Recently caught up with the TV documentary Britten's Children. I want to question the values of purity and innocence which are so often quoted in connection with Britten's music. Why is some of his music considered pure? Some of it is indeed beautifully simple: he knows when to turn down the volume, when to stop writing notes and to let the words speak for themselves. But just because the music is song-like, or that children's voices are performing it, it doesn't necessarily follow that the music enters a realm of purity - to which other composers of all eras can only aspire! And for that matter, I don't buy into the notion of innocence either. Kids may be young and hopefully relatively care-free but they surely have strains and stresses - and tantrums! - like the rest of us. Just because someone isn't grown up (or may not have lost their virginity) doesn't mean to my mind that they're innocent, or in any kind of special blissful state: anymore than someone who is grown up (and experienced sexually) doesn't become 'guilty' or impure. I can't help feeling that in the background there's a lot of prudishness going on and, at the least, the view that innocence and purity are somehow wonderful involves looking at childhood through rose-tinted spectacles. Could this only happen in England?
Composer and musician