Class Warfare

Well, music isn't music. It depends on class, apparently. Yes, this is a "classical" music blog, mostly, but I don't put up with condescension. It's my least favorite thing ever. Well, perhaps except for cancer, or something.

Olin Chism of the Dallas Morning News reviews the:

Voces Intimae opens season with salute to 1938

The season-opening program of Voces Intimae was so varied that you might be hard put to think of a theme linking all the works performed.

I've really, really never understood the urge to link works in a program. What's the point? You go to a concert, hear some music, and go home. Who cares if it's Webern and Machaut (although you could make an argument about math or something, but why?).

There was one, though: the year 1938. Each of the works was composed then, published then, or written by a composer born in that year.

Wow. That is a tenuous connection. Who cares? What's the point? Oh, crud, I just repeated myself. Does that make a connection between my last two paragraphs (for no discernible reason)?

Voces Intimae specializes in art song, but it is by no means exclusive in its definition of the form.

That is a very confusing sentence. I get the gist, but...really?

The composers in the Sunday-night concert at Grace United Methodist Church included Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, and the lyricists included Bob Dylan

Okay, so there was some non-traditional "classical" music mixed in. Go on.

Vocalists Angela Turner Wilson, Rebecca Winston, Virginia Dupuy and Brooke Clark Gibson; pianists Shields-Collins Bray and Mark Stamper; and clarinetist Brent Buemi performed.

I still don't understand the semicolons, but whatever.

Although the music of the program's first two segments was by classical composers with distinguished credentials, it was a clear demonstration that music from lower on the social scale can have an impact.

Wow. I mean, wow. Who knew that "lower" music could "have an impact"? Class warfare much? Jesus. If anyone reading this thinks Duke Ellington was "not a composer" because he wrote "Jazz" music, well, um, I don't like you. That was the nicest thing I could think of to say.

See this. (sorry, couldn't embed video.)


This included three of William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs. "Over the Piano" is a bluesy song about closing time, and "Lady Luck" is about a shady lady who keeps her pride even when she's kicked out. "George" is a weird story-in-song about a cross-dresser who prefers to be called Georgia and entertains customers with operatic soprano arias. But then he's stabbed to death by an offended customer in the middle of an aria from Madame Butterfly. He has a nice funeral, though, and you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

You don't know whether to laugh or cry. (That was the cleverist thing I could think of.)

Dallas composer Simon Sargon's three Patterns in Blue explore a similar down-and-maybe-out world, but without the weirdness. I particularly liked the music of "Lonesome Boys Blues," though the text was a little obscure.

I have no idea who that is, so I'm taking your word on this one, Chism. However, what does "the text was a little obscure" mean? You were unable to make it out from the singing? Or you didn't get it?

The heaviest portion of the program was John Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan, especially the ferocity of "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Masters of War." Other composers represented were Henry Cowell, Samuel Barber and David del Tridici

I happen to know that Corigliano admitted he'd never heard any Dylan when he set the lyrics for his art songs. Also, I'd love to hear about the Cowell and del Tridici. No? Crap.

All of Sunday night's performers were impressive musical dramatists, though a pop fan might feel they were too well trained for the Arlen-Porter-Ellington part of the program.

Ah, there's the rub, as that one guy once wrote. Too well trained (well-trained?)? WTF? That is some bullshit right there. Goddammit. Go ask fucking Robert Fripp who's too "well trained".

Again, on this site we focus on "classical" music, but I can't bear condescension towards other genres. Music is music, people. This classist shit has got to stop.


Empiricus said...

That's what I often have trouble with in, say, a history class, or maybe musicology. We tend to say "art" when speaking of something that exists for its own sake, not for a function (e.g. a procession). But, I'd throw a water balloon at you, filled with a concoction of habaneros and Listerine, if you suggest that commercial music (has the function of making money in some cases), which might also be intended for dancing, can't be art. Just doesn't follow.

And before I get a heap of FUs, most of us understand this, which is why this particular article, or any of the same ilk, bug me.

BTW Sator, "much" much?

Sator Arepo said...

Yeah, I probably need to cut down on the "much". Bad habit, overused idiom.

Habaneros and Listerine? Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

But it's not even a question of art vs non-art, it's simpler and much nastier than that - it's suggesting that pop music lacks "impact" because it is made by people who aren't "well trained". What's more, the discernment of "pop fans" is called into question (they might prefer less "well trained" musicians), and the whole thing is tied up to people "lower down the social scale". In other words: the less well-off lack taste, judgment and talent, and make do with poor quality entertainment because they don't know better; but they can be cute sometimes. Aren't the rest of us lucky.


Sator Arepo said...

Precisely. I perhaps should have been more clear; my indignation occasionally clouds my prose. Well said, sir.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think there might be a point somewhere here in this article. We go to school to exercise our minds to make our minds work better than those who do not exercise their minds. The mind after all, is merely a physical part of the body, right? And some people use theirs better than others, right? The fact that Dante is clearly better with words than Dylan is known by people who understand Dante and Dylan. Just because Dylan has a somewhat larger appeal for being the Snoop Dogg of his time doesn't necessarily validate his work as "great art."

I'm just saying this 'cause I like all the composers on this concert ('cept the one I don't know), and write and play in all these styles. It would be intellectually dishonest to say that every pen stroke put on staff paper is equally as valuable as another simply because it is. Regardless how distasteful the idea of "class" is, it certainly exists, and life certainly operates around it. When one's playing a pop transcription and the vii7 diminished chord in d minor is spelled with a D-flat, one becomes aware in a difference in understanding AND perception.

But nevertheless I get your points. Wasn't that a fun concert program though?