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Elizabeth Kinder
Photo: Sophie Ziegler

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist

Elizabeth Kinder’s monthly column

Travelling down from Aviemore on the train listening to Show of Hands. Steve Knightley’s pithy, witty spearing of social issues soar on Phil Beer’s virtuosic melodic improvisation as we snake by snow-covered mountains and icy lochs that sparkle in the sun. I say ‘we’ but I’ve a whole table to myself. Though the reservation ticket on the seat opposite warns of company from Newcastle.

The chap who gets on is neat and quiet and called Neil. He works on his laptop, but forced to make an unscheduled change as our journey goes awry, we fall into brief conversation. “What do you do?” he asks. I tell him about fRoots, safe in the unlikely event he’s ever read it. And we return to work.

“Is this it?” he says, turning his laptop towards me. fRoots is on his screen. “You’ve got a column!” [Not for much longer. Ed.]

“Actually, it’s better to get the real magazine,” I say. “It feels nice, it looks nice and people even tell me it smells nice! You don’t get that online! Because, let’s face it Neil, the real thing carries the weight of the truth of the printed word that’s missing on the internet. In the quagmire of the ‘post-truth’ pants that’s posted up, any cretin with a keyboard can and does plaster the ether with shite invective, so the printed world’s devalued. I mean, gone are journalistic practices such as verifying a story. Ethics have drowned in emotional outpouring and abusive claptrap. Look, in a world where any old orange twat can spout bollocks and get his pudgy pinkie-finger on the nuclear button and give his cronies a leg-up to boot, celebrity culture has made morons (if not toast) of us all. It has spewed up Trump as President. We have sunk from class to crass in the White House…”

“Are we nearly there yet?” asks Neil.

I shake my head. “Don’t you think Neil, that where the worst of humanity is celebrated and vindicated as a ‘mass movement’ though it’s typified by a total absence of critical thinking, magazines like fRoots, that celebrate creativity and hope and interconnection and the best of humanity won’t just smell nice, they’ll smell like roses in sewers of shit! Honestly, we really shouldn’t put up with ‘post-truth’. Neil.”

“Oh God, we’re only at Doncaster…”

“Post-truth simply lends a smattering of cod-intellectualisation to a world where blatant stupidity has met with cynical manipulation and we’re all caught up in its deathly embrace. There is truth. Neil, it exists! We mustn’t forget how to find it. Or how to speak it, write it and fight for it. We mustn’t accept anyone telling lies and just shrugging. ‘So what?’ Lies do not become true because people believe them, Neil, people are just believing lies.”

“Oh,” says Neil, “if only you could have sung all this with wit and lovely harmonies and woven a story to reveal the facts as the music itself rings with the truth of human interconnection. It would be the opposite to the stories that spin lies, poncing about as truth as they peddle fear, feed hate and demean us all.”

Actually Neil didn’t say this and I ­didn’t rant at him. But let’s wake up and smell the copy.

Elizabeth Kinder


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