3/26/08

1/3 Review, 2/3 Farting on the Page with Words*

Here’s a classy title, too.

ELITISM IS DEAD

And an even classier epanalepsis.

Long live classical-music elitism

If Wikipedia is right, this cliché (appropriated from “the King is dead; long live the King!”) refers to the replacement or succession of one type of elitism with classical music elitism. Good premise for a review, don’t you think?

Recently the musical world has been discussing the impending death of classical music.

Oh good. Another cliché.

This chatter, often led by lovers of the genre, may in fact be hastening the demise, as various writers attempt to conjure up reasons classical music must exist.

(silent repulsion)

We, as a society, desire high art, whether we acknowledge it or not.

I have good bumper sticker idea. How about: Stop Making Generalizations About My Driving!**

I think it could be successful, like “Kerry/Edwards ‘04.”

Just look at the success of shows like Bravo’s Project Runway or Top Chef, which focus on extraordinarily talented artists competing to be the best before a panel of sophisticated judges.

This is not a successful pop culture reference. But go on, make your point.

These reality programs deliver to millions of Americans an accessible version of high art — and it’s working.

Pandering to an audience. Free market. Good point. I’ll think about it next time I pen a symphony.

Recently, the Norman Lear Center conducted a survey on the correlation between political party and entertainment.

Recently, I referenced a study that had little or no importance, too.

It was found that “all political types claimed they enjoy classical music”...

People enjoying music? How interesting. Political types, sure. What about income levels? No? No. Go on.

...and “classical music nudged ahead of rock as the most popular genre overall.”

The problem? Is classical music more popular than popular music? Good study. And good reference to show how elitism has been replaced by classical music elitism.

And now for something completely facetious.

If more Americans listen to classical music than watch football (according to the Lear Center survey), why does Eli Manning make millions of dollars while amazing pianist Ingrid Fliter drew a crowd of fewer than 500 to the Merrill Auditorium February 6?

Cogent rhetorical question (for a paraplegic Hygomenocite from the planet Groc). Wait. It’s not rhetorical? Sigh (that’s the facetious part).

A possible answer: elitism.

Weeeeeee! This is fun isn’t it? I swear, it gets even better.

Since the Baby Boomers condemned classical music as the despised genre of their parents, leaving those who remain fans labeled proprietors of an inaccessible art form incongruent with popular art.

Weeeeeeeeeeeee! Sentence fragment!

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Bumper stickers!

“If it is ‘elitist’ to create works over average people’s heads then why is it alright [sic] to have schools to educate them?” Portsmouth composer Roger Rudenstein asked recently in an essay in the e-zine NewMusicBox.

The disappointing thing here is that I think this was the grundgestalt, the originating idea/impetus, for the tone of the review. It’s neither here nor there, so I’ll leave it alone. But, don’t fret. We’ll return to this later.

There is nothing more elitist than suggesting a genre is over average people’s heads.

An important distinction to be made, Emily Parkhurst of the Phoenix, how big should we make your bumper sticker?

If a composer is composing art for the sake of art and a performer is interpreting that art for an audience there solely to bear witness to that art, elitism is utterly out of place.

I tried to make a reductive outline of this article, and I failed miserably, which is why I’m going sentence fragment by sentence. I apologize.

I mean, elitism is out of place? Where the F did that come from? Should I use a roman numeral or an arabic letter? Should I just make a new outline on a different page with a different pen in a different language?

Once the notes dissolve into the air, it is up to the audience to decide if the music was over their heads. And if many of them agree that it was, possibly the composer missed his mark (or will not be appreciated in his lifetime).

It’s certainly not popular, then, is it? Like popular music or Top Chef.

The rise and fall of Serialism is an example of elitist musicians’ willingness to alienate the very people they need to survive: their audience.

Didn’t you just say that it’s okay to write art music for art’s sake? That it is not elitist?

And by the way, what do you think serialism (not capitalized) is? Is it merely a technique? Or is it more akin to, say, facism? Facism is not populist, like Top Chef.

The casualties of this alienation, like waiters at a bad restaurant, are the musicians on the stage.

As a composer, and in lieu of tactful Top Chef references... I disagree.

New Hampshire pianist Paul Dykstra's new self-released album, An Ivory Winter, includes a number of what Dykstra calls “works that mean a lot to me.” These include Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata, two Chopin works, and an exquisite rendition of a Scarlatti sonata. Dykstra suggests this is “music to drink hot chocolate to,” a fitting description, considering that every work on the album is in a chilling minor key. But Dykstra keeps the metaphor going, showing a little bite: “the tone of this album is more like dark chocolate than milk chocolate.”

Wow, I almost forgot that this was a review.

While most of Dykstra’s dark-chocolate interpretations were smooth, they were disturbed by the bitter taste of the last two tracks: two movements from Roger Rudenstein’s Piano Sonata No. 7, an abrupt and inaccessible composition.

As promised, here we are again, at Roger Rudenstein, the elitist whose words apparently struck a shriveled nerve with our dear incomprehensible reviewer.

Of Rudenstein's method, Dykstra says, “he composes everything in a stream of consciousness. He’s a very intellectual composer who uses a very mechanical process.”

Elitists and intellectuals and processes! Oh My!

Dykstra’s interpretation of this mechanical work is worthy of note and Rudenstein is wise to keep working with him. His fluidity through the difficult atonal passages revealed unmistakable technical prowess.

Yes. Yes. The only way Rudenstein’s elitist music might sound good is if he continues to write for Dykstra. Explitive! Etc.

As I was listening to this piece with a friend...

Oh good God!

As I was listening to this piece with a friend who has little classical-music background, he turned to me and said, ...

“Reviewing is not your calling.” No? Okay.

...he turned to me and said, “I really like classical music, except when I hear something like this.”

Ooh, an informed opinion, something you’re supposed to have, Emily Parkhurst of the Phoenix.

Elitist indeed.

Elitist indeed.

*Literally, 1/3 of this was a review, the other 2/3 a brownish poop smear on the page.

** I have another idea for a bumper sticker: My Other Car is an Elitist POS

7 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

"Of Rudenstein's method, Dykstra says, “he composes everything in a stream of consciousness. He’s a very intellectual composer who uses a very mechanical process.”"

What?

Stream of consciousness is a mechanical process?

What?

It seems to me that stream of consciousness is the complete fucking negation of mechanical process.

To paraphrase, once more:

"Fuck atonal music."

Oh, now I get it.

Aaron said...

"As I was listening to this piece with a friend who has little classical-music background, he turned to me and said, “I really like classical music, except when I hear something like this.”

Hey! This seems like a fun trope.

"I really like music reviews, except when I read something like this."

"I really like television, except when I watch something like this."

"I really like pizza, except when I eat something like this."

Not to rag on her friend, who presumably didn't ask to be part of her review, and also probably didn't expect his or her offhand comment to provide most of the substance of the review.

I think I prefer to think of her friend as one of Tom Friedman's cab-driver "man on the street"-type sources: anonymous, and almost certainly imaginary.

Empiricus said...

I like comments, except when I write them.

harveylemmings said...

It's really cute how two of the three comments on this blog are from the writers of the blog. (Well, I guess with mine, now it's now only two of four. Woot! Only %50!) So ultimately you're commenting on your own article, that in turn is commenting on an article that is commenting on a recording. Thanks for adding yet another layer to that stinky, rotten onion that is the blogosphere. God I love self-published blowhards with too much time on their hands.

Piggy said...

Wow. That felt elitist.

Empiricus said...

God please stay on %topic.

Empiricus said...

Not you, piggy, you're fine.