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January 31, 2003

Free Reads -- The Economist on Classical Music

Friedrich --

An unnamed writer in The Economist delivers a helpful review of Julian Johnson's new book, "Who Needs Classical Music?" Sample passage:

For Mr Johnson, mainstream culture has become saturated with the youth values of immediacy and novelty. Geared to commodities and advertising, it dismisses the more deliberate and complex responses which classical music requires as outmoded, unsellable and elitist.

The piece is readable here.



posted by Michael at January 31, 2003


Forgive me for not reading the piece, but the first sentence rather turned me off:

"For Mr Johnson, mainstream culture has become saturated with the youth values of immediacy and novelty."

I'm fairly certain that this exact thing has been said for literally thousands of years. There are references to it at least as far back as ancient Greek texts (which we consider a relatively unchanging culture). They probably said it of Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, Goethe, and so on up the line.

Also, it seems to me that "classical music" was, in its own time, nothing but elitist. Why didn't the hoi polloi listen to more Mozart when it was contemporary? Well, they didn't have access, for one thing. But the heretical thought to classical afficionados is that--just maybe, they wouldn't have cared if they had (adjusting the skew for the novelty of musical performance, of course). In that light, it is hardly lamentable that the masses still don't listen to it...


Posted by: Euphrosyne on February 3, 2003 6:17 PM

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