Wednesday, August 07, 2002

THEY COULD CALL IT THE MUSE-UM: The German culture minister is suggesting that schools would be better off teaching their pupils about pop rather than classical if they really want to get them interested in music, which might be a fair point. But only to a point. The thing with education is that it's meant to broaden your worldview, and so merely playing kids Britney Spears and getting them to study A1 lyrics might be self-defeating, as it would only be replicating what they'd do for themselves - sex education isn't merely showing pictures of naked people; that has to be a way in to discussing condoms and STDs and all the other stuff that made the biology teacher blush. The use of the Top 40 has to be an entry point, and not seen as an end in itself. A lot of good courses like this exist at degree level in the UK, and it'd be nice to think that something similar could be done earlier - even if it's just so that teenagers aren't shocked to discover Unchained Fucking Melody is a cover version.
There's also another thing about this report on Julian Nida-Ruemelin's comments. Made at the site of a future Pop museum, it's claimed that this is the first institution of its sort outside America. Which shows just what a lame squid, damp squib and rubbish squip the Pop Museum in Sheffield was. Or maybe is. We can't even tell if it's still going - its website's news page sort of peters out after 2000, when it claims it's not closed, merely "rebranding." Putting it in Sheffield in the first place seemed an odd choice - based more on the parcelling out of national collections rather than any real affinity between place and subject (and before irate Sheffieldites email, yes, I know, Pulp and Joe Cocker and Human League - all well and good, but the city has never made an impact a la Madchester, Merseybeat or whatever.) Of course, it could have been worse - the current Music Week tries to puff Birmingham's music record, and has enormous problems filling the gap between ELO and Duran, and The Streets.
But how did the Pop Museum fail? How can you go wrong with that? Jesus, if the Hard Rock Cafe can do it, why couldn't the people in charge of the National Centre for Popular Music make a decent hand of it? (Maybe the clue is in the chin-stroking name, do you think?)
People get frothy with rage over the faliure of the Dome, but surely the fact that about £20 million was tossed at a place dedicated to a genuinely popular subject which is one of the few things this country has a record of being quite good at, all to no avail is more outrageous? Even the Swedes are able to come up with enough stuff to do this sort of thing well - with a genuine vision as to what is needed. The try-to-please everyone Sheffield museum was so afraid of being thought of as a museum, it seemed to abandon any pretence of being a curated space and wound up as a few interactive geegaws between Mick Jones guitar and Martin Fry's old underpants. The current Remix exhibition at the Tate shows how music can work in a gallery context, given a feel for the subject and a sense of theme. Maybe we should try for a museum again, with a bit less money and a bit more feeling

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