Wednesday, November 05, 2008


When he wrote his autobiography, Sir Michael Tippett decided to call it Those Twentieth Century Blues, bringing together the archetypes of a transformative musical language, historical tragedy, and the light and dark of a life observed and a dream re-visited. There is no doubt that if he was with us today, he would be thrilled by the advent of Barack Obama in the United States, more for what it represents in terms of the experience of Black Americans and oppressed peoples than for any anticipation that the world's political systems will suddenly put themselves in order.

Tippett had an unshakable faith in people, ins pite of everything, and when he put together the defining oratorio of the last century, A Child Of Our Time, he famously adopted African-American Spirituals to perform the function of Bach-like chorales, and to reflect something that had changed in the landscape of our imagining forever. Being married to an American and caught up, as we all are, in the invitation to a sea-change across the Atlantic, the five Spirituals had to be what I turned to musically to comprehend the paradox and promise of what is going on.