Two recent Charlie Rose interviews are worth your attention. Well, lots of Charlie Rose interviews are worth your attention, but two fit in with recent Inkless obsessions. First, Québécois pianist Alain Lefèvre discusses his fascination for composer André Mathieu, who died young (38, in 1968) and composed younger (he was mostly done writing by the time he was 20). International critics have responded enthusiastically to Mathieu and Lefèvre; Lefèvre struggles a bit with his English but nobody can miss how excited he is to be promoting his homeboy around the world. When he describes how he felt to watch a choir in Tucson learning phonetic French to sing the music of a composer who was forgotten even in Quebec a decade ago, it’s quite a moment.
Then, Robert Gates, Bush’s second defence minister and Obama’s first. When he talks about how the civilian foreign service and international development-assistance capabilities of the U.S. have been “systematically eroded” for 40 years — when he pleads for “the soft side, if you will” of foreign policy — he sounds more like Lloyd Axworthy than like the top man at the Pentagon. And of course there’s some lightly revisionist thinking on Afghanistan. I’m going to get off this Gates kick pretty soon, I suspect; defence secretaries don’t make policy the way presidents do. But this guy’s current thinking is fascinating and, I suspect, will horrify our colleague Mark Steyn.
Charlie Rose may not be a perfect interviewer, but he is pretty darned good, and in a desert he’s like a glass of water. In Canada, Peter Mansbridge, Allan Gregg and Steve Paikin do a good deal of this sort of long-form interview journalism, interviews that in their choice of topic and tone grant the audience the compliment of assuming they’ll be interested in things that are interesting. But I think there’s still room for more long-attention-span television than we’re getting.