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Thread: Is there a correlation between political orientation and love for classical music?

  1. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeepR View Post
    Music and politics, yuck. Even if it's the composer's intent to make that connection, I still don't want to know about it.
    To be honest, we do have the most peculiar parliament in the whole world.

  2. #122
    Senior Member Whitey's Avatar
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    It's almost inevitable that somebody's mentioned it already, but this subject is covered in Pierre Bourdieu's "Distinction" (1979, I think). The book's about sociology and specifically examines France, but the dynamics he describes aren't dissimilar from the rest of the Western world, and they haven't changed all that much since the time the book was written (obviously the content people consume has changed, but the way art functions in different ways remains the same).

    I'm currently in the process of reading it, but from what I understand so far, Bourdieu is essentially arguing that "high art" is art that has been ascribed more cultural value, and being linked to level of education and social origin, the "cultural capital" attained through its consumption and comprehension is used to distinguish class, as art serves different functions for different factions of society (for example, dance music in clubs is just designed for people to have a good knees-up, whereas consumers of contemporary classical music might be primarily concerned with aesthetic).
    Bourdieu seems to have found that the bourgeoisie were more able to identify classical music with more cultural value ascribed to it (higher initial socio-economic status ensures a more extensive education which grants access to more cultural capital, so naturally somebody who went down this path of education will have seen more exposure to "high art") and were more interested in aesthetic, whereas the working man would have been more familiar with more "light" classical music which may have been less revered in terms of its cultural value (e.g. Blue Danube).

    Anyway, that's my less-than-succinct take on what I've read so far, but it's an interesting topic and so far seems like a great book. It's interesting to see how the same principles apply to contemporary society, given how different the methods people use to consume art now are. With the internet, anybody with a computer can access essentially any kind of art with any kind of aesthetic. Almost anybody can access a piece of art or music on sites like Youtube, divorced from its original context, which means across practically all factions of society, aesthetic (expressed on services like iTunes and Spotify as "genre" I suppose) is the main decider as to whether or not a commodity is desirable to its consumer, rather than being a by-product that develops through its function and means of production, so I'd imagine that currently, taste in art is a little bit less of a clear indicator of cultural capital (with social origin and level of education probably being more reliable indicators - after all, it seems to me like the idea of cultural capital mainly functions to protect the status of the bourgeoisie anyway, so this would make sense to me).

    EDIT: By the way, I understand the initial question was about political orientation, but I don't think political orientation and class are all that separate - obviously it's not so simple as "x" class always has "x" political views, but I think the way people identify what politics they subscribe to is linked with how they understand and identify themselves in terms of their place in society.
    Last edited by Whitey; Jul-29-2017 at 03:50.

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  4. #123
    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    Its a hard subject to really discuss, because there are so many stereotypes. Stereotypes that are likely rooted in some truth, or some historical truth, but that don't apply any more or don't apply here, or are just plain silly.

    Also, I find a lot of people are not being themselves, they are "living up to the stereotype". So often enough you don't get real opinions but kind of the catalog of their "side" of the discussion. So a person who self identifies as politically Alpha, (as opposed to Omega), will often unconsciously take up the tastes in music and culture that are expected of the Alpha stereotype. One feels like he is letting his party down to enjoy the things of the other party.

    Real people, when they are being real, are an unpredictable mish mash of different opinions and experiences, and allegiances, and tastes in music. And I think if you could get at the real data, you would find that the correlation is not very strong.

    And those that aren't being real, or can't be real, of what use is knowing what kind of music they will report they like?
    Last edited by JeffD; Jul-29-2017 at 03:06.
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  5. #124
    Senior Member Whitey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Real people, when they are being real, are an unpredictable mish mash of different opinions and experiences, and allegiances, and tastes in music. And I think if you could get at the real data, you would find that the correlation is not very strong.

    And those that aren't being real, or can't be real, of what use is knowing what kind of music they will report they like?
    I think the question this raises is: what is "being real"? Being honest about your aesthetic preferences? But what if your aesthetic preferences are your preferences because they have particular political or social connotations? If this was the case, wouldn't "living up to the stereotype" (consuming art/commodities a person thinks reflect what they feel is their place in society) be a valid expression?

    I think first and foremost we need to think about what "authenticity" is with regards to taste; is it a pure attraction to aesthetic, uninfluenced by politics or social environment (if that's possible, which I'm not sure it is), or is it the way a person uses the art they consume as a method of self-expression? I agree that people have a highly varied and largely unpredictable taste, but I think what people tell you they like is more interesting than the miscellany they consume, just because I think it's more revealing.
    Last edited by Whitey; Jul-29-2017 at 03:48.

  6. #125
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Is there a political orientation and love of classical music? I haven't noticed one. But I've noticed what I consider conservative tendencies in some listeners who seem to tend toward an adherence to an absolute objective standard of excellence. Not that there isn't some standard of excellence or greatness (such as Mozart for me), but they give the impression there's no subjectivity in their choice of greatness or the evaluation and worth of a so-called definitive recording. (I do not believe the choice is so cut and dried.)

    Those with liberal tendencies seem more inclined to enjoy the subjective value out of everything they hear; that the experience of listening is about the journey and not just about reaching the ultimate goal of finding the reputed-to-be definitive recordings, which even the so-called connoisseurs may still be arguing about, such as who's the definite conductor: Toscanini or Furtwanger? Those highly invested in their point of view seem unwilling to consider that both may have been great for entirely different reasons. There's no middle ground.

    But the attraction to the music itself? I haven't notice any political conservative or liberal bent as a determining factor. Both sides are drawn to it (though still only about 3 percent of the general population who are buying the music).

    Apropos of nothing, I would consider Alfred Brendel a musical conservative (his sense of formality); Ivo Pogorelich a liberal (his highly subjective but fascinating interpretations)!
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jul-29-2017 at 12:42.
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  8. #126
    Senior Member Varick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathisdermaler View Post
    My opinions vary but tend towards conservatism. What I'm not is a "progressive." Ironically, when it comes to music, I am all for progress! I'm against govt. funding of the arts, though. I believe in laws protecting artists, but I think if artists can't get enough support on their own then the govt. must let them fail. It would be an injustice to do otherwise. I love Wagner, but why should anyone have to fund my local opera house?

    Ultimately I feel like truly great artists will find a way to make their art whether or not they receive funding, no matter their circumstances, as long as they are legally free to do so (and not otherwise oppressed). How many more Van Gogh's would there be if everyone received a UBI? I'm skeptical.
    This does go off the subject a bit, but I will comment anyway. I am pretty solidly conservative by today's standards (a "classic" John F. Kennedy "liberal" if you will) and I too am against a lot of gov't/public funding when it comes to enterprise. Philosophically, I agree with the idea if an artist can't get enough support on their own, then gov't should let them fail. I was (and am still) against gov't bail outs for the automakers and many banks here in the US some years ago.

    However, like in everything, there are exceptions. I was actually for the bail out of AIG only because MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of people's entire retirement savings were invested in that company. I couldn't even imagine the tragedy of all those people, many who were only a few years from retiring, and having invested for DECADES, having nothing after that.

    When it comes to art, I am conflicted. I do believe that art is almost as important to be educated in as the three "R's": Reading, Riting, & Rithmatic. I also believe that tragically, we are in our 3rd (maybe 4th) generation who have never been properly educated on "great" art here in the US. Which is why classical music for most people are those rare clips one hears on a commercial now and then or a certain scene in a movie. Which is why one can graduate with a degree in English without having read a single work of Shakespeare in the University of California system. I find this not only tragic, but to a lesser degree, somewhat dangerous.

    So I guess when it comes to public education (which I think slashing funding at least 50% would be a good start to eventually dismantle the Dep't of Education, but that's not going to happen, so for now...), I am for having art courses. When it comes to professional art, this is where I am sometimes a contradiction. I believe if Karen Finley wants to smear herself in chocolate and yell out profanity she should ask Hershey's for a sponsorship, not the US tax payers. On the other hand, to see a place like Carnegie Hall forever close it's doors due to lack of money, it would break my heart and devastate me.

    V
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

  9. #127
    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitey View Post
    I think first and foremost we need to think about what "authenticity" is with regards to taste; is it a pure attraction to aesthetic, uninfluenced by politics or social environment (if that's possible, which I'm not sure it is), or is it the way a person uses the art they consume as a method of self-expression? I agree that people have a highly varied and largely unpredictable taste, but I think what people tell you they like is more interesting than the miscellany they consume, just because I think it's more revealing.
    Well I am trying to distinguish between someone who has a real interest in a particular kind of music, on the one hand, and someone who wants to be identified as having an interest in a particular kind of music, but actually doesn't, or more likely, likes any kind of music well enough to "adopt" the tastes of those from whom he seeks acceptance.

    I have experience being both kinds of people, at different times in my life.

    I agree that what people tell you says a lot, and often what someone wants you to think they are is as revealing as what they really are. Certainly its more interesting.
    Last edited by JeffD; Aug-07-2017 at 22:07.
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  11. #128
    Senior Member Varick's Avatar
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    I applaud you JeffD. That last post makes a great point and great personal insight. Well played!

    V
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

  12. #129
    Senior Member Whitey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Well I am trying to distinguish between someone who has a real interest in a particular kind of music, on the one hand, and someone who wants to be identified as having an interest in a particular kind of music, but actually doesn't, or more likely, likes any kind of music well enough to "adopt" the tastes of those from whom he seeks acceptance.

    I have experience being both kinds of people, at different times in my life.

    I agree that what people tell you says a lot, and often what someone wants you to think they are is as revealing as what they really are. Certainly its more interesting.
    This sounds reasonable and I don't disagree necessarily, but I find the phrase "real interest" a controversial one. I think I know what you mean by it; a natural tendency toward something, as opposed to the broadcasted consumption of something for the purpose of contriving an image. But the art people read and their method of reading it is something which on a fundamental level reinforces their perception of self and continues to inform it, and so I think what drives a person's behaviour in private and what drives their behaviour in public are essentially the same thing - the only difference being that some people derive their identity more from how others perceive them and focus more on cultivating an image for that reason (which in my opinion makes dissatisfaction inevitable, but that's a different argument). Since no judgement or taste comes from a pure, inherent love for something (since we're all products of our environment), it's difficult to really determine what qualifies as a "real interest" vs a "false" cultivation of image - at least in my opinion!

  13. #130
    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitey View Post
    that some people derive their identity more from how others perceive them and focus more on cultivating an image for that reason
    Its the example that shows the two categories are not mutually exclusive. The person who genuinely is a chameleon. The person whose very self perception is nothing more than what ever it takes to be accepted by whom ever happens to be there at the moment. And I would like to say there is no there, there. There is no person there. But obviously that's not true.

    And the argument can be made that we are all socially determined to some extent if not totally. I am not comfortable with it but I can really follow the argument - our internal voice comes from our external voice, we think in a language, and the language is created out of social interaction.

    The counter argument I have made, and it is admittedly not rigorous, is that through education we become ourselves. That education is this structured exposure, through reading etc., we "interact" with what is (hopefully) best and most useful in all of time, and get exposed to contradictions and unexpected thoughts, and develop a "self" that can critically assess the world and is less beholden to the mob.

    This is relevant because IMO the strength to enjoy a minority music, such as classical, comes with education. And, perhaps classical music itself requires some education to appreciate. My point is that the correlation of musical taste is less likely to be political, or class per se, but more along the lines of education.

    Only highly educated smart people like classical music, as we all know.
    Last edited by JeffD; Aug-08-2017 at 16:10.
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  14. #131
    Senior Member Whitey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The counter argument I have made, and it is admittedly not rigorous, is that through education we become ourselves. That education is this structured exposure, through reading etc., we "interact" with what is (hopefully) best and most useful in all of time, and get exposed to contradictions and unexpected thoughts, and develop a "self" that can critically assess the world and is less beholden to the mob.

    This is relevant because IMO the strength to enjoy a minority music, such as classical, comes with education. And, perhaps classical music itself requires some education to appreciate. My point is that the correlation of musical taste is less likely to be political, or class per se, but more along the lines of education.

    Only highly educated smart people like classical music, as we all know.
    That's precisely why I think there is a political correlation - as Bourdieu acknowledges in "Distinction", social origin is linked to level of education, because it enables level of education. Cultural capital, in its essence, is currency within a system which decides who is allowed to have access to more resources and who has access to fewer. Those who possess more cultural capital are granted access to more resources. To make the judgement that some things are more worthwhile than others ("best and most useful of all time") I think is an excessively positivist approach, in that it assumes that some things have inherent worth that can be measured. I instead would argue that through experience, rather than education, we become ourselves; we are a product of our environment (which we experience subjectively, so different things are "useful" to different people). And our environment, socially at least, is always going to be a political product. Thus, all art by its nature is political whether or not it is consciously (because all expression is political, being a response to environment), and the way we choose to consume art will invariably have a political function, consciously or not. Aesthetic is a product, rather than a goal, and when a particular aesthetic is a person's goal, the real goal is to communicate an idea, even if that idea is something as abstract as just an experience. With aesthetic being merely a by-product of expression, I find it difficult to believe that any enjoyment or expression of art is uncorrupted by politics.

  15. #132
    Senior Member JeffD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitey View Post
    Aesthetic is a product, rather than a goal, and when a particular aesthetic is a person's goal, the real goal is to communicate an idea, even if that idea is something as abstract as just an experience. With aesthetic being merely a by-product of expression, I find it difficult to believe that any enjoyment or expression of art is uncorrupted by politics.
    I think I agree more than I disagree. But I think it misses the point, which is a correlation between one's political position on the traditionally held axis, and the type of music one really enjoys.

    So I would agree that, if someone takes politics seriously, one's politics are a reflection of and also impact on one's personally held beliefs, about the world and everything in it, and likely has impact on musical choices.

    But I argue that there is no coherent objective connections between political positions and specific musical choices. A person who is alpha might be driven to like classical music because of this and this belief and what it means to them, and a person who is omega, having completely "opposite" beliefs and interpretations of what music means, might also be driven to like classical music. They would have completely different explanations for why, but end up liking the same music.

    And so on throughout the continuum of political beliefs, such that there would be no correlation between political position and musical taste.


    As an aside - In my experience paying attention to politics, (my knowledge limited entirely to the US), I don't find as strong a correlation as one would believe listening to the pundits, between socio-economic level and political position, or even religious orientation and political position. There is more of a correlation with race, but to tell you my personal experience is that there are so many exceptions to the racial-political assignments of "conventional wisdom" that I find a cognitive dissonance when hearing "experts" talk about it.
    Last edited by JeffD; Aug-09-2017 at 01:09.
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  16. #133
    Senior Member Whitey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    And so on throughout the continuum of political beliefs, such that there would be no correlation between political position and musical taste.


    As an aside - In my experience paying attention to politics, (my knowledge limited entirely to the US), I don't find as strong a correlation as one would believe listening to the pundits, between socio-economic level and political position, or even religious orientation and political position. There is more of a correlation with race, but to tell you my personal experience is that there are so many exceptions to the racial-political assignments of "conventional wisdom" that I find a cognitive dissonance when hearing "experts" talk about it.
    I think there's no doubt that different people are capable of finding merit and appeal in different facets of the same thing. I think the argument is complicated by factors like the internet, which essentially allow you to access anything you like. And so the argument could be made that it's the way a person reads art which is connected to political inclination, as opposed to aesthetically what art they are drawn to (because with services like Youtube, anybody of almost any social origin and/or level of education have access to the same styles of art). Maybe that changes the original question a little bit - but then I also think politics aren't quite as straightforward as the traditional left/right liberal/conservative dichotomies, so inevitably there's bound to be no clear correlation, like Labour-voters preferring John Cage. So I definitely agree with you on that.

    I suppose in this discussion I've found myself more interested in the socio-economic factors which expose people to certain ways of thinking, and how that affecs their interpretation of art, as I think it's more pertinent than how a person aligns politically (again, maybe in that sense I've gone off on a tangent from the original question - but again, I think that was always a bit reductionist and begged for this kind of debate from the beginning). As you point out, sometimes people of certain backgrounds don't lean the way you'd think (here in the UK there are a lot of working-class people who are led by many factors into supporting people who actually threaten their interests and what's left of their scant wealth - this is done through scapegoating benefits claimants and immigrants, through journalism biased against the opposition party, etc) - but whilst their beliefs might not be what you expect, they're still a product of their social origin and level of education (little capacity for critical thought makes a person more susceptible to manipulation and exploitation), as is the way they approach art.

    I suppose in short: I agree there is no clear and direct correlation between political position and taste in aesthetic. Rather, I think that political and socio-economic factors are fundamental to how a person or group approaches art, and how through this a preference for a particular aesthetic might arise (so yeah, I've drifted into correlation between class and art - different question I suppose)

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  18. #134
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    Regarding the OP, I think it is tentatively possible to say that there is a correlation between the two. Statistically, in the UK at least, it has been shown that the older one gets the more likely one is to be right wing in one's political leanings. And of course therefore, the younger one is, the more likely one is to be left wing. Similarly, I think it is generally accepted that classical music enjoyment tends to be an older person's pleasure (you only have to see all the grey hair at concerts). So that surely indicates a positive correlation between the two?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogen View Post
    Regarding the OP, I think it is tentatively possible to say that there is a correlation between the two. Statistically, in the UK at least, it has been shown that the older one gets the more likely one is to be right wing in one's political leanings. And of course therefore, the younger one is, the more likely one is to be left wing. Similarly, I think it is generally accepted that classical music enjoyment tends to be an older person's pleasure (you only have to see all the grey hair at concerts). So that surely indicates a positive correlation between the two?
    Not if the older people who enjoy classical music (or the arts in general) tend to be more liberal than those who don't.

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