a question fielded from my tumblr inbox

What are your thoughts on elitism in the culture surrounding classical music today? And do you think you could be considered an elitist?

Personally, I find it amusing. Anyone with an internet connection and/or a public library card has access to so much music-related paraphernalia; in the form of sheet music with sources like IMSLP, audio like Spotify and public radio, or history and essays in books. The many descendants of the classical tradition saturate our lives through jingles in commercials, television and film scores and even pop songs. It has never in recorded history been more accessible and less “elitist” (something innate to the super wealthy/powerful within the current socioeconomic system) than it is today. Tomorrow will be more so, and then the day after that. Ultimately, I believe this view is sustained by those on both sides of the isle because it is easier than change. Any musicologist can tell you how historically conservative music has been as a field of study/understanding…it will just take time.  Which means you get to decide whether you will be that system at rest or be the external force that acts upon it and affects change…or at the very least a course correction. I suppose that is the ultimate goal of this blog…to help bring attention to the great resources that are out there for classical music and remind people that you don’t need an advanced degree to find happiness in it.

Ironically, classical music doesn’t inherently reward “elitism”. You can’t buy understanding or personal enrichment. It does however pay in spades for insightful, focused and informed research, which I suppose does count as a form of elitism since it is a highly specialized field with its own language and practices.

As to your second question, I can’t say it is something I’ve ever thought about. I do my best to focus on being direct, honest and a good listener. The rest is out of my control.

(P.S. Given your question, you might look into Lawrence Kramer’s 2007 book “Why Classical Music Still Matters”. This isn’t an endorsement of his argument…just something that might bring up new things to think about.)