(This post title may not make any actual sense and it’s not even true, but I couldn’t resist the Twilight Zone reference.)
Well? Are we all snobs?
We cry about the sad state of classical music today — the lack of young people, the poorly attended concerts, the prevalence of pop on the speakers wherever we go. But… is there a bad little part of us that enjoys it?
A part of us that says, you are one of the few that knows and loves classical music, and you are special. You care about Art. You have unusual, sophisticated taste, and you can live in a musical world most can’t access. You know more than just Beethoven’s Fifth, and not just a bit more, a lot more. You’re a fan of big important composers and big important pieces that are secret from the rest of the world, and you don’t just recognize them the moment they hit your ears; you can analyze them for meaning and musicality. You love classical music, you understand classical music, it takes you places others can never go — and that makes you a member of a very exclusive club.
Do you have that little part of you? Because I do.
I think the problem (among others) is people don’t feel they have time to listen to something so lengthy and involved. Kind of the same problems with getting people to read a book. I’m not always “wanting” to read, but when I do start to, I become interested, so, perhaps it works the same way with compositional music.
It’s a lot easier to get kids into it. That’s when I was hooked.
And do you feel like a member of the elite? 😀
There is definitely a snob factor — and unfortunately, the recent laughable “attempts” to make classical music more “relevant” seem the worst. I know, let’s move concerts out of city concert halls and into chi-chi super-expensive trendy clubs so I can sit next to trendoids with summer homes and not average slobs who took the bus to get there!
Some of my favorite musicians are people who are saying eff-you to those boundaries and moving classical music onto instruments played by “the masses,” working-class schlubs who may feel more of an affinity for secondhand Fenders than clarinets. And they are still playing classical music — improvving bass lines to the “Badinerie,” messing with the canon, etc. One of my favorite violinists (Rachel Barton Pine) is on YouTube playing Metallica on her Guarnerius. Mark Wood gave the Bach Double the metal treatment on an electric violin, and it’s magnificent. Let’s face it, Bach is no more out of place there than on a modern grand piano.
I was born and raised very, very blue-collar in a family that was nuts for classical music and opera, so the Snob Factor never sat well with me. I’ve often gotten the feeling that, despite being in a family where the Victor Book of the Opera was treated like the bible, I’m less welcome or some sort of “outsider” because I’m also from a family where my father never once bought a new car during my lifetime. Van Halen was as important a part of my life as Beethoven as a result, so I dislike polarizing them and feeling as if, now that I’m one of the Better Sort due to my career, I’m supposed to disavow my former life as a prole by disavowing its music.
So I was also hooked on classical/opera as a kid, but I don’t connect that to holding anyone in contempt. There’s shite music out there, true — but there’s all sorts of shite music. The Spice Girls are shite, but IMO so is John Cage. It’s just that Cage’s fans mostly drive German cars while the SG’s fans take the train.
Lotta rambling there … It’s a big subject.
On the contrary, I love it when I get such thorough commentary! And I love that you grew up with a balanced exposure to both popular and classical music — I think that’s unusual.
I didn’t realize how unusual it was. My dad was the opera nut in the house, and he loved Sam Cooke, Cass Elliot, and Art Garfunkel as well. Any good voice, and he was there. I ended up not that interested in a lot of 70s rock until the 80s bands started taking voices seriously. I still remember hearing Journey for the first time and thinking, “Oh! Okay, they’re good! That one can sing!” 🙂
My mom has told me a story about my dad from before I was born where he and she were over my dad’s parents’ house watching TV when the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show. My dad was a married guy with kids at that point, but while everyone else in the room was making fun of the hair and the screaming girls, there was my blue-collar repairman dad going, “No, listen — they’re good!”
Sometimes I think it came from my family being Italian. For us, opera and classical music was ours, the music of the working class. I didn’t know until I was older that people thought of it as music for rich people in monocles and tuxedos. It still doesn’t sit right with me. Opera and classical for me is a bunch of stonemasons and seamstresses who can’t read English sitting around the dinner table singing the quartet from “Rigoletto” over the dinner dishes.
Classical as the music of the working class — I adore this. I want this to become a part of our culture again NOW.
I wonder — and I hope I do not offend with this suggestion — do families who are strongly of a single culture (as you identify your family as Italian, for example) more likely to listen to and enjoy classical music?
Dunno — for us it was easy because it was the language my elder relatives spoke, so opera was a natural fit, and I think that was the shoehorn into classical music. The overtures and things …
The old opera composers all used to travel through southern Italy to “get inspiration” all the time — meaning they’d go on vacation down south, listen to what the paesans were singing to themselves in the fields that year, and it would show up on the stage in Venice a season later. 🙂 So I think most of my ancestors just liked opera because they’d been singing it before the opera singers were.
Yeah, maybe the whole snobbiness thing should just take a hike already. Most, if not all of the composers were peasants to begin with weren’t they? So why can’t we just take that out of the equation?
BTW, Cage’s music isn’t all shit[e]! 🙂
(Love the prepared piano pieces)
I think associating “I Sing The Body Electric” with the Twilight Zone episode and not the original Whitman poem severely limits any claim to snobbery this post might have.
Sweet, hecklers! I’ve arrived! 😉
I’m afraid I’m a fan of very few poets that aren’t T. S. Eliot. Besides, The Twilight Zone is a classic. 😀
I thought it was one of the songs from “Fame” the movie. What do I know?
Neither of you hit the Bradbury story that the TZ ep is based on. 🙂
That’s ’cause I’m a Heinlein girl! 😉
It’s based on Bradbury AND Whitman? People must have liked more literature back in the day.