View Poll Results: PC - or non PC; that is the question...

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39. You may not vote on this poll
  • Non-pc art music should never be performed

    0 0%
  • Perform it with irony & satire

    2 5.13%
  • Perform it with textual or setting emendations

    0 0%
  • Perform it with warnings in the programme notes

    5 12.82%
  • Play it straight; let the audience judge or empathise

    31 79.49%
  • Other possibilities? Give details

    1 2.56%
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Thread: PC - or not PC?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Default PC - or not PC?

    PC - or not PC; that is the question!

    It's hard nowadays to stage without apology a new production of Shakespearean plays like 'The Merchant of Venice', 'The Tempest' (Caliban), and 'The Taming of the Shrew'.

    Music too, especially opera, has often been written from a viewpoint that was acceptable in its day but now no longer. A good example is Rameau's Les Indes Galantes, written to commemorate the visit to Paris of some chiefs from Native American tribes ('American Indian' / 'Red Indian' in the past). The setting is really just a peg to hang a love story on, but naturally it embodies the attitudes of 18th century France to native peoples - the idea that they were more innocent, free from the corruptions of civilisation, not materialistic, and happier.

    This attitude meant no harm - on the contrary, held by more educated members of society, it went against the more racist view of the peasants who would have seen these Native Americans as brutal savages without the same rights as Europeans. But nowadays people see the Augustan view ('Lo, the poor Indian') as unacceptably paternalistic & condescending.

    So - I wanted to hear the music, went on YouTube, and what did I find?


    A version with 'post-modern irony':





    A choral version (with a few knowing smiles):





    Or a purely instrumental version:





    It seems a pity to me that audiences can't make the necessary leaps of empathy and just enjoy the work in the spirit in which it was written; in Rameau's case at least, where in my view no great harm is done. Of course, there may be a blatantly offensive but artistic piece which must be treated in a pc way if it's performed at all.

    But that's what I'm asking? How do you prefer your non-pc masterpieces to be staged?

    It's possibly a rarefied topic so maybe there won't be all that many replies, but in a year or two, the thread will have gathered some interesting viewpoints. Thank you in advance!
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-06-2013 at 12:29.
    ~ Mollie ~
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Modifying the past for Political Correctness is absurd, besides being counter-productive. It's hard enough to learn from the past without falsifying it.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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  4. #3
    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Thank you, Hilltroll - I'm entirely in agreement.

    I posted the poll because of Rameau, but I'd be interested (& also grateful) to hear of other works which cause 'a pc-problem'.

    I think some of the resetting of operas, as well as to make them 'more relevant', may also be to make them more pc & culturally acceptable. Monteverdi's 'Poppea' presents Nero somewhat unhistorically in a sympathetic light; the English Touring Opera's current production sets the story in Stalinist Russia.
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-06-2013 at 12:30.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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  6. #4
    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    I strongly dislike the top excerpt in my opening post, with pipe-smoking 'Indian' heroine & facial gesticulations to suggest how absurd Rameau's idea is. It's hard to concentrate on the music with all that distraction going on.

    I would guess that in fifty years time, this sort of approach will be seen not only as cultural vandalism, but as utterly ridiculous.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    I voted to let the audience decide. However ...

    Steven Foster's minstrelsy has now become almost unsingable because our tastes and opinions have changed so much. It is almost impossible to see any circumstance, other than historical research where they would be acceptable. Similarly, songs like Dixie because of their associations have become frowned upon. The same argument has been applied to the German National Anthem because of its triumphal overtones.

    I find textual emendation unacceptable, especially with regard to hymns, e.g. “right hand of God” has been changed to “mighty” or “strong” hand of God, so that no left-handed people won’t feel insulted. Jesus is referred to as “God’s only Child” rather than “God’s Only Son.” The words “darkness” or “blind” can no longer be used to symbolize spiritual ignorance.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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  10. #6
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    I voted for warnings. Somebody is always going to get steamed off, so put in the warning cover yourself.

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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    I am also of the opinion that it is best for audiences to make up their own minds. In the case of opera or drama, there is of course scope for different productions to shift the emphasis of their performance. But in the case of novels or visual arts there is no "middle-man" as such, i.e. the audience is left on their own to make of the art what they will.

    For example the novels "Huckleberry Finn" and "Robinson Crusoe" regularly get termed "un-PC" for making use of racial stereotypes. In addition, the painting "Olympia" by Manet is branded racist, perhaps understandably:

    Olympia.jpg

    (Sorry but I can't think of any musical examples off the top of my head!)

    Nevertheless, all this raises the question (much discussed in the various Wagner threads!) about whether we should excuse artists of the past for holding views which are considered racist by modern standards, even if they were the accepted views of the day. Whilst I can understand if people personally find it hard to enjoy art which they find offensive, I am of the opinion that these works of art are cultural/historical documents and should not be removed from the national consciousness because they do not conform to modern standards.
    Last edited by Winterreisender; Oct-06-2013 at 15:20.

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  14. #8
    Junior Member Fermat's Avatar
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    I voted to play it straight. I'm not a fan of PC nonsense.

    I'll be perfectly honest. If a person is so sensitive or stupid that they are unwilling to watch something that offends modern sensibilities, then we're probably not going to get along. A thinking person should be able to put things into context.
    Last edited by Fermat; Oct-06-2013 at 16:32.

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  16. #9
    Senior Member BurningDesire's Avatar
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    People shouldn't be overly-sensitive, and art should not be retroactively censored just to placate the wimps who are.

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    Senior Member TresPicos's Avatar
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    I'm divided here.

    Playing it straight will of course offend some people, but as the great philosopher Steve Hughes once pointed out: "If you're offended, you're offended. Nothing happens." Also, PC people need to be kept on their toes so they don't relax in their efforts to drag the rest of us into modernity.

    On the other hand, it would be tempting to have all non-PC stuff edited out from those non-PC plays and operas, since the playing time would then be shorter, and I would be able to return home sooner to do other stuff.
    Last edited by TresPicos; Oct-06-2013 at 17:49.
    "Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and … stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?"
    - Wassily Kandinsky

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  20. #11
    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fermat View Post
    I voted to play it straight. I'm not a fan of PC nonsense.

    I'll be perfectly honest. If a person is so sensitive or stupid that they are unwilling to watch something that offends modern sensibilities, then we're probably not going to get along. A thinking person should be able to put things into context.
    But at the same time, surely you can sympathise with a Jew for choosing not to watch the Merchant of Venice because they find it offensive. Some people might be happy to laugh along at the racial stereotypes because they were "acceptable at the time" but for others this might cause genuine discomfort. It is a bit harsh to call these people "stupid."

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  22. #12
    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TresPicos View Post
    I'm divided here.

    Playing it straight will of course offend some people, but as the great philosopher Steve Hughes once pointed out: "If you're offended, you're offended. Nothing happens." Also, PC people need to be kept on their toes so they don't relax in their efforts to drag the rest of us into modernity.

    On the other hand, it would be tempting to have all non-PC stuff edited out from those non-PC plays and operas, since the playing time would then be shorter, and I would be able to return home earlier in the evening and do other stuff.

    Ah - hadn't thought of that!

    But your first paragraph has reminded me that art & music these days is supposed to be edgy - to provoke - to jolt us out of our complacency - in short, to offend us. In these cases, it's not cool to be offended.

    Weird world!
    ~ Mollie ~
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  24. #13
    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    I'm more uncomfortable with venues resurrecting works of the past with overtly racist or sexist content and submitting it to audiences for uncritical approval. An ironic or even censored performance might--or might not--be better than none at all. We've all got access to uncut or "straight" versions of older works via dvd or other media, and we're free to seek them out. I prefer performances of older works that express an opinion that's defensible, interesting, or new.

    Having said that, I prefer new music, films, and artworks that push the envelope. I don't want to be made uncomfortable about obviously stupid ideas from the past that continue to limp along--but I do want to be made uncomfortable about the ideas I currently, uncritically hold. I'd be appalled at a censored screening of a new film by Lars von Trier or opera by Thomas Ades.

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  26. #14
    Senior Member Tristan's Avatar
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    My main problem is with changing works of art. I'm not a hardcore purist, but most of the time I'd rather see a work of art the way an artist intended. That said, works of art are often changed and not just for PC reasons. The version of Swan Lake we all know and love has been cut up and mangled by Riccardo Drigo; what's removing a racial slur here and there?
    A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

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  28. #15
    Senior Member TresPicos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tristan View Post
    My main problem is with changing works of art. I'm not a hardcore purist, but most of the time I'd rather see a work of art the way an artist intended. That said, works of art are often changed and not just for PC reasons. The version of Swan Lake we all know and love has been cut up and mangled by Riccardo Drigo; what's removing a racial slur here and there?
    And if the artist included a non-PC item with the intention for it to be "no big deal", because that non-PC item wasn't a big deal at the time, then maybe removing it now would be truer to the artist's intentions, since keeping it would only elevate that small non-PC item into a "really big deal", which was clearly not what the artist intended.
    "Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and … stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?"
    - Wassily Kandinsky

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