Why it all matters

Before I get too negative, I might take a moment to say why I think classical music should survive. Besides the mere fact that I like it, I mean. That may convince me, but there’s no reason it ought to convince anybody else.

So I can think of two reasons:

1. It’s the musical heritage of the west. If we still read Proust and Shakespeare, if we still look at art by Klee and Renoir, why shouldn’t we listen to music by Mozart, Stravinsky, and Josquin des Pres?

2. Organized, long spans of music are an important form of art. We read novels, watch films, and go to plays; they draw us in over long spans of time, marking their progress with changes in pace and flow, and with details that reinforce each other. Classical music does the same thing musically, and clearly this is something pop songs, however thoughtful, serious, and evocative, don’t do. Or world music, or jazz. It’s almost shocking to think that this function of music — so deep and powerful to experience, and so allied to a similar experience in other art — might disappear from our culture.

And that’s it. I don’t think classical music makes us smarter, or makes us better people. I don’t think it’s “better” than other kinds of music (and I put “better” in quotes, because the whole notion of “better,” in this context, is so completely absurd; better for what?). I don’t think classical music has any special claim to be considered art. In fact — as it’s practiced currently in America — I think it fails dramatically in one of the most important things that art ought to be about. It’s not doing much, right now (if I may borrow the famous last words of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) to “forge the uncreated conscience” of our race.

But still it’s pretty wonderful, and deserves to survive. Can anyone suggest any other reasons? Please e-mail me! And maybe I should have added something very simple — how wonderful classical music sounds. I think that’s sufficiently objective (if I cite particular musical details) to stand apart from the mere fact that classical music is something I love.

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