Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Musical Edutainment?

An interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian Newspaper, mentions the planned combination of entertainment and education by former Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker, who lead the band for 24 years, from their origins on the underground UK ‘indie’ scene and through the rise of ‘Brit Pop’ and ‘cool Britannia’ in an era when New Labour rose to the fore, and ‘hip’ artists such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp suddenly found themselves in the commercially all important ‘top 40’. Cocker gained a certain degree of notoriety for his stage invasion during Michael Jackson’s 'Earth Song' at the BRIT Awards in 1996, which offended many corporate execs and sponsors (whose musical knowledge probably didn’t extend beyond Smash Hits magazine). Pulp later wound down their operations (although didn’t officially split) in 2002, and since Cocker has been involved in a variety of projects including an appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, curating the 2007 Meltdown Festival and various solo and collaborative music projects including a cover of Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation’ with Beth Ditto.

Cocker is proposing to incorporate elements of education into his musical shows such as mini-lectures and spoken word. The Guardian article states ‘Oxbridge lecturers will doubtless be watching these gigs carefully, waiting to see if the lecture-disco format takes off’. Whilst Cocker’s proposal is interesting, it is nothing new, U.S. Industrial band Consolidated frequently punctuated their shows with lectures on a variety of subjects including racism, homophobia, over-fishing, and vegetarianism, as well as holding open debates and open mic sessions. Public Enemy produced entire musical shows around the themes of racism, equality and the ‘New World Order’, and Michael Franti when front man of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, would speak on similar subjects in-between songs. Former Bad Brains front-man Henry Rollins has also embarked on a number of spoken word tours.

The combination of education and entertainment is known as edutainment, and has been discussed extensively throughout this blog. The advantage that edutainment has over many other educational ‘formats’ is that it opens up education to those who may possibly have been ‘turned off’ by the notion of learning in their own recreation time. That said, it would be fair to assume that most people who are attracted to a Jarvis Cocker concert which incorporates a spoken word element, will probably have a certain degree of intellectuality about themselves in the first place….in which case the question is raised as to whether this is an effective educational format, or just another musical story-telling performance art hybrid? I’ll be interested to see what happens.