Tropes of Condescension

Here’s a common academicism that always irks me:

As is the case in the other works of Hartmann’s maturity, the layout of the Horn Concerto is best understood against a background of formal conventions familiar from the music of the Classic and Romantic eras. This does not imply that the music merely conforms to the outlines of, say, textbook sonata or rondo forms; on the contrary, key features of such stereotypes are placed in focus just sufficiently for the listener to be alert to the ongoing play of near-repetitions, etc.

I have changed the name of the composer and the work because I have no wish to draw arbitrary attention to the offending author in this instance; dozens of other examples would have served as well. But this is clearly a book analyzing the form of some modern work. Anyone old enough to be reading such a book is also likely to be educated enough to know that textbook cases of sonata form are extremely rare, and, in 20th-century repertoire, almost unheard of. But here the author, like so many of them, starts out to say that the work, as is very common, makes reference to the conventions of sonata form. Then he has a sudden, disquieting thought: perhaps his reader is a college sophomore music major who has learned about sonata form just recently, and will jump to the conclusion that the piece is in textbook sonata form! No no, he must be dissuaded from this in the next sentence! And thus the author addresses me as though I must be reading a book waaay too advanced for me, and he must condescend to guide my little mind out of the ruts it doubtless fell into in my early undergraduate years.

The other form this usually takes is in a discussion of some famous modern composer who uses a device common in classical music, or also used by other composers. BUT THIS DOES NOT IMPLY that he has used it unoriginally, or without putting his own delectably brilliant spin on it. And in my mind, I invariably interrupt the flow of my reading to respond:

OF COURSE it doesn’t imply that, you condescending prick.