Friday, February 8, 2008

The shocking secrets of classical music fans

No, not me. The NYTimes critics "have decided to reveal some of their secret musical passions: works and performances they listen to for sheer pleasure — but perhaps not loudly when neighbors are around to hear." The implication is that classical music fans also like other music, or at least the line "when they are not listening to timeless classics" implies (that only classical music is a timeless classic is itself unnerving).

So what do we get?

Leroy Anderson. OK, who doesn't love a good pops piece. But this is still not a household name, although Sleigh Ride probably is. I do love pops concerts, and think there's a fine art to letting go like that.

Federico Mompou. Apparently, these are "tiny unassuming piano pieces." How is this different from some of Chopin or Schubert? Who knows. But it's Spanish, and obscure, and frankly this seems to be flaunting the nature of the question, saying "Look at me! I know obscure classical music that I like even though it's not a brand name!" I don't know the pieces, but it sounds, well, like classical music. (On a side note, I like the emphasis he places on how simple music can be so engaging, a characteristic often lost).

Beecham's version of the Messiah. Again, this flaunt's the author's knowledge of preferring historically informed performances. And again, I like the message, that many interpretations can be valid and enjoyable without being technically "correct." But is that the best we can do.

Simone Kermes. A soprano.

So, what does this article say? Well, it says several things. It says that classical music is not just a single entity, but a complex aggregate of different interpretations. It speaks quite well for listening to different approaches openly and with awareness, and about what we often undervalue in music--emotion, simplicity, and the act of pleasure. But it also reaffirms something, that classical music is off in its own separate world, that its interests run counter to other musics. But if the article is going to preach individualist interpretation, pleasure, and emotion, how can you still make that claim while completely disavowing other forms of music that rely on the very same idea? If Leroy Anderson is the closest (and apparently most humiliating) you'll come to begrudgingly acknowledging "lesser" forms of music, then we've got ourselves a problem.

Also check out the audio sample of the "Fourth" Symphony. Yeah, if we're going to be elitist, let's at least get it right.


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