Does true “culture” have to have generations of tradition? Steve Wauck’s rail against Riverdance (and the “eclecticism” that it represents) on The Guild Review is articulate and thought-provoking as usual. However, while I do think there are dangers in picking up bits and pieces of out-of-context wisdom from other cultures, I’m concerned that such an opinion can justify bigotry. I agree that Riverdance is not deep culture — it’s pure theatrics and sensationalism. However, I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say that it “marked the victory of modern eclecticism over integral culture,” mostly, because I’m not sure what integral culture is. Is culture more than a collection of traditions that are connected to a deep human need and sentiment? I’m trying to dig back into my memory of Peiper‘s Leisure, the Basis of Culture. Perhaps part of the problem with Riverdance is that it’s not born of leisure, but of spectacle and salesmanship.
Jim Bedford recently shared “The Commitments” with the staff at Telluride, a fun movie about an Irish Soul band in the early 1990′s. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at The Commitments trailer to get an idea of what it’s about:
I’ll share this memorable quote from the lead character, Jimmy Rabbitte:
Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I’m black and I’m proud.
The movie undoubtedly has soul (beyond the musical genre it celebrates). It’s noble theme is the struggle of the working class to find hope in desperate conditions, and how art brings us to a deeper place. The humor of the movie is also it’s irony: that a culture with such a rich musical tradition turns to another culture’s music for inspiration. Not only does it turn to another culture, it turns to the great America, the melting pot of “culture,” and finds solidarity with the music of another downtrodden culture. If “soul” music isn’t “eclectic,” I don’t know what is. And, if this is eclectic, then I think eclecticism is beautiful.
Anyway, besides its lack of plot, low budget and occasional over-acting, the movie is impressive. Almost all the actors actually play their own instruments and sing with their own vocal chords. And it’s not without (soon-to-be) stars. The young Glen Hansard (“Once”) plays an assisting role. And the stunning Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors) steals the screen’s attention during “I Never Loved a Man.” That song alone recommends the movie, as does a the New York Times “Critic’s Pick.”
Isn’t all culture bits and pieces of influence from other places and peoples? What matters in the end is soul, that expression of solidarity between people sharing the same experience of misery and joy.