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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
It's often a boogeyman used by people who either generally dislike "high culture" or (understandably) dislike the snobbishness of some people in or into high culture. Such snobs do sometimes exhibit elitist exclusionary behavior but IMO they are so marginal nowadays that to use them for an attack against e.g. classical is strawmanning.
As I occasionally wrote in other threads, classical music has tried to cater to a broader audience for many decades now. There has been some but limited success but to me it seems the zenith has been passed ...
Without a doubt snobbery has been an undesirable part of classical music and institutional biases are still there to see. Many years ago at one of my music teaching positions, an elderly colleague referred to students as "the peasants!"

Now as you say, classical music has tried to broaden its scope and appeal but with mixed results. For those who work in classical music reduction of opportunities and the resultant effect on one's life can be harmful. There is the irony that one is accused of being an elitist while knowing if that was ever true, those days have long passed. Furthermore, still-existent connotations of "elitism" from the general realm of existence are being steered unfairly at classical music, which is in many ways a poor area now.
 

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or

is it when one group thinks they are inferior to another?

The latter has been my experience.
I don't think I've ever written either word, (and I won't do so now;)) but this has been my experience as well. They seem to express resentment toward anything that makes one feel inferior.
 
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I don't think I've ever written either word, (and I won't do so now;)) but this has been my experience as well. They seem to express resentment toward anything that makes one feel inferior.
I see this in all aspects of life.

This is by no means confided to classical music.

A secure person seldoms sees elitism or arrogance in another. An insecure person sees it all around him. Especially when they are "out of their element" or have an inordinate attachment to the mores of their tribe.
 

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To an extent its a bit of a boogeyman. The aspects of classical music which have "actual" elitist connotations (for instance-the association with the literal social elite which was the clergy) are of far less importance nowadays.

Usually I hear elitist in one of two connotations - one is the concern that classical music has a small, generally well educated, wealthy and old audience that the speaker would like to expand - whether due to marketing concerns, or simply because they want the music to spread more.

The other use of "elitist" I tend to see is to describe disdain at other musical practices as explicitly having less cultural or musical value - though this is not a practice limited to classical music. I've seen hip-hop, prog, electronic, noise music, and pop music elitists.
Excellent point. As Hume's comments (quoted by me above) can be applied equally to hip-hop, prog, electronic, noise music, and pop music, I've got you covered.
 

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I see this in all aspects of life.

This is by no means confided to classical music.

A secure person seldoms sees elitism or arrogance in another. An insecure person sees it all around him. Especially when they are "out of their element" or have an inordinate attachment to the mores of their tribe.
There is a certain personality trait where one feels insecure, off-put or otherwise disdainful when someone else simply has a greater interest in a certain topic. I've seen this with art, but also things as simple as cooking, alcohol, fashion and sports.
 

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Do you think the best classical music is also the best music in the world? Most here probably would not say that but those who would may be opening themselves (for what it matters) to the charge of elitism. If, on the other hand, you think all music is of equal value (many here often say this) then you are not being elitist but then you are also presumably happy that classical music appeals to a smaller proportion of western populations than it used to (that it doesn't need "rescuing"). I'm elitist because I had the good luck to discover the joys of classical music quite some time ago. I enjoy lots of other music, too, but get different things - and IMO less rewarding things - from it. Do feel free to call me "sir".
 

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An elitist should be happy that CM appeals only to a small proportion because if that changed she would need to find another distinction, e.g. collecting silver cow creamers or something not so easily available to the masses.
 

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An elitist should be happy that CM appeals only to a small proportion because if that changed she would need to find another distinction, e.g. collecting silver cow creamers or something not so easily available to the masses.
To be fair, one should probably distinguish between believing classical music is "the best" music (whatever that means), and having a superiority complex related to listening to classical music; both viewpoints seemingly open one up to the charge of elitism but only one type of person would be dismayed by the newfound popularity of classical music.
 

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I agree; I don't really understand Enthusiast's post and I am NOT of the opinion that all music is of equal value (actually I doubt that anyone really believes this, it's obviously wrong, otherwise me pounding with a fist on a piano keyboard would have value) and that classical music is the best music and one the great achievements of mankind.
 

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I agree; I don't really understand Enthusiast's post and I am NOT of the opinion that all music is of equal value (actually I doubt that anyone really believes this, it's obviously wrong, otherwise me pounding with a fist on a piano keyboard would have value) and that classical music is the best music and one the great achievements of mankind.
You've been here since April, but someone will tell you that entertainment music and art music have equal value for us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
I know that in my life learning piano and teaching piano to young people - and teaching piano to adult beginners and learning to tune pianos has been helpful in so many ways in my career in science.
Teaching music at different levels -- including beginners -- certainly has helped to keep me grounded. For that matter, so has reading over this thread, because a number of positive points including the one you just raised hadn't occurred to me.

Elitism will remain with us as an issue we need to consider I think, but it shouldn't be a perennial accusation and pretext for damaging attacks. I notice that here it is possible to discuss elitism -- which has a political context -- while keeping the emphasis on how it applies to music rather than getting into a general political battle. Because the latter behaviour is now against the TC rules, I hope people are less likely to veer off topic or even undermine whole discussions. (By the way, the word "Seriously," in the thread title was partly a reminder to myself to be just that, and to avoid silly humour and the like.) :)
 

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Teaching music at different levels -- including beginners -- certainly has helped to keep me grounded. For that matter, so has reading over this thread, because a number of positive points including the one you just raised hadn't occurred to me.

Elitism will remain with us as an issue we need to consider I think, but it shouldn't be a perennial accusation and pretext for damaging attacks. I notice that here it is possible to discuss elitism -- which has a political context -- while keeping the emphasis on how it applies to music rather than getting into a general political battle. Because the latter behaviour is now against the TC rules, I hope people are less likely to veer off topic or even undermine whole discussions. (By the way, the word "Seriously," in the thread title was partly a reminder to myself to be just that, and to avoid silly humour and the like.) :)
Yes, but there's one more point not showing up in here so far, and it might be divisive…

I suspect that without the elitism I wouldn't have stuck it out with learning classical piano, from my first slight fascinations with popular music. I was at an age wherein it motivated me to be a more disciplined sponge to absorb it all. My teacher was austere and very snobbish, it seemed to me as a young observer. It was all for the best eventually (not at the time).
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #35 · (Edited)
Yes, but there's one more point not showing up in here so far, and it might be divisive…
I suspect that without the elitism I wouldn't have stuck it out with learning classical piano, from my first slight fascinations with popular music. I was at an age wherein it motivated me to be a more disciplined sponge to absorb it all. My teacher was austere and very snobbish, it seemed to me as a young observer. It was all for the best eventually (not at the time).
Your observation is a good example of why we have to be so careful in using the "e"-word. What we mean by it is not simply a matter of dictionary definition. What does it mean to me? in my life-situation; or to you; at this time; in the future; and how much? Not a stable word, and yet people unthinkingly use it to make judgements of great finality.

I'm glad it worked out for you eventually. During the time I was teaching music, parental involvement was becoming much more recognized as important and I had to learn to communicate better with the whole family, not just the student. It's common for a classical piano student to want to play popular music; I was one of them. However the situation is accommodated, it has to be supported by the student, parents, and siblings through ongoing discussions that build trust in everyone concerned.

And I've never met pianists who play popular music regret as adults that they continued their classical lessons up to reaching an advanced level before stopping.
 

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Your observation is a good example of why we have to be so careful in using the "e"-word. What we mean by it is not simply a matter of dictionary definition. What does it mean to me? in my life-situation; or to you; at this time; in the future; and how much? Not a stable word, and yet people unthinkingly use it to make judgements of great finality.

I'm glad it worked out for you eventually. During the time I was teaching music, parental involvement was becoming much more recognized as important and I had to learn to communicate better with the whole family, not just the student. It's common for a classical piano student to want to play popular music; I was one of them. However the situation is accommodated, it has to be supported by the student, parents, and siblings through ongoing discussions that build trust in everyone concerned.

And I've never met pianists who play popular music regret as adults that they continued their classical lessons up to reaching an advanced level before stopping.
Yes, parents can be a problem. They can be too close and too involved, or they can be unaware that their child has an outstanding aptitude (and what that could mean for him or her). I've had mostly the first kind.. heh

Many of my friends growing up took piano lessons. I know the following isn't what you meant by elitism, but I've experienced the opposite (if that's the right word). We would be playing touch football and my friend's mom would yell out "time for your piano practice, Johnny". He would sigh and go inside. He was our quarterback and the rest of us really admired him as a football player so we didn't make fun of him, but we would roll our eyes! So I guess that's the opposite of an elitist response.

I have long wondered how a child gets into music and has the sustained interest to get to the point of effortless playing..
What happened to me was that my younger brother would dance around singing and so my parents decided that he had musical ability. He yammered that he wanted to take piano lessons. There was NOT a lot of money for that sort of thing, but we already had an old upright in the basement. So all the books were purchased and of course he quit after about a month and a half..

At the same time my father was a volunteer fireman and he would take me to the fire house when he got the call. There was an old piano there and one day this girl who is only a little older than me started playing her practice pieces. I was amazed, she played it all with all her fingers and very quickly. I was hooked!

So I think it's a complicated sequence which might result in a strong interest in learning music, on your own.

1. being inspired by a friend who's older but not a lot older (occurring outside the home and away from your parents and siblings)

2. having a piano available, and the books with simple, attractive pieces for showing off.

3. being able to explore on your own in a private area of the house.

With all the distractions today, IMO, without any one of these it would be improbable for someone young to just fall into it.

With your experiences, what do you think?

yammer
late Middle English (as a verb meaning 'lament, cry out'): alteration of earlier yomer (from Old English geōmrian'to lament') suggested by Middle Dutch jammeren .
 
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Being a minority interest shouldn't automatically earn the epithet 'elitist'.
Classical music - for an audience member - ought to be about the least elitist activity there is.
Unlike a nightclub, there's no bouncer to bar entry for wearing the wrong clothes or not being hip enough.
Tickets are way cheaper than headline pop acts.
You're unlikely to cop any flak from other audience unless you're a prize ******** in your behavior.
Most concert halls are even a bit wheelchair accessible.
Any elitism is a figment of imagination.
What an insightful comment. Much of what you have said - I will quote in the future.
 

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To me it means predominant progressivism in music, like mingling with mathematical experiments to a degree that almost phases out of musical traditional norms.
 

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To me it means predominant progressivism in music, like mingling with mathematical experiments to a degree that almost phases out of musical traditional norms.
That is so strange. I think it means very much the opposite.
 

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I find it doesn't mean much of anything, anymore. Like many other such words, our current climate - both cultural and political - has made the word mean little to nothing. So I tend to avoid it, as a result.

But I'll keep on track here, out of convenience. What does it mean? Well these days, simple snobbery. That somehow, for my love of classical music, I have a superiority above all others (excluding others who share the same) who persist with a love of inferior music. In other words: narcissism as silly as our anarchic use, of the terms "elitist" and "elitism" at present.
 
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