This is from Slipped Disc where the item has garnered 83 comments to date. Traditionally we classical musicians have felt little need to either defend or apologize for our music as its quality speaks for itself. But I am beginning to think that those days are gone. I was at a musical gathering this past weekend where about equal numbers of classical and non-classical musicians were present and it turned, inevitably, into a blues jam session. That was preceded, however, by a shakuhachi player, who exalts in his inability to read music, offering a "two minutes hate" on those musicians who are literate. No-one offered to disagree with him. All I did was leave, but I regret not standing up and telling him he was wrong, in no uncertain terms.I have nothing against European classical music as music.But it’s time to stop teaching it as if it’s in any way superior to or more fundamental than any other musical tradition.Otherwise we’re giving intellectual and cultural validation to those assholes with the swastika flags.
Hey, if you want to turn all musical gatherings into blues jam sessions then count me out. And I am using that as a metaphor. A musicologist who states that he has nothing against European classical music as music is really in the wrong job and belongs to the wrong tribe (because the unstated subtext is that there is lots to condemn European classical music for in moral, social and cultural terms). The task of a musicologist is to understand and teach European classical music. Sure, there have grown up sub-disciplines that study blues, jazz and world music, but they are founded on the basic training and methods developed for use with European derived classical music. Honestly, you don't need to do Schenkerian analysis of Duke Ellington or Riemannian examination of West African drumming. The study of pop music can be quite interesting, but I think that anyone who approaches it with serious intent recognizes that the study of a Beatles' song and the study of, say, the Rite of Spring or a Bruckner symphony lie in rather different places on the aesthetic spectrum--and it's not just because of the length.
So yes, European classical music is IN FACT more fundamental than any other musical tradition for two reasons: first, because it is OUR musical tradition and second, because most of the highly developed techniques for writing music, including the ability to WRITE it were developed in Western Europe over the last thousand years. Basic history. These include, counterpoint, harmony, formal structure, development and a host of other things. Other cultures have used music in different ways, but with few exceptions the music has been limited to a small range of traditional elements and techniques due to the inability or disinterest in writing music down.
Now this has nothing whatsoever to do with those assholes with the swastika flags, nor those other assholes dressed in black with the anarchist flags. Frankly, it is astonishing that anyone with a scrap of education in music would even say things like this.
But we live in very strange times...
Since many of the comments reference the Symphony No. 3, "Eroica" by that notorious rapist, Beethoven, let's listen to a performance. This is the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Christian Thielemann: