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turning people off to music

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I've often heard classical music fans worry that not enough people like our music. Classical music is dying, only old people go to concerts, etc....

I've become convinced that at least some of this is wishful thinking. A lot of us wish to be the only people who like classical music. We hope to distinguish ourselves by our good taste from the rubes around us. We hope younger generations won't listen to the music so that we can be more elite, relative to them.

We discourage people new to classical music or unfamiliar with it from enjoying it by acting like they'll never be good enough. They like Beethoven; we scorn them. They like Varèse or Schoenberg; we scorn them. They don't like Varèse or Schoenberg; we scorn them. The like Alkan; we scorn them. Haven't heard Mompou yet; we scorn them. No matter what they do, they are met with unremitting scorn. They have no hope of ever being accepted. They ought to just give up.

Our sub- or semi-conscious goal is to make them give up. Our goal is to make ourselves ever more elite. We scorn each other for not knowing whatever--French Baroque opera, Stockhausen, Stamitz, the output of CPO or Chandos. We scorn each other for having relatively pedestrian tastes: enjoying DG (especially, God forbid, Karajan), enjoying Chopin, enjoying the waltzes of Johann Strauss, Jr. We scorn each other for not having studied composition, for not being music majors, for not being performers. We would probably scorn each other for having unsymmetrical feet, if only we could find a way to pretend it were relevant to music.

Our behavior is repulsive. Were we treated according to our deserts, who should escape whipping? I hope there is a just and vengeful God.
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  1. Vesteralen's Avatar
    I feel your pain, science.

    Your blog is what led me to my last post on your thread. I really think it's not so much malice as it is the desire to show off that leads people to be so ill-mannered.

    I guess there's no way to be sure to what degree people are alienated from classical music by this behavior, and how many are just alienated from the site.
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  2. science's Avatar
    You're right on both points. I should've distinguished between showing-off and malice.

    I'm not actually sure how many people are or have been alienated from this particular site. I've seen it happen, though, on other sites. A curious newcomer shows up, with whatever particular set of enthusiasms and of course a huge lot of music yet unexplored; he starts getting subtly insulted by oldtimers who intend to imply that as a newcomer he doesn't have a right to his opinions. Sometimes a fight erupts, often the newcomer just goes away and who knows?

    I'm not so concerned for classical music, which will survive us and our foibles, but for the individual, and for myself. Since I enjoy the music so much, I hope that the newcomers will explore it as I have been, and enjoy it as much, and the world will be just a little less lonely.

    Thanks for your kind comment and insights.
  3. MacLeod's Avatar
    Interesting blog, science, and as someone very new to the site, I must say I am somewhat taken aback by the extent of the negative posting. I'm also disappointed by the quality of the debate, though possibly I've chosen the 'wrong' threads.

    Someone posted that this is not a site for the amateur. That prompted me to have a rummage, and see what I could find that actually tells newcomers what is here, what the site aims to do, and who it is aimed at. I couldn't find anything.

    I went to the sub-thread for introductions, and read the latest post, where a newbie made the fatal mistake of naming a composer they have the temerity to like, and it triggered (though in jest) an immediate "I feel sorry for you" response.

    Needless to say, I was not encouraged to try and introduce myself!

    I'm not yet put off, though if I don't find a thread soon where I can discuss the things I came here for - or at least find a thread where I can respectfully and silently read and learn from what others are discussing - I may not stay long.
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  4. thesubtlebody's Avatar
    I'm glad you wrote this, and I agree heartily. I've been disgusted by a number of the long-term, prolific contributors here, and I've only been on the forum for, I don't know, 3 days now? I'm definitely out of here; there is simply no chance I'll submit to a bunch of pricks. Classical music probably deserves its death, by merit of its followers. Not unlike Christianity.
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    Updated Oct-23-2012 at 00:27 by thesubtlebody
  5. Hausmusik's Avatar
    I only discovered your blog today. Great stuff. As to this particular blog post, I say, Amen! I love it when someone on these boards describes his enthusiasm for a composer, especially one I haven't latched on to. That's the thing that brings me back to these boards. But far too often, advocacy becomes overly strident or even abusive, or people get this deluded sense that it's a zero-sum game: if you like Schoenberg, then I cannot properly enjoy my Mozart any more! And vice versa (you may recall "go drink tea and listen to Schubert," etc.) It's the same intolerant mentality of those people who think the existence of same-sex marriages would somehow "degrade"straight marriage.

    Case in point. Right now, on your Brahms piano music thread, you have this one guy browbeating fellow lovers of Brahms into submission because they don't Brahms' piano music as much as his other works. I mean, what lunacy is this! Now if this person really wanted people to join the "cause" of Brahms' piano music, he'd be taking a very different approach--singing the praises of particular Brahms pieces, etc.--not calling those who disagree with him "wrong," uninformed "amateurs," etc. I can only conclude that, deep down, he doesn't want more members of his club. He enjoys his imagined sense of superior taste and discrimination. This kind of stuff always sends me back to Pierre Bourdieu.

    Not to pick on this guy particularly--he's just one example out of many. There's a guy over at the AMZ boards who is extremely pushy about Schumann ("good hearts love Schumann") etc. etc.

    What I am saying is, yeah, you've nailed it. However I don't think this is specific to CM. I have seen the same spitting contests going on on message boards about indie music. They can get even nastier, actually.

    As to thesubtlebody, I do hope you don't get chased away by the pricks. I had a pretty nasty welcome here myself from some people. But we're not all like this.
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    Updated Feb-07-2013 at 13:50 by Hausmusik
  6. science's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    Me too, though some of TC's self-appointed 'proletariat police' who think I and some others assume a position of "an authoritarian elite" (and think we think we are above it all) seem to be ready to jump in and correct those of that imagined elite, and with the greatest of ardent zeal! LOL. (Ironic, idn't it, that because of a wholly imagined spook elite, an actual reactionary elite has sprung up, declared themselves, deputized a few others, passed out badges and made their presence loudly known? )
    Put me in my place, sir! I've gotten uppity!

    Classical music is for people like you, not for people like me! I'm not supposed to be posting here, what with all the stuff I don't know. Clearly I am still trailer-park trash, as I was born to be, and so go on stomping my face into the dust with your cleverness! I deserve it! It's good for me!

    It's too bad for both of us that you can't get an actual lash to cut my back into bleeding shreds, that you have to settle for these snarky comments rather than actually literally crushing my skull so that my brain mingles with the mud. That is what I deserve! Sadly, oh so sadly, all you can do is mock me, insult me, put me in my place over and over and over, as you do all the other should-be slaves who dare to post in this forum without knowing everything that you know.

    Crush us all, Dear Leader!
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  7. science's Avatar
    Ok, it has been made clear to me that like so many of the participants here, I don't belong here. I don't know enough, my tastes aren't calibrated as they ought to be. This forum belongs to people like PetrB and someguy and all the others who were born right, as I was not. I know my place. So it is time for me to be banned. I am human scum, the filth of the earth, I deserve to have my face stomped into the mud by the boots of my betters. STOMPED! Breaking the bones in my face, knocking teeth out. That is what I deserve for my little pretensions to enjoy classical music. To have my back lashed into bleeding shreds until I know my place.

    Hey, a lot of you are in the same place I am, constantly subjected to the condescension of our betters, constantly reminded that we are not good enough in one way or another to enjoy their music.
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