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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 3. March 20, 1952

No National Orchestra Plenty of Crazy People — The Borrowed Hide..

No National Orchestra Plenty of Crazy People

The Borrowed Hide...

Having thus touched upon our responsibilities both as students and as citizens, the course of discussion turned to consideration of our values, and Mr. Owen Jensen (Music, Auck.) and Mr. R. C. Chapman (Hist., Auck.) attempted a re-assessment from the standpoints of music and literature.

Mr Jensen (who had arrived only in time to judge the fancy dress ball on the night of the Ship Cove trip) took as his theme "Music and Society." He argued that, historically, music sprang from social needs, as did the church music and minstrelsy of the Middle Ages, and the Court music of eighteenth century composers like Haydn. This social basis of music, continuing right up to Beethoven, had brought the composer into close contact with his audience, giving his music a personal significance for many of its hearers. But the Industrial Revolution had taken music from the drawing room to the concert hall and in so doing had destroyed that intimacy and with it much of the meaning that had been put into earlier music. Today the situation is fundamentally unchanged, although in a place like the Cambridge Music School (from which Mr Jensen had just come) the old social background and significance could be rediscovered. Of course great music was not bound to a transitory situation for its appeal, but the appeal was no longer felt as personally as when it was written. Hence, it would be of more value to the development of musical taste in New Zealand to call forth and indigeaous folk music, played in small local groups, than to spend large sums on a full symphony orchestra, which, after all, was only required for compositions of the last century and a half. The sort of "musical appreciation" imposed on school children was quite unreal because it substituted authority for pleasure as the criterion of taste, and in fact "good music" was no less a superimposed foreign culture than "Tin-pan alley." However, the difficulties of producing native music were immense and Mr Jensen was by no means optimistic of our chances. As a first step, he suggested that poets and composers should cooperate more closely and try to bring music to the people in their social groups. Next day Jim Baxter disappeared into the cactus, and that night strange noises drifted out of the diningroom windows from the direction of the piano. On Friday evening, February 1, the Congress was privileged to hear the world premiere of "The Ballad of the Sacred Cow," words by James K. Baxter, music by Owen Jensen, and rant for us by Roger Harris. It immediately caught on with the whole Congress, but, and this illustrates Mr Jensen's point, the uninitiated at homo would see none of its finer beauties.)