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If Mozart and Wagner and Puccini and Respighi are “dead art,” I would suggest we’ve forgotten how to properly live. In an age of brainless media that celebrates victims, some of us actually seem to believe that we are the victims of a Eurocentric musical repertoire iconographic of phallocentric imperialism and repression. As if there’s some sort of cultural conspiracy out to get us! (We can only wonder where Oliver Stone stands on this.)

What should be important to us is content and whether or not that content speaks to us. Back, per favore, to opera. The great works of the operatic repertoire—these investigations, through words and music, of the human condition—are as relevant and “classic” as the IliadCanterbury TalesKing Lear, Tom Jones (the book, not the singer), Catcher in the Rye and Gravity’s Rainbow, and are certainly more relevant than much (if not most) of the pap that passes for contemporary popular culture.

Might I be so incorrect as to suggest that their oppressive sins notwithstanding, when it comes to the arts I’m grateful to the aristocratic and clerical classes of Europe. Without them much of the greatest visual art, music, literature, and architecture would simply not have been created. These people of wealth had the time, they had the resources, and they had the vision—for whatever selfish reasons—to finance the work of great artists. I only wish our financial aristocracy today were one-tenth as interested in our contemporary arts; there would be no “crisis-in-the-arts” as we know it today, and the pluralism that is central to our global culture would help to insure that our new art would become the province of the many, not just the few.

Great opera—great art—no matter when it was created, is not elitist entertainment. It is for all of us, each and every one.—Excerpted from “Music History Monday: A Decidedly Politically-Incorrect Rant.”

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3 replies to this post
  1. Classical music may be in straitened situations now but it will never leave us, there are enough loyalists and then some to keep this wonderful art alive.

  2. If public schools simply taught less on sexual deviance and replaced that time with introducing students to ‘great music’ just think about the life long benefit for society.

  3. Opera and Classical music are not the only worthwhile musical genres that are suffering, so to is Jazz. For those who don’t think that Jazz is worthy of comparison, they should learn that in some of the earlier days in Jazz, Classical and Jazz musicians use to hang out together and they learned a great deal from each other. There was a tremendous amount of respect many Classical musicians had for their Jazz counterparts and there was even collaboration between them.

    Certainly some of the interests in both Classical and Jazz aren’t considered relevant today because of how they depict the same issues that are shared by today and the past. But some of the lack of interest in these great forms of music is due to the emergence of new genres of music. When Rock and Country music became dominant, they did so because they were more accessible to people than Classical or Jazz were. We should realize that it is far easier to start up garage bands than it is to start up garage symphony orchestras, garage big bands, or garage quartets that incorporate polyrhythms, utilize a significant number of chord substitutions or experiment in polytonal music. And though mass acceptance of a new music genre because its accessibility should be understandable at the beginning of any new genre’s start, the resistance to and failure for a new music genre to become complex shows a resistance to maturity. And the desire to remain immature shows a utopian desire to view reality as being simple as possible.

    Unlike Greenberg, I don’t think that today’s rejection of some of the West’s greatest music from the past is due to some Post Modern reaction to Europe’s past sins. I believe that the reason for the rejection of Opera and Classical music, and I would include Jazz, has everything to do with our society’s immaturity seen in the failure to move from easily accessible music to that which is complex.

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