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science

a new humility for me

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In the past I'd aspired to participate in discussions of classical music as an equal among equals, and to see all other participants treated the same way.

As a result of this desire, I suffered. I saw people who didn't know the right way to talk about classical music treated with condescension, and it angered me.

A veteran of several years of discussions on classical music boards, I personally know the ropes well enough to avoid the main faux pas, so that I have rarely in recent years been the direct object of such condescension, but it hurt me to see other people treated that way.

People are rarely honest about the attitudes I'm about to express, so I worry that they will seem like sarcasm, but please believe that I am expressing my genuine aspirations.

I now aspire to accept my own place in the classical music hierarchy. I am about as low as it gets. I enjoy most recordings of most classical music. I don't have a preference between HIPPI or traditional performance. I enjoy many compositions officially condemned as conservative, mediocre, or even poor about as much as compositions officially considered great. If someone asked me why JS Bach is greater than CPE Bach, for an answer I could only repeat what I have read in books. I enjoy every period of music from medieval to contemporary; I enjoy jazz almost as much as I enjoy classical music, and a lot of other traditions of music (blues, rock, "world" music, classical crossover, old country, R&B) almost as much as I enjoy jazz. Worst of all, I confess that I can even enjoy "light" music or "pops." The Vienna New Year's concerts are not painful for me. If not for a few years of experience, it could be me asking how to enjoy a certain style of music. It could be me expressing a proscribed opinion.

I ought like other classical music fans to take a position in the modernism battles and defend it with spite and scorn for the other side. I ought to detest most recordings even of music that I love; I ought to place myself in judgment of the world's greatest musicians, dismissing or praising their performances according to my whims. With attitudes like these, I would fit in with other classical music fans.

But I am sorry, I cannot do it. I am the trodden upon, and I deserve it. I surrender my attempt to protest that my approach to the music is as valid as anyone else's; I now accept the community's judgment that it is not. Not only do I do it wrong, the error is a part of who I am.

If I had greater self-control, I would leave this music to my superiors who have done so much to enable me to become conscious of my station. Alas, I cannot leave the music because even if I love in the wrong ways, I love it.

I must therefore accept a permanently inferior station among the fans of the music that I love. I must most of all learn not to chafe against the reminders of my inferiority, or against the reminders of other people's inferiority.

In general this is part of a bigger phenomenon - the return of the rentier class. Although the cultural elite and the wealth/power elite have not yet realigned, it is only a matter of time, and I may as well cultivate the attitudes toward the former that self-preservation will require towards the latter. I submit to my betters. There is no need for pepper spray, tasers, mace, tear gas, riot gear. I would ask to be left in peace, but I cannot help savoring an occasional glance inside the palace, and I endeavor to accept the punishments for my insolence with equanimity.
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  1. SeptimalTritone's Avatar
    Hey science...

    I respect you a lot. I consider you a friend, and I look up to you.

    It pains me to see you in so much distress. I also read your recent comment on turning people off to music and... I sympathize with your feelings. But... starting an argument is never the answer. It just makes things worse.

    Generally, when a new member on TC says something like "modern music sucks it's math music with no emotion" the best thing you can do is to point him in a listening direction. Some pieces are more accessible than others... so sometimes you need to "work your way up" to Webern, Boulez, Berio, etc. by listening to Brahms, Mahler, Stavinsky, Schoenberg, etc. I always give the beginners easier recommendations to get their feet wet. Often times, they don't like those pieces too! If that's the case, so be it... there's not much you can do but encourage them to try again later.

    I sympathize though with PeterB, some guy, Mahlerian, etc. who swoop in to set the facts straight. If I were a middle/older aged man who devoted his whole life to modern classical music... it would really suck to have a beginner say "your music sucks because it doesn't account for emotion." Like it must really suck to hear this! So I can understand their annoyance as well, especially since this topic seems to come up every week.

    But... you know what you must do. Spread some joy, and keep posting in current listening and classical music project, and help some beginners if they are lost. With the combination of your knowledge and humility, you are a really cool part of this forum.

    BTW what's your favorite Mahler symphony? Mine's the fourth followed by Das Lied von der Erde.
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    Updated Oct-02-2014 at 08:02 by SeptimalTritone
  2. science's Avatar
    Thanks for your comments. Some of them are flattering!

    I cannot make up my mind about my favorite Mahler symphony. Maybe the 2nd. Maybe. I've never felt that I really understood Mahler.

    I really like modern music - Webern, Boulez, Berio... I can't think of any of it that I don't like. And to be fair to its aggressive defenders (I don't see Mahlerian as one of them, I can't remember ever seeing him condescend to anyone), they used to have some pretty obnoxious opponents on this site. For the most part their opponents have either calmed down (SLGO seems to have become a downright good guy) or gone away for now.

    Mahler 4 is oddly popular. How about 8? I've got 8 on my mind as one I want to get to know better soon.
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  3. SeptimalTritone's Avatar
    I actually meant everything I said My positive comments are true, much more true than "I must therefore accept a permanently inferior station among the fans of the music that I love." You know that that's a ridiculous, or even meaningless statement.

    Mahler's second seems to be a very popular one, but I don't think as much of it: it's probably my least favorite! For me, the whole narrative plan of triumph over darkness is too artificial.

    I don't intend to label certain people as good guys or bad guys. That's really irrelevant. I enjoy learning from everyone.

    I think that Mahler's fourth may be popular because he takes such a different philsophical direction. Instead of ascending up from dark to light, he takes a step back and synthesizes the dark and light in the most innocent and aware place.

    As for the eighth, I've actually only listened to it maybe three times. It's the one I really don't know very well.
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  4. science's Avatar
    I don't think accepting a permanently inferior station is ridiculous. I'm actually trying to do it! Most of humanity does it and has done it for most of history. So far, maybe it's working.

    I don't think I've ever found Mahler artificial. But the truth is, I don't know his stuff well enough. I think I've only heard Das Knaben Wunderhorn once, maybe twice but I wouldn't promise.

    I'll give the fourth and the eighth listens this weekend and see what I think.

    However, I wonder, what does it matter what I think? I won't be analyzing it, I won't bring any kind of special insight or knowledge; I'll just be feeling it in my own way. I think in this respect I've always accepted my station, never aspired to have opinions that count. What changes now is that I will no longer insist that people in my station should not suffer condescension from people who know more than we do.
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    Updated Oct-02-2014 at 11:20 by science
  5. SeptimalTritone's Avatar
    BTW in spirit of the little thread on "can we stop hating composers", my Mahler 2 comment read a bit too negative perhaps. Let me just say this: for me the 3rd and especially the 4th are far far superior musically, structurally, philosophically, emotionally, etc. I don't think that the 2nd is his most mature work. Actually, it surprises me a lot why so many people 'rate' it so highly... it doesn't have the vast natural landscapes and deep tearful prayer of the 3rd, nor the purity and sensitivity of mind of the 4th.

    And yeah, I don't have much to say about musical historical and technical developments either, I leave that to the experts here on this forum to educate me, and they do a good job Pretty much all I can talk about for whatever I listen to are my emotional reactions and the meaning I ascribe to them, and maybe a few basic large scale structural things. That's about it, but for me, that's okay
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  6. TurnaboutVox's Avatar
    Hi Science,


    It pains me also to see you so hurt. I either haven't witnessed (or haven't recognised, possibly) the full extent of the condescension you've been upset by. I'm not going to ask you to rake over old posts / wounds to clarify things for me, but I am interested. I would say that you seem to me to be an important member and a lucid contributor to this forum. I'd be sorry if you now felt that your opinions didn't count. People who don't necessarily post (all) their opinions in a forum that can become quite combative may be quietly agreeing with you and others of like mind. (I know I have found myself in that position).

    In general this is part of a bigger phenomenon - the return of the rentier class. Although the cultural elite and the wealth/power elite have not yet realigned, it is only a matter of time, and I may as well cultivate the attitudes toward the former that self-preservation will require towards the latter. I submit to my betters. There is no need for pepper spray, tasers, mace, tear gas, riot gear. I would ask to be left in peace, but I cannot help savoring an occasional glance inside the palace, and I endeavor to accept the punishments for my insolence with equanimity.
    I do hope you don't mean this seriously - I agree that this is a current political phenomenon, but we still have votes, and we need to use them. And likewise here - you have a voice. I think I understand how angry you feel about some of the posts that have been made. Your humility might be an attempt to 'swallow' that.
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  7. Musicforawhile's Avatar
    Sorry but couldn't help laughing at: 'Worst of all, I confess that I can even enjoy "light" music or "pops. " ' That sounds just like me

    I love light music like C. Armstrong Gibb's 'Dusk' and film music like John Barry's Out of Africa theme, Spartacus theme, music from Ben Hur.

    Is the problem that you feel your ear/ perception isn't fine tuned enough to appreciate the more refined over the average? I feel like that, and therefore I do look to others for their opinions on which is 'better' but at the same time I value how I personally feel, even if I know that my perceptual apparatus is a bit rougher and not as delicately tuned as others. So there is 1. what I know is better and 2. what I personally prefer.

    And I read that Andreas Scholl likes all types of music, he mentionecd things like house, techno and pop as music he enjoys. Anna Netrebko and Evelyn Tubb I've heard also enjoy pop and other styles.

    I feel like I get similar amounts of pleasure from rock like Van Halen and ACDC as I do from Mozart's Symphony in G Major, and rock out to both which I know is 'wrong' for many people lol. I experience something deep and mysterious in both types of music. I have different feelings about the Mozart, but the actual level of enjoyment is about the same. Things like Beethoven's 7th or Mozart's Requiem are different though, as they put me in touch with something very profound, which I wouldn't compare to pop music. But I feel people would think there is something brutish in feeling that Van Halen gives you the same amount of enjoyment as some Mozart pieces.
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