Facing the Music (2001)
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Choosing the music department to do this story, which has been repeated in universities all over Australia in the last 10 years, was particularly inspired because of - well, the music. The place is stuffed with student talent and some of them already perform to concert standard. So there's lots of good music performed with great vigour and freshness, giving an ironic gaiety to the sad story. The story is indeed seamless a remarkable feat in documentary making and the music is also woven in perfectly.
The rationalists would no doubt say that a music department is a luxury our modern university cannot afford and musical skills are better taught in somewhere like the Sydney Conservatorium. After all, isn't music really just a trade? Do musicians really need to study Goethe? Ann Boyd convincingly demonstrates the shallowness of this view. Music proceeds out of culture, and our culture is not taught in trade schools. The wells of creativity are deep and complex and come from many sources. She may be a bit of a blue-stocking and wedded to old-fashioned standards but her music is innovative and her teaching (which she loves) inspiring.
Anyway, an exceptionally good documentary. Caution for University teachers; this film will not cheer you up. It might get more of you to the barricades though.
The dramatic payoff -Professor Boyd's rather derivative Anglican church music- is presented to a posh and bourgeois audience and hardly seems the stuff to inspire anyone other than those who believe liturgical music stopped in the mid 1930s.Certainly not contemporary music students.
The true hero of this movie is 'Chris' -the administrative officer who is holding the leaky vessel together .She us surrounded by wailing and weeping teachers, all claiming stress and untimely death as the clear fate for such sensitive souls as they. Around them the wonderful young students practise and create away and provide for the soundtrack a glorious and ironic counterpoint. Naturally not one of them gets to speak! The whole doco reveals, quite starkly, that claiming 'standards' and higher goals' than the students or mere administration could ever comprehend is shown up for the special pleading it is -all in one key scene where a quavering female student is monstered into tears in the name of Art. A clear case of the 'speaking subject' talking too much.Very revealing indeed.