of any “emotional connection” to music of Mahler, or Copland, or Beethoven. I mean, can one imagine George W. Bush state,”I heard Leonard Slatkin conduct Mahler’s Tenth Symphony in the Deryck Cooke version–it was heart-rending”? Or Barack Obama saying,”Hearing Eschenbach conduct PARSIFAL at the Opera here in Washington DC last night with Michelle was a riveting experience. A long evening and deeply satisfying”? But no, we still have to talk about the Ravens winning the Superbowl or the Giants winning the World Series because the average Joe freaks out when music of high quality is spoken of. The hoi polloi love to cry out “Snob” whenever they are challenged with an idea outside the realm of pop culture.

    There’s an old Spoonerism by Boulez–”James Brown’s new album is not a smash hit, but rather, mass shit.”

    • Wow. hard to imagine why classical music fans might be considered snobs.

      Quality isn’t limited to any one genre. Duke Ellington said it best: “If it sounds good, it IS good.”

      • “Quality isn’t limited to any one genre.”

        I’ve read LA’s comment again; he doesn’t say that it is.

        Why does support for classical music almost invariably prompt this tedious accusation?

        • Hi Alison, Jeffrey: Thanks! I did not intend that quote to sound snobbish! And while I like James Brown, and Duke Ellington, I wonder why it seems OK to have to apologize (apologise) for liking Bruckner by then bringing up the Ellington quote, or to condemn the Boulez quote as mere elitism. Here in egalitarian (snicker) America, Boulez makes a point that Janes Brown, while enjoyable, simply does not challenge the mind in the same way listening to Copland, Carter, or Chopin does.

        • I was reacting to:

          “the average Joe freaks out when music of high quality is spoken of”.

          But to answer your question: “Why does support for classical music almost invariably prompt this tedious accusation?”

          Dunno. Why do so many classical music fans think that they have to justify their preference by dissing other genres? Not all do — in fact, most don’t — but there are enough to answer your question.

          Me? I listen to everything. …Which makes juxtapositions weird, sometimes, when my music player’s on “shuffle”.

          • “Why do so many classical music fans think that they have to justify their preference by dissing other genres?”

            I don’t think they feel that they have to “justify” anything. However, it’s quite common in my experience for fans of certain other genres to expect me to do so, often calling some aspect of my personality into question. Only last week, someone said with a sneer: “Oh, you’re one of those”. Rude!

            Some other genres are promoted relentlessly, often accompanied by outlandish claims (crossover springs to mind), so it’s natural to make comparisons. It isn’t confined to classical though. Jazz fans can be quite outspoken IMO but for pure snobbery, the attitude of hard rock fans towards lighter forms of pop takes some beating.

  10. Paul Keating for President

    • David Hardie says:

      Paul Keating is probably the only Australian politician who ever demonstrated a link between an understanding of the arts and public policy and leadership.

      Interestingly, during his time as Prime Minister of Australia, he politely suggested that Australia would be better of as a republic. This was somewhat controversial at the time. ‘Paul Keating for President”? The Americans could grasp the intellect of the man.

  11. I dispair I guess. there seems to be great fear that knowledge of the best that we have produced as a species- namely the arts and their ability to trigger an authentic emotional response in us by the arrangement of shapes and colors in the case of visual arts-painting, and sounds in the case of music, is somehow to be marginalized at best and erased at worst. Any why?

    The best answer I can offer is that no one really wants to be shown as ignorant or stupid (in the literal sense of those words). A truly educated person understands that there are many things that they are unaware of or inexpert at and that’s the way it is. They have also learned that they can acquire new learning and experience.

    The will to learn, to be teachable, to move into uncharted territory is grossly lacking in our leaders and in our populace. Who told us we should be afraid? Afraid of our cultural foundations, afraid of our innate ability to experience newness, to want to be better. So afraid in fact that we feel we must destroy that foundation along with those who would embrace its beauty and worst of all, those who have no choice but to follow their muse and continue to keep it lively.

  12. Steve Soderberg says:

    Before jumping to any conclusions about connections between any given politician’s taste/background in the arts and his/her policies & ability to lead (let alone his or her humanity humanity), maybe you all should get a dose of reality:

  13. ….and their parents spent ALL that money on their education!

  14. Please provide an example of a state schoolboy question – I’m curious.

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