Thursday, July 30, 2015

Holy Hokum, Batman!

It is hard for me to read any of this without wanting to disagree. Violently. "Sound yoga - ancient wisdom or New Age nonsense?" For me, to ask the question is to give the answer. Yoga may have many interesting virtues and there may even be a couple in New Age whatever. But this essay, just like a thousand before it, manages to diminish and dilute classical music even as it pretends to offer helpful counsel. As I have observed before, some of our "friends" are really our worse enemies. Here is the opening paragraph:
Classical music cannot stand still; so that means it must find new audiences. Western classical music has evolved into a highly dualist art form with clearly demarcated boundaries around its core offering of the orchestral and operatic repertoire. There is little debate that this repertoire must - and will - remain central to the art form. But it can be argued that to open up new markets the current watertight boundaries around that core offering must become porous. An example of a blurring of these boundaries would be an entry into the mind, body and spirit market; a market which a post here in 2011 pointed out was then worth around $11 billion annually in the US, compared with $200 million for classical album sales.
That is just stuffed with half-truths--which are much more dangerous than outright falsehoods. One of the first things that I look for in this kind of talk is the Passive Collective. Writers like this attribute many dubious things to these fictional entities. Here it is "Classical Music" which cannot "stand still" but must "find new audiences". Classical music in the sense proposed here, does not exist. Classical musicians of many different kinds exist and do have agency, but "Classical Music" in the sense of a canon of works, does not have agency, but is merely a cultural tradition and the choice of many people to play and listen to. So what you really have to say is that classical musicians have to find new audiences which is both more truthful and less interesting because we are already perfectly aware of this. Every orchestra is trying to add to its subscriber base every year and every young artist is trying to find or create his own audience.

The next bit about the "highly dualistic art form" is confused jargon. You can follow the link, but it is to an essay that merely states a bunch of contrived dichotomies. This is another favorite ploy: the false dilemma. You either have to be acclaimed or insignificant, classical or non-classical. It is nothing more than a debating trick. The "clearly demarcated boundaries" around the core repertoire disappeared decades ago, but writers like this keep tilting at those same tired windmills. The call for opening up new markets is a tired argument indeed as that is precisely what many musicians and ensembles have been doing--some of them to excess. A nice new shiny argument would be to say could we please stop all this ridiculous pandering and let the core repertoire be nice and corey?

And all this stuff about the "mind, body and spirit" market just makes me very, very tired. What those folks want to listen to is dreary soporific sludge. And they're welcome to it. Just don't ask us to provide it. Even if it is an $11 billion dollar market. We do have standards.

Sorry, I just didn't have the desire to read any further in detail. In the last paragraph he says, because of our dualistic, binary conditioning "inevitably, this post will be condemned as New Age nonsense by many." You bet!!

Now, let's have some non-soporific classical music that shows, I think, pretty successfully, why we don't want to be part of the "sound yoga" market. This is the HERZLIYA CHAMBER ORCHESTRA conducted by HARVEY BORDOWITZ in the second movement, Allegro di molto, of the Symphony No. 49 by Joseph Haydn:


Rickard Dahl said...

"mind, body and spirit market" sounds like the typical pseudo sciences with horoscopes, auras and stuff like that. If that isn't New Age then I don't know what is. There certainly are bits of wisdom here and there but it's packaged in a feel good formula relying on superstitions. Music in itself can work as a good form of therapy but binding it to pseudo science just makes music less valuable rather than more valuable. Sure, you get more money by selling out but in the long run it hurts classical music more than it helps. Let them use the typical music for "relaxation" that never goes anywhere. I will stay with music that is far more vivid/interesting but also far more relaxing, i.e. classical music.

Bryan Townsend said...

Good summary, Rickard!

Marc Puckett said...

Yes indeed; thank you both. I leave the room when they begin to seriously discuss their horoscopes, gosh, and, believe me, here in Eugene they do; funny how one doesn't hear that sort of chatter in the foyers of the classical music venues here, though.

Bryan Townsend said...

You must be a Gemini, or maybe a Scorpio.


Marc Puckett said...

Ha, ha.