The Horn

Contact Me

Receive Email Updates

Classical Exceptionalism ?

  I just discovered a new term in the pointless and futile debate over the relative merits of classical music vs. Pop.  First there was "American Exceptionalism" in political debate, and now apparently,something called "Classical Exceptionalism" exists,too.
   At , there's a debate started by Greg Sandow in which he claims that there's much more freshness and innovation in Pop music than classical . Really? How can you compare these two vastly different kinds of music?  For one thing, the kind of Pop music people listen to today has nasn't been around for centuries,unlike classical music .  Why is it that so many people assume that just because our symphony orchestras and opera companies spend so much time playing music from the past that there must be something wrong with them, and that they are in desperate need of change?
   There's a false dichotomy between old and new music in classical.  Too many people think that our classical music organizations are "stodgy and hidebound" institutions, hopelessly stuck in the past and extremely timid and cautious.  But they fail to realize that a vast and precious legacy of music from the past has been preserved by composers such as Bach,Mozart,Beethoven, Brahms, and so many other great composers . Pop music doesn't have anything remotely close to this,because it hasn't been around for centuries.

   Of course,there have been popular songs all over the world for centuries, but commercial Pop music as such is a realitvely new thing.  Will people centuries from now still be listening to the music of Michael Jackson,Britney Spears,Lady Gaga and other Pop starts ? Who knows? 

   So the person who responded to my comment on Greg's blog defending classical music assumed that I'm a "snob" and "elitist" who believes in what he calls "Classical Exceptionalim".  I responded by saying that I have absolutely nothing against other kinds of music , and that it's fine with me if other people are fans of Pop music. 

   But there has been an enormous amount of innovation in classical music in recent years ;
  people who lived in the past could never have imagined how different the world of classical music today is from the past.  The repertoire is vastly different and has expanded enormously ,despite the lasting popularity of certain works from the past. 

   There is greater diversity of repertoire than ever before ; everything from music by composers who lived 500 or more years ago to the latest works by living composers .  There's much more than music by "Dead White European Males". There's music by LIVING white European males too, and there are more women composers than ever before, and their music is being performed more than you might expect . There are many American composers who are being perforned everywhere.  The conducting profession, previously almost the exclusive domain of white males,particularly European ones , has seen the rise of more women conductors than ever before,as well as many who are neither white or male.

   And classical music   music from countries such as China,South Korea,Japan,  Argentina,  and elsewhere. 
   The classical music world has made use of the latest technology to do things such as bringing performances from the Metropolitan opera to movie theaters all over America and the world,  streaming classical music of all kinds through the internet ,  etc. 

   We don't need "classical exceptionalism " or classical chauvinism of any kind. The classical music world has plenty to be proud of, and it's a magnificent thing.  It's neither superior nor inferior to other kinds of music, just DIFFERENT.  Why can't people just accept it on its own terms, instead of always knocking it?  

   Reverse snobbism against classical music is unfortunately rampant today.  It's perfectly acceptable for people to disparage it and dismiss it as hopelessly outdated and irrelevant, but any one who tries to defend it is automatically accused of being a "snob" and an "elitist".  Talk about a double standard .

Posted: Mar 17 2011, 06:36 PM by the horn | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web