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Leavis founded Scrutiny for literary purposes (as well as perhaps self-promotion), but it is amazing to find how much musical criticism Wilfrid Mellers provided. Clearly music was viewed on a level with poetry and literature as a fit study of investigation and criticism for cultural purposes. This seems to me a remarkable attitude. Further, I find it continuing to influence Wilfrid Mellers' subsequent writings up to today. In a word, music matters.

From one point of view it means that if we wish to know about human life we may turn to music in the same way we turn to poetry, literature or philosophy. From music we may learn significant truths that help us understand life and live more fully. This is a very important concept that deserves careful consideration.

On the other hand, the study of music should not be in some kind of vacuum. Music is what is heard and this may mean -- Heaven forbid! -- popular music as well. It comes as no surprise then that many years later Wilfrid Mellers wrote one of the first (if not the very first) studies of The Beatles -- and took quite a bit of flack for it. But people were listening to something, they called it music and Mellers felt we had better do something about understanding it. He is still regarded highly by those in the field of academic study of popular culture. In the Scrutiny years he also turned his attention to popular music.

Mellers, who graduated with a double major (as we would say in North America) in literature and music, did so at his father's insistence. During the Scrutiny years Mellers wrote extensively on poets, authors as well as music. He was not afraid of his subject and not dismayed by reputation. Consider his description of Hemingway as a 'Hollywooden Hero', a phrase which is beautiful and apt.

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Copyright © 24 April 2004 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


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