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I would have thought an article celebrating 400 years of performing Monteverdi's opera Orfeo would be interesting, but this piece in the BBC on line magazine left me wondering what the point was. Lisa Jardine, an historian rather than a musicologist, waffles on for a dozen or so paragraphs about social taboos and perceived politeness in different societies, the relevance of this totally escaped me and I know nothing more about Monteverdi and his music than before I read the piece.


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I agree on the rambling quality, but it seems that this "BBC Radio 4 Point of View" article may be more in the nature of a blog -- or possibly one of those personal "commenaries," the ones that go on and on and on, that we have on public radiio in the US.

It's nice to see Mary Douglas's work on the social functions of rituals and taboos summarized and personalized so neatly.

Jardine is moved by Monteverdi's Orfeo -- and by the samba music of Black Orpheus. (She is apparently not moved by Stravinsky's score and does not include the Stravinsky/Balalnchine ballet on her list of Orfeo-themed works.)

Together they sustain my personal conviction that there exist fundamental human values which make it possible to transcend local sectarianism and inter-factional conflict, to reach resolution.

At a time of heightening global tensions, nationalist clamour and religious schism, the extraordinary power of music to unite its listeners gives me more than a glimmer of comfort.

A nice point ... but one challenged by a respondant who notes

The theme of music as a power to unite is compelling, but what of its power to divide? There are many forms of music these days which are used by various social groups to define themselves, and thus divide them from others. For example, there are people who define `rap' as a form of music; its ugliness and brutality put it into a category which is almost completely incompatible with harmonious, uplifting and invigorating music such as Orfeo. It is noticeable that anyone who deeply loves either can scarcely bear to go into a place where the other is being played. I wonder if appreciation of beauty can be taught? If so, the power of music to unite could perhaps be re-established.

If one function of blogs or commentaries is to encourage debate, Jardine seems to have started something interesting.

Does anyone want to weigh in on this one?

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