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A post to Internet Monk December 2, 2019


Big Big Train, a progressive rock band from England, recently produced their twelfth studio album The Grand Tour. I have been a fan of Big Big Train since their The Underfall Yard in 2009. The song “Victorian Brickwork” is a masterpiece of autumnal beauty, perfectly suited for this time of year.

What I find intriguing about Big Big Train is their unapologetically positive stance towards the achievements of European civilization. English Electric was a paean to the Industrial Revolution and the sweat of working men [mostly] that made it possible. The Grand Tour opens the horizons to include England-As-Part-Of-Europe and the achievements of Continental art and science, from the mosaics of Theodora and Justinian in Ravenna, to the sketchbooks of Da Vinci in Florence, to a production of “The Tempest” translated into Hungarian (I think).

No caveats. No side-spectrum apologies for colonialism or environmental decay. Yet, there was nothing overtly triumphalistic about their music. It was as though they had issued their CDs in response to a question I asked here years ago, and to which I never received a satisfactory response:

Do White people get to bring anything to the Diversity Party apart from contrition?

Big Big Train would be a good place to start.

Now, the reason I mention the racial/cultural element is that it appears that what you guys find ‘celestial’ and ‘transcendent’ is the same sort of material that I do; Gregorian chant, Palestrina, Tallis’ Spem In Alium, Arvo Pärt – pretty White material actually. Now, I love Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, but ” ‘Round Midnight” lights up a different part of my sensorium than do Tchaikovsky’s “Hymn of the Seraphim” or de Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium”.