Magazine article The Spectator

Web Venom

Magazine article The Spectator

Web Venom

Article excerpt

Web venom

A friend of mine, suffering one night recently from insomnia, found himself wandering around the Internet chat sites. In course of time he stumbled upon one entitled Early Music List: apparently the formula with this site, as with every other such 'forum', is that people write in as if they were having a conversation over the dinner table. He was struck by the title of one of the debates - `Anyone else hate Tallis Scholars?' - and being a close friend of mine and solicitous for my welfare, bit the bullet of his disinclination to have anything to do with it, and sent me the whole text just as it was. Here are some extracts, which, remember, were initially predicated on the concept of 'hating': From a correspondent at the University of Windsor, Ontario: `OK, I'm not trying to start a flame war but two of the Tallis Scholars recordings I've recently heard are quite horrid sounding.' A more moderate voice from the University of Arizona remarks: `Basing an opinion of hate on only two of their 30 recordings seems a little strong.' Various comments, for and against, follow this emollience, which turns out to be a red rag for someone in the Pyramid Technology Corp, San Jose, who declares: `I've heard them in concert, too, at the 1991 BEMF [Boston Early Music Festival]. It is literally the only concert I have ever left in my life (at intermission).' Someone in Bedford, Massachusetts, feels this is the place to recall 'a memorably disappointing performance at Sander's Theater in Cambridge, Ma, a year or so ago'. A further flurry of reminiscence and opinion ensues, culminating in a disclosure from a mathematician in Pittsburgh: 'I had their recording of Tallis's Spem in alium. I sold it.' Finally a more philosophical voice, from Princeton University, sums up one part of the discussion: `My quarrel with English upper-class singing in general is that too often there is a reticence, an avoiding of emotionally involving singing . . . '

Wow. There is clearly no hiding place. However, to enjoy the full flavour of this story it is necessary to know that the whole debate, amounting to nine pages of closely typed material after I had printed it out, took place between 22 and 27 March 1994. That is to say it is still possible to pluck out of space the musings and maunderings of people who, on an impulse six and a half years ago, did not sit around a dinner table sounding off about the things which were bothering them, but wrote their soundings down for the world to recover whenever it liked. …

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