Two months ago, I wrote the most read and discussed piece on Covered in Beer. Never did I think that my rather basic opinions of a generalized category of music would cause so much discussion. Some people really didn’t read past the title but decided to call me an idiot in the comments anyway. Most, thankfully, read the piece and then engaged in a discussion. Whether they agreed or not, I appreciate their (and your) views on anything I write because the point is to generate debate. “Let Classical Music Die Already” certainly did that.
The piece was inspired by an editorial in my local paper about why Classical music is still valuable and deserving of our public dollars. I took the position that it is not and I’m tired of being told that I’m too stupid to realize its value. I wasn’t arguing that a nuclear bomb should be applied to the genre and it should be vanished from the turntables of hipsters and intellectuals around the globe. But some believed that I was arguing that point. My argument was that the general population can and does decide what it wants to support with its dollars. It is obvious the masses haven’t chosen Classical because people constantly have to remind us how valuable it still is. I’m not going to re-argue that point because I think I did a good job of that in the original piece. I did, however, make some mistakes and generalizations in my argument that need to be corrected.
My main blunder was portraying the Classical music world as not wanting to evolve by coming up with ways to survive. I did mention that the New York Metropolitan Opera created a way to generate money by broadcasting live performances in movie theaters around the world. But they are just one group of many who are actively trying to save the genre. I came across an organization called “Classical Revolution” that is trying to remove the pompous façade that seems to cover Classical by putting on small concerts in bars and less formal venues. The Huffington Post ran a story about the president of the Philadelphia Orchestra who is getting university students to concerts by offering them cheap membership and access to tickets that would have otherwise gone unsold. There are many examples like these that I overlooked. I should have done more research before I portrayed the majority in the Classical community as a bunch of stuffed shirts who are unwilling to change with the times.
I also omitted a few places in pop culture where Classical plays an important and valuable role as was pointed out by a few of the good comments. Classical is still being composed and used in video games and movies quite prominently. I was making a very generalized argument, which I admitted, and overlooked this element of the genre. But again, I was not saying that all music played by orchestras should disappear, so I don’t think this omission devalues my argument.
The purpose of this piece is to be an addendum to “Let Classical…” not a correction of it. I think that I made a convincing argument and I stand behind it. I also feel vindicated by the number of people calling me uneducated and troglodytic because of my opinion. Some of the people commenting decided that a good way to counter my argument is by saying “you’re a big stoopy-head.” I’m glad I struck a chord with these people because it exposed their overall obnoxious opinions of people they disagree with. I don’t say “elitism” because that word is overused and let’s face it, some people are smart and some are dumb; being smart doesn’t make you an elitist. But people aren’t dumb because they dislike a genre of music. Commenter after commenter who didn’t like the title of the piece accused me of dooming the culture because I wanted to wipeout high art. My aim was the opposite. I wanted to save “high art,” as they called it, by suggesting ways it could evolve and quit begging for public money. You can certainly disagree with me, that is fine, but to be offended by my opinion is petty and it showed in the comments.
“I’ll tell you what classical music is, for those of you who don’t know. Classical music is this music that was written by a bunch of dead people a long time ago. And it’s formula music, the same as top forty music is formula music. In order to have a piece be classical, it has to conform to academic standards that were the current norms of that day and age … I think that people are entitled to be amused, and entertained. If they see deviations from this classical norm, it’s probably good for their mental health.”
– Frank Zappa
I agree with Frank. In fact, his work is a good example of the diversity of opinions music generates. There are some Zappa songs that I hate and there are some that I think are brilliant. I could argue that he was horrible by using the songs I hate and I could argue he was a genius by using the songs I like. The same goes for Classical. Music is a matter of personal taste, as you know. The term “pop” denotes popular, not a style of music. Classical was once pop, as was classic rock or blues or etc. But Classical is different in that it is the only genre that we are constantly trying to preserve. That is fine if that is what the people want, but my argument is that it isn’t what the people want.
Classical should be celebrated for its staying power and it should be preserved for its history. I am a fan. I think that the composers and producers of it add great value to our society. I think that symphonies provide an important service to the public and should be celebrated for the art they showcase, just not on my dime. An example of the music I love can be found on my “Funk Music Friday” page. I also love reggae, rock, neo-soul, jazz, blues and so on. Like most of you, my tastes in music, like my opinions, are dynamic, not “troglodytic.” If you disagree with my argument, then that is equally human.