I cannot abide bandwagons. I have a deep dislike and distrust of those who jump onto them in an effort to milk the cash-cow as much as possible before the gold rush passes. Less than a decade ago the playgrounds of England were full of tiny wizards, although at least JK really did make the genre her own, while a couple of years back it was not safe to walk the streets for fear of running into some teenage vampire or other. Now every T-shirt, greeting card or coffee mug seems to sport the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”, or some secondhand rendition thereof, “Drink Beer and Fall Over” being a particularly witty reinterpretation, I don’t think.
This morning, on the tube into London, I saw the latest of these lemming-like rushes by publishers and the like, milking their authors for all it is worth. The success of the whole Fifty Shades thing has clearly had other printers chomping at the bit, for, lo and behold, Jane Eyre Laid Bare is now on offer, an erotic retelling (it says here) of the old Brontë yarn. What irks me most is that Charlotte herself is credited as co-author.
This nonsense happens in the compositional world, of course. When Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium thrust him into belated overnight success a few years ago, suddenly you could not turn up to a carol or any other service without treading in a first inversion D major chord with an added smudge just to make it sound, you know, modern. There’s some particularly offensive nonsense of this type about at the moment, but it will all blow past, as will all the hot air about it representing some new kind of spiritual voice in music. It is coincidental, of course, that it might also represent (a) waffling on a piano hunting for ‘nice’ chords, and (b) an inability to write counterpoint.
Rant over, quality will out eventually. The wizards have grown into vampires who have grown into sexually yearning readers who will, I presume, Grow Up and Settle Down. Meanwhile those of us who write in the shadows and do not capitulate to this kind of peer pressure are left to grumble on our blogs, but somebody I do not like very much once said that you can either stick to your principles or be massively successful, but it is nigh on impossible to do both. The first ones to break through (Rowling, Meyer, James) are the ones who reap the rewards, and rightly so, but why should everyone else be so eager to throw standards to the winds for the sake of a quick buck? We remember Beethoven, Stravinsky and so on, but what of their imitators?