...at this point, I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics, and that when men recommend books by men it is fair literary judgment, while when women recommend books by women it is either a political position or woolly feminine judgment. To these people I have nothing to say except, go away and read some Toni Morrison.Let me point out something interesting: you know who is supporting this so-called bias? Women themselves! The great majority of purchases of books are made by women and so it is their tastes that are creating the demand for more books by men.
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Yes, this piece about a new music festival held just for the drugs is from The Onion, but it still strongly reminds me of the one outdoor rock music festival that I attended. How long ago was it? Well, Rod Stewart was there and he was still cool.
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You may have noticed how I love to bash the pseudo-scientific "discoveries" that keep being reported because of their shallow miscomprehension of the basic facts about music. Well here is one that is rather more sensible and reasonable: "Why we love sad music."
"Basically, the brain can be thought of as a problem-solving engine, or a prediction-engine. In other words, we derive pleasure from solving puzzles, from understanding relationships, from seeing patterns in our environment, and from predicting what's going to happen next. Music can be thought of as a microcosm of that; to the extent that there are all different kinds of patterns, rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and different kinds of relationships. If you are able to perceive those relationships, you can also make predictions about what's coming up."Yes, and composers work by setting up certain expectations and patterns and then going in a different direction. But I think they miss out a bit on explaining sad music by not mentioning catharsis: so-called "sad" music actually makes us happier because it purges us of strong negative emotions.
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The sad truth is that there are some music schools that have become the private preserve of people who should not be in charge of young people's education. The reasons why may be various and complex, but the results are evident: in these schools the musical education and achievement of the students is not the primary goal, rather it is the careers and security of those in charge of the institution. An institution run in this way may appear to be just what it should be, but if you examine it closely you will see that all the important decisions are made by and for people who are most interested in their own progress and not that of the students. Most unfortunately, sometimes a clique of these people manage to gain control of an entire community, with predictable results. I can think of two Canadian cities, for example, where both the university schools of music and the local conservatory have fallen under these sorts of regimes. I make these remarks after reading about problems with some British schools as reported at Slipped Disc: "The losers who hold power in music schools." How does this happen? I think it starts when one unfortunate choice is made and a person is put in charge of a school who is not a genuine musician, but rather an opportunist. This person, unless resisted by those who are genuine musicians, will start to gather around him or her others of the same mindset and after a while, they will gather all the reins of power in their hands. Policies, procedures, awards and so on will all be created and given out to benefit the careers of the self-important administrators and not the students and quality of music. But to outsiders this Potemkin village of a music school will look almost like the real thing. It is an insidious problem. I suggest following the link at Slipped Disc and reading the whole of the essay by Alison Moncrieff-Kelly.
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I have argued against this a number of times, but new research hints that I may be wrong! Gerry Veenstra of the University of British Columbia has done a survey of nearly 1600 people in Toronto and Vancouver and found that "Musical Tastes Mirror Class Divides" --well, sort of. He doesn't actually say anything about class, but he does mention educational levels:
"In regard to highbrow tastes, appreciation for classical, choral, jazz, opera, and world/international music was especially common among people possessing higher educational credentials," Veenstra notes. "For example, the odds of postgraduates claiming to like classical music in my sample was more than three times as high as the odds of people with less than a high school diploma claiming the same."In a mirror image of those results, "the odds of disliking classical music was more than eight times as high for the least educated respondents as for the best-educated ones," he adds.
I think I have argued against this kind of generalization because of my personal history: I became a lover of classical music before I went to university. Perhaps it is correlation rather than causation, two things that statistics and surveys tend not to distinguish. People who have higher levels of education also happen to like classical music. Now why would that be?
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Classical music hero of the week award goes to David Patrick Stearns, classical music critic for the Philadelphia Enquirer who, embedded with the Philadelphia Orchestra for a concert in the Musikverien in Vienna performed the following feat:
Can we send him flowers, or get him a bonus or something?...just because the public is among the most cultured on the planet doesn't mean the cellphones are under control. Despite a preconcert warning announcement, one woman pulled out her phone just as Lisa Batiashvili had begun the quiet, slow-burning opening movement of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1. Only eight rows from the stage, the phone kept beeping and burbling, its owner entranced by it and oblivious to those nearby shooting her daggers.So the problem was addressed American-style: Yours truly reached over, took the phone out of her hand, and pocketed it until intermission. Another phone (unfortunately out of my reach) went off during Batiashvili's cadenza. Was it my imagination or did her playing grow increasingly angry? The music takes well to that emotion, and Shostakovich got the most uproarious applause of the night.
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And that gives us the musical envoi for the day, the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich:
The only violin concerto that begins with a Nocturne.