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Elite is a potentially loaded word.

I basically distinguish between its use as an adjective and noun. As an adjective, it can be used to describe someone as being very skilled at what they do, e.g. elite athlete, elite performer, elite musician. We run into trouble when its used as a noun, as a label of someone being elite but not related to any particular activity. This latter sense is how the word relates to certain attitudes or behaviours (elitism, elitist) in the definition quoted above by eljr.

The way I see it is that actually achieving something at a high level may warrant a person being labelled as an elite in their field. I distinguish this from a person who merely thinks they are superior to others, but doesn't have any concrete reason to back this up. The latter is almost oxymoronic - these people are not elite at anything in particular, although they think they are, so they may as well be called elite elites.
 

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The irony is that if I mention that I listen to classical music in the real world, many people would think I'm a snob while here at TC at times I've been branded a pleb. Like any stereotype, the classical snob is grounded in elements of fact, but I think that the classical industry is aware of this and doing its utmost to counter it.

I think that a related issue is equity. Venezuela's famous El Sistema method of music education is an example of how music can be used to develop civic values and social justice. In the West, where social inequality isn't so obvious, there have been similar efforts. An example is outreach programs where orchestras perform in impoverished and remote communities.

In general, learning an instrument is seen by educators as having immense value in many areas, including cognitive development. Even if like most people the child will inevitably develop a career outside of music, it can be beneficial to his or her life as a whole. In many parts of the world, relative income has risen to a point where people can afford to buy an instrument and pay for lessons. This is a part of lessening the aura or stigma surrounding classical music. With increased access like this, music can be part of enriching the lives of future generations.
 

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Examples of elitist attitudes?

"Film music isn't classical music."
"20th C classical is degenerate."
I think for both issues the tension is in the overlap between mainstream classical and other types of music like these. So there's this aspect of what's classical and what's not.

Not all film music of course is classical, but for that which can be described as such (or arising out of the classical tradition), the debate is about what extent it is classical. Its similar with 20th century music, where for example avant-garde and experimental music come out of classical but actively reject most - or even all - of its fundamental principles.

I think that out there in the real world, these sorts of issues are increasingly academic. As far as I'm concerned, what's happening on the ground is what matters. If the overlap between these and mainstream classical blurs, then so be it. I think its not just a trend that's limited to classical music.
 

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I've been called a snob and, honestly, I don't even care. If having excellent taste in music and high musical standards is considered snobbery, then so be it.
:) What is having "excellent taste in music"?

I think I know what you mean by high musical standards but would enjoy conformation, would be so kind as to define that too?

Thanks
Don't know about you gents, but I always have a pair of earmuffs on hand, lest I be exposed to anything that would jeapardise my high musical standards.

 

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This all reminds me yet again, whatever conversations happen here about the shoulds, out there on the ground things are changing. At school, children learn about pop music and compose their own hip hop songs, while opera houses are playing musicals. To me, this is just change.


 

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Certainly not, even if we just narrow things down to economics. Let's face it, money talks. Opera companies are arguably music's biggest white elephants, so they can always do with more of it. Any resistance to changes like this on theoretical grounds in the past has vanished in the face of economic reality. Same goes with other changes in the industry, such as orchestras increasingly taking up film music.
 

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I wasn't thinking about economics, that to me is not the issue. Both opera and musicals are examples of musical theater, period.
Now musicals are performed in opera houses, but a while ago, they weren't. A hundred years ago, operettas weren't either, and it even took Porgy and Bess forty years to make it to the Met.

This process of change is inseperable from history, and economics is a big part of that.

Even though they where bastions of exclusivity in the past, opera houses are on their way to becoming multi-purpose venues. In the old days, if you weren't noble, you had to make an application to go to the opera. Now, the tables have turned, they are desperate to keep out of the red. They are happy to take the money of anyone who is paying.

The young Boulez said that opera houses should be destroyed. I wouldn't care much if opera as an artform disappeared from the face of the earth, but I think that the buildings should be put to good use.

This has already happened, Carnegie Hall is an old venue which has hosted all manner of shows for a long time (e.g. Benny Goodman played there in the 1930's). During the 1960's it was saved from demolition by Isaac Stern and others.

The other thing is that even though they're classed as lowbrow, operetta and musicals help add to the performing repertoire. Let's face it, its dominated by a handful of composers roughly from Mozart to Puccini, and it really starts to thin out after World War I.

Whatever the theorists say in their ivory towers, the only constant is change, and money is a huge part of that.
 

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Fair enough, but with opera in particular, I think there's no other issue as big as how they can survive in a financial sense. Honestly, with the enormous overheads they have, I think that categorising is superfluous.

If we where back in the day of Mahler and Richard Strauss, who said Lehar was basically rubbish, there wouldn't be opera anymore. Not that I particularly care about opera, but there are many others who do. So I'm saying these changes are probably inevitable, and necessary for its survival.
 

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I've long suspected that since travel has become so much easier and broadcasting technology so much better, we might find that we have too many operas, symphonies, ballets, and so on. For example, unless a very wealthy person is willing to put up a huge amount of money, it's not clear to me that a town of two million people can afford an orchestra. For an opera, I don't know the numbers but I'd guess you either need state support or perhaps ten million people. But in places (Vienna, Milan, etc.) where the opera is an important part of the country's cultural tradition and/or a big tourist draw, state support could make sense as an investment, since people who travel to experience the opera there will spend a lot of money on hotels, restaurants, shopping and so on.
I get what you're saying. The challenges presented by technology are, of course, a factor not only for classical but for the whole music industry.

I think that the changes we are seeing in classical shows how it makes sense to build new audiences for new sources of income, and in effect to consolidate resources to save on costs. They are increasingly seeing themselves as businesses, not just cultural institutions.

I think it makes sense for the oldest opera institutions, like the ones you mention, to continue in some way because they are important parts of the cultural landscape of those cities. Perhaps, like the most famous art galleries, they can support themselves based on old laurels. Having said that, far less people go to opera than to art galleries. In another thread, I posted an article by Robert Thicknesse, who expressed doubt about whether opera even in Paris is sustainable:

https://www.talkclassical.com/46721-do-most-lovers-classical-14.html#post2104034

If the average opera house gets by with productions of West Side Story, My Fair Lady or Phantom of the Opera, then good luck to them. These will more or less guarantee crowds - many, probably most, of them new to opera, and inevitably younger than the regulars. However, even with these, I doubt that opera companies can do better than break even. That's hand to mouth, not a sustainable way to run a business.

Time will tell. I still think that opera will inevitably go the way of the dodo. As I said, I'm not worried about that, and I think that it would free up at least some money for other areas of the arts which have potential to attract more people.
 

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Best ask them, because they'd know more about what's going on in opera than I do. I don't know how far you'd get though, because funding of opera is a potentially sensitive issue.

I've argued that it makes sense, financially speaking, that musicals are being performed by opera companies. The conversation started here:
https://www.talkclassical.com/72911-seriously-what-do-we-6.html#post2199938

My post which you quoted includes a link to my contribution to an earlier discussion which is of relevance (especially the Thicknesse article):
https://www.talkclassical.com/46721-do-most-lovers-classical-14.html#post2104034
 

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...

As I see the world, nothing is more important to most people than belonging to a group and being respected and valued by other people in their group. Music and other aspects of culture -- dialect, styles of clothing, religion -- is ordinarily a way of reaffirming group membership.

...What we now call "classical music" began in medieval and early modern Western Europe as the music of the church and the courts...Both labels -- "folk" and "popular" -- draw hard attention to the idea that they are the music of the people, not of the elite.
You mention clothing and you look at someone like Steve Jobs, who was famous for wearing cheap casual clothes, that sort of slumming it goes back to the French Revolution. The sans-culottes didn't wear wigs and ditched breeches for ordinary work wear, basically amounting to a rough suit and pants set, which was eventually taken up by the bourgeois.

This is how trends tend to change, and although it inevitably starts on the streets, it becomes more legit when people who matter take it up. The thing is though that someone like Steve Jobs can set a trend by doing something ordinary, but if I wore a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers to work, my boss would say "What are you doing?" :lol:
 

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I may have misinterpreted your post, but you seemed to have a near gleeful indifference at the (supposedly) pending demise of opera. It just seemed so strange to me that one wouldn't care (and even exhibit a certain glee) about the demise of something that is so deeply important to many people, past and present.
I'm making this argument on principle (and note that in consideration of people who enjoy opera, I wrote the part in bold below).

Fair enough, but with opera in particular, I think there's no other issue as big as how they can survive in a financial sense. Honestly, with the enormous overheads they have, I think that categorising is superfluous.

If we where back in the day of Mahler and Richard Strauss, who said Lehar was basically rubbish, there wouldn't be opera anymore. Not that I particularly care about opera, but there are many others who do. So I'm saying these changes are probably inevitable, and necessary for its survival.
I am aware of treading on thin ice by saying this on a classical forum, but my main point was about how without change, opera can die.

As an opera lover myself, I have no issues with opera theatres being used for musicals and don't really see why anyone would. No one is claiming musicals are operas or vice-versa, or that they offer the same kind of artistic experience (I think one of the chief problems with modern enjoyment of operas is that people approach them expecting a sort of musical just with classical music).
Fair enough, and my point is that it doesn't really matter how we categorise what is performed there.

As a historical note, I think it is a bit inaccurate to say that folk music turned into popular music. Folk music was often (not always) performed by amateur musicians to people with little to no money. Popular music relies on the middle class created by industrialisation; it is performed by professional musicians to many people who are paying decent money. Before industrialization, the average joe simply didn't have the sort of money to make "pop music" a reality. Pop music, although it can trace its origins back a bit farther, is really a post-war phenomenon.
This isn't my conversation, science will probably give his own reply, but I'll chime in briefly.

I think an important aspect is dissemination, especially how music came into ordinary people's homes.

In the 19th century, you had more people being able to afford music lessons, the development of market for printed sheet music and mass production of instruments, especially upright pianos.

I see the 20th century equivalent of this to be the development of recording technology.
 

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In business we seek our the innovator (starts on the streets) to wear our products. Then we market to the early adaptors (people who matter).
Once it hits the mass market, the innovator has moved on. If you allow your product to reach what we call the laggards, it is done.
That's more or less the whole thing in a nutshell.

The late Bill Cunningham realised this early on when freestyle fashion was starting to get exposure in the '60's. He started as freelance photographer but eventually became what can be called an influencer, working for major publications like the New York Times.

His work didn't only have huge impact on the fashion industry but also stands as a valuable archive of what people where wearing on the streets.

This was a great documentary made towards the end of his life. The promo includes him speaking about why fashion is such an important part of civilisation.

 

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I think Sid James is right that the development of popular music as a major commercial phenomenon goes back to the mid-19th century and the creation of a middle class with money and leisure time that could afford to buy a piano for the parlor and lessons on how to play it. Before there were records there was sheet music, and lots of it. But where did the music itself come from? Partly from folk traditions, no doubt about it, and some transcriptions from the opera and symphonic worlds as well, but mainly from a growing group of song writers looking to write money-making hits.

And that, imo, is the fundamental difference between popular music and classical and folk music of any time or culture, or any other longstanding musical tradition. Popular music is created to be the biggest possible hit with as large an audience as possible as quickly as possible. It can and does borrow from longstanding musical traditions, and in turn can be a source for and influence on longstanding music traditions or even result in the genesis of new ones. Its practitioners can be highly skilled and innovative. But most of it exists for its own time, to be forgotten soon afterwards. If you disagree, go to an antique shop that has a huge pile of 19th and early 20th century sheet music and patiently look through it all.
Its also interesting how folk music was particularly vulnerable to the changes brought by progress. The concept of leisure time basically emerges with the industrial revolution. So too, with rail travel, the mobility of populations. Villages started emptying out, people consumed music rather than making their own. So what we had at the turn of the 20th century is a situation where European folk music was threatened, and those who foresaw its demise as a living tradition started to document it (e.g. Grainger was a pioneer, then came Bartok and Kodaly, Holst and Vaughan Williams). Similar things where happening in other places, anthropology starts to emerge as a serious discipline.

There's a rather poignant anecdote relating to this. When he was a child during the early years of the 20th century, Michael Tippett remembered folk songs being sung in his hometown. These had been passed on, from generation to generation. When he returned later as a young man, there where no signs of this. By then, people where probably whistling tunes they'd heard in the music halls or perhaps on the gramophone.

I think it's fair to ask of classical music (and any genre of music) what is unique about it. Instead of things like "why is classical music so much better than xxx (where 'xxx' is invariably either pop music, or music made by black people)" I tend to try to frame it as "What uniquely sets classical music apart?" in terms of style, techniques, practices, and listening conventions.
I think its also useful to look at the ways other music has enriched classical - be it folk, jazz, world music, rock and so on. Without this sort of nourishment, its doubtful that classical would have gone beyond the churches and courts - and indeed, even when it was more or less limited to those, they weren't totally sealed off from the music of the outside world anyway.
 

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I think that the worst part of internet communication is pushing our own values onto others, which can involve categorising them, even though we hardly know them. Ultimately, what we say reflects who we are, not them. Pierre Bourdieu's line that "nothing classifies somebody more than the way he or she classifies" comes to mind.

A lot of what has amounted to important debates on this forum doesn't impinge on my own enjoyment of music. I even doubt whether many of the heated discussions here are about issues which actually matter in the real world anymore.

There are quite a few topics that I now routinely pass off for the red herrings they are. Whenever I do get involved, I inevitably regret it, so ignoring them is the best option. Anyone who has been here long enough will know those topics by heart.
 
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