Would Wagner approve of the Kaiser Chiefs?

Opera-goers at Glyndebourne The festival at Glyndebourne began in 1934

The line-up was impressive. Gerald Finley, the revered baritone, was playing Hans Sachs. The acclaimed Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski was in the pit. The director was David McVicar with lighting by Paule Constable.

A top-notch group brought together for Richard Wagner' s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

The setting was also A-star: Glyndebourne on a summer's evening. The excellent theatre sits in stunning grounds, set within the beautiful South Downs.

The couples picnicking before, during the interval and after the performance (it's long) spread themselves about the landscape; the women's clothes adding colour, the men, dressed in their black tie, looking like musical notes.

For this genre of artistic event, there is nothing better. But while I sat in my seat, listening to Findlay/Sachs sing about the importance of art, I found that I was briefly transported from Wagner's vision of an idealised Free Imperial City during the Holy Roman Empire to contemporary Britain and the Kaiser Chiefs.

The indie rock band has taken the notion of the customer always being right to an extreme. You cannot buy their new album as a completed, honed form. It doesn't exist.

Instead they are offering 20 individual tracks from which you are allowed to select 10 (after paying £7.50) to make up your own album.

Is this the future of pop music? Of life in the Twitter age, where everything is reduced to the bare minimum, which in this instance is a three-minute-or-so track?

The Kaiser Chiefs The Future is Medieval will be the Kaiser Chiefs' fourth album

Are we to be limited to bite-sized musical comments as opposed to album length thoughts?

Is the future to be one of singles with no discernible connection, no narrative, no musical arch to connect them?

Are there to be no more great musical journeys in pop, just a quick ride around the block?

I have always been sniffy about Best Of… collections. I accept that they are a cost-effective way of buying what someone, somewhere has decided are the artist's best efforts, but I know the singles from which they have been made up were not created as stand-alone pieces, or to sit in the Best Of… order.

They were conceived to be heard five tracks in on a specifically crafted album. And that's where I want to hear them.

And that is what was troubling me as I listen to Wagner's epic story of love and craft and the vital importance of poetry and song combined.

Are we facing a future where our meistersingers (master singers) cannot even manage a six-minute coherent composition, let alone Wagner's (the Kaiser Chief of German classical music) six-hour effort?

Will Gompertz Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    It's a marketing trick. They get some extra publicity for the album for the gimmick, and they know full well that many fans will want all the tracks and so will pay £15 instead of £7.50.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Sir, I fear you may be referring to the concept album, much derided in the late 70s. Before then it was singles, singles, singles, and thereafter the same.

    Secretly, some of those concept albums were found to be quite good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    But didn't I read that Bjork's new offering is to be released as individual apps, one per song, that'll look nice on your iPad2 home page?

    I miss the record cover, something to read and take your mind off the noise coming from the speakers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Gimmick . No more, no less. Good luck to them. You have to be shrewd nowadays and have your eye on the 'market'. Sadly, those of us who really like the Chiefs will have to pay £15 - or might they drive us to the dreaded Pirate Bay or Isohunt. It's a risky move on their part.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    And what ever will thæy think of next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Perspective is everything. On one hand you have Wagner. He's already outlasted so many trends. He'll be just fine. On the other hand you have pop music, which is generally nothing but trends and careers where lasting five albums is a miracle. You ask, "Are we to be limited to bite-sized musical comments as opposed to album length thoughts? ?" As far as pop goes, that future arrived a while ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The only thing the Kaiser Chiefs are proving, is that their music is disposable. There have been some great albums this year (Adele, 19; Arcade Fire, The Suburbs) and these albums would be worse without the artist's integrity. If I want to make my own album, I will make my own album, it's not as hard as people think it is... (especially to match the quality of the Chiefs)

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Leaving aside the fact that your own attention span seems incapable of dealing with Wagner's most 'easy-listening' opera without your mind wandering off to your next blog piece, I would not be at all surprised to discover that most Kaiser Chief and other popular music fans suffer from some form of attention-deficit disorder. I know Mrs Odicean does, bless her heart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It's a clever marketing ploy by Kaiser Chiefs. 20 tracks for £7.50 - select 10 for an album. Quite a few fans would pay twice to own all 20 tracks across two selections - thereby a download album sold for £15.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    more/ . . . Elitist? Well, maybe but would you select a single figure from a Breugel canvas and hang it on your wall? As for Kaiser Chiefs - well, frankly my dear, who gives a damn?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Here (Budapest) where I write about music and opera, Wagner is 'big'. One source has even suggested it as an alternative Bayreuth. With this explosion comes what Neumann referred to as 'so many bleeding chunks' - the 'best of' syndrome you referred to. Wagner's works are not pieces to be dipped into at will. They are unified entities to be embraced as a whole or not at all . . . /more

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I'm sorry but I believe you are comparing apples and oranges. The pop charts are not the only source of music. There's creative commons, for example, where there is plenty of interesting music with depth and concept. What I really see in your article is that you're not bothered to actually dig it up, and therein lies the actual problem. Good music is not, nor has ever been, fed to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I disagree. Many music artists go into the studio and record a new album when the time comes and record whatever they come up with. Not every LP is a cohesive whole or concept album. Since when did a 60 minute CD album become the only valid statement? What about old LPs lasting 40-80 mins? Is Strawberry Fields Forever one of The Beatles' lesser works because it wasn't on Pepper?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "Would Wagner approve of the Kaiser Chiefs?"

    Yes, no, who cares and what does it matter?

    I don't care for either on a roughly equal basis - I know there are those that do, but Will, your piece doesn't enlighten me at all.

    What is all this about the 'price' people will pay as being a measure of 'value' or indeed of equivalence?



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