The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 November 2003

All hits, all the time

The mantra of "If it's popular, it sucks" is heard, perhaps a bit less bluntly but likely no less often, on the classical side of the musical aisle, a situation which Lynn Sislo describes thusly:

Real classical music aficionados are supposed to despise Pachelbel's Canon, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and the 1812 Overture, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and probably that cute little C major piano sonata (K545) too — in short, anything that someone who never listens to classical music is likely to have heard. About the only well-known piece that isn't frequently trashed is Beethoven's 5th Symphony as not even the most uppity music elitists dare to deny the genius of Beethoven. But then, Beethoven does have his Wellington's Victory, for which he is still supposed to be rolling over in his grave for the shame of having written.

As a musical elitist, I'm pretty low on the Scowl Scale. There are warhorses I suppose I ride too often — I never get tired of "Clair de lune", Mozart's 40th, and yes, it is true, "Boléro" — and the cognoscenti no doubt are still vexed with Henryk Górecki for quite inadvertently getting a pop hit out of his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, a piece I still find moving. Then again, some of the stuff I like is a long way from the beaten path: I dearly love George Rochberg's 3rd String Quartet, something there isn't a chance in hell of hearing on the local classical station's request show. (Which reminds me: I need to find this on CD if at all possible. My cassette dub, mixed to stereo from a quadraphonic tape — I no longer have my old open-reel gear — is starting to squeak.)

Besides, I still like the Moody Blues, fergoshsakes.

Posted at 9:04 PM to Tongue and Groove


I think that's true for a lot of things, actually. It's the same for books. When Harry Potter came out, every undergrad sci-fi/fantasy geek at my very nerdy undergraduate college looked down their noses at it. (Graduate students, however, were another matter.) And of course, the whole debacle with Oprah and Jonathan Franzen.

Perhaps it's also the desire to be underground and hip and cool that leads people to ignore the popular. I just listen and read whatever catches my fancy. And if I happen to write a book that sells a kazillion copies, I'm not going to reject the royalties because I'm not edgy and avante-garde.

Posted by: sya at 10:36 PM on 20 November 2003

About classical music, turns out, my 8 year old listens to it more than anything else. Even Britney Spears (which used to be full volume all afternoon) doesn't stand a chance with her anymore. And no, I had nothing to do with her choice, except to let her have one. These crazy damned kids and their wild music rebellions, I swear.

[I need some angry white boy music right about now, where'd I stash that Godsmack and Static-X?)

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 8:38 AM on 21 November 2003

On the subject of books, Robb Hibberd, who blogs for NewsOK.com, said this:

Recently, [Stephen] King received an honorary National Book Award, which is the kind of thing generally reserved for literary novelists.

I'm not sure what to think: I'm a lit snob, sure, but I also hate lit snobs. I prefer literary fiction: genre fiction provides me neither consolation nor self-revelation. That is, reading literary fiction is, for me, a necessity (not all of it, just black comedies featuring tragically farcical misanthropes whose inner conflicts ultimately end unresolved).

So King won a literary award. It's not like King is incapable of crafting literary fiction. I've seen at least one of his short stories in a literary anthology whose name escapes me (a "Best American Short Stories," I think). Sure, it was based on the old devil-as-stranger-in-black folk tale, but it was good. So I can't even summon up any token indignation.

Robb's in the same boat as the rest of us, apparently. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 9:09 AM on 21 November 2003

i can't tell you how annoying it is to be pashawed by some Bartok loving drummer geek because i expressed a fondness for Swan Lake, Khachaturian or g0d-for-bid Bruckner. he works for the NSA now breaking codes. honestly, i don't know how he can tell the difference.

(btw, recently i have been listening to Madonna's Bedtime Stories instead of Bolero. if you program out about a third of the tracks it is ok and you can get it cheap on the used rack because that third are awful.)

Posted by: rammer at 9:29 PM on 21 November 2003

i can't tell you how annoying it is to be pashawed by some Bartok loving drummer geek because i expressed a fondness for Swan Lake, Khachaturian or g0d-for-bid Bruckner. he works for the NSA now breaking codes. honestly, i don't know how he can tell the difference.

(btw, recently i have been listening to Madonna's Bedtime Stories instead of Bolero. if you program out about a third of the tracks it is ok and you can get it cheap on the used rack because that third are awful.)

Posted by: rammer at 9:29 PM on 21 November 2003

sorry about that double post thing. my laptop went all wonky all of the sudden.

Posted by: rammer at 9:31 PM on 21 November 2003