Swings and roundabouts in culture

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Do you like the idea of culture being dynamic, fluid and flexible? Or do you prefer to bask in the certainties of knowing what to expect? Perhaps there should be opportunities and spaces for everyone to find what they need in this respect. The only challenge being that they should know exactly where their comfort zones are located. Obviously, life isn’t as simple as it is stated here. People sometimes search for a long time before they realise the way of being that suits them best.

Cultural expression can be radically affected by changes in technology and the way that people absorb information. The recent Quincy Jones interview, in which he cast aspersions on the musical skills of The Beatles is an interesting case in point. At a particular point in history, social changes in the UK and the USA brought about a phenomenon that was described as a “youthquake”. The Beatles were adept at symbolising the thoughts and feelings of the emerging young consumers of that era – more effectively than many other musicians, along with the likes of Bob Dylan, the Motown machine and others.

This meant that musicians who chose to stick to using the terms of reference from before that time found it difficult to make a living, possibly for a whole decade. Many of those musicians were Quincy Jones’s peers and it is likely that the resentment they felt about the sudden change was never channelled into finding fulfilling solutions to the problem they faced.

I’m not suggesting that older musicians of today should try to absorb the terms of reference used by Grime musicians, for example. We all need to work with the skills we have and make the most of them.

The wheel of fortune turns around and there is no way of predicting what will become resonant in subsequent years. The story of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians was an interesting case in point. Several of them had to find other ways of making a living for a couple of decades, and then suddenly, they became a major international musical phenomenon when they were in their seventies and eighties. Quincy Jones was able to survive and thrive through all the changes. The Beatles did something special for a particular era and I will always love them.

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