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July 26, 2006

The Necessary Means

by Frank J. Oteri

While it's true that any event that is free for all can wind up becoming a "free for all," as many people here—myself included—stated, I'll also have to take some issue with the tiered apprach that Doug has just suggested.

Yes, baseball—which I agree the classical music biz should do more to emulate—has elite boxes and bleacher seats, as do the airlines. (I never knew what it was like to feel the disparity between first class and coach until I was trapped on a UA plane on the O'Hare runway due to NY weather conditions and the flight staff wouldn't even give me a glass of water while first class passengers were being offered snacks; don't get me started.) But American audiences are equally used to more equitable arangements: there is no extra charge for sitting in the front of a bus, and thanks to Rosa Parks anyone can, and movies are one price for all seats. And recently, according to popular opinion polls, Americans overwhelmingly rejected a plan for frequent business class riders to fast forward through those time-consuming security checks at airports. It's nice to know that in the land of the free, sometimes everyone is equal no matter what their purchasing power is.

As I said earlier, I think the main reason why we would want classical music to reach more people in the first place is because the listening habits it engenders makes for a more civil society. And, yes, much of classical music's history, at least pre 20th century, is wrapped up in separating the haves from the have-nots: who was able tgo hear this music in centuries past, who wasn't. (This is part of the reason why there is frequently a disconnect with classical music for many Americans when it is presented in elitist garb; I still remember the misperceptions about classical music that were so common among students of mine when I was a high school teacher 20 years ago.) I also know that villains like Hitler and Stalin both loved classical music and used it for nefarious purposes—the human intellect has the capacity to uglify even the most sublime experiences. But at this late date, I think that having more people gain the ability to listen quietly to something and then reflect on it is ultimately a cause for the good that we need to be promulgating—to quote another sometimes controversial 20th century political leader—by any means necessary.

Posted by foteri at July 26, 2006 12:53 PM


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