I’ve gotten some pushback for my “Left behind” posts (here, here, and here). (Quite apart from two people on Twitter — Danny Felsenfeld most amusingly — who thought I might be playing off the Christian novels about the Rapture. OK, Danny, I’ll buy into that! There’s going to be a classical music Rapture. Don’t get left behind!)
Some of the pushback is about labelling music, or, rather, labelling alt-classical music. Nobody ever pushed back at me for mentioning serial music, or Baroque music, or Renaissance music, or New Age music, or death metal, or minimalism, or French New Wave movies. But labelling alt-classical music demeans it, said one of my Twitter followers. Why can’t we just call it “classical music”? Why single it out?
One very basic answer might be: How can I ask mainstream classical music institutions to program it, if I can’t say what it is? And another answer, of course, is the one I implicitly gave in the last paragraph. We label other things. So why not alt-classical?
Maybe, I might whisper, the problem really is that I’m rocking the boat and asking for change. But let that be. My wife, Anne Midgette, addressed (in response to comments here) the question of labelling in her blog at the Washington Post, and what she said — about the necessity of labels, as well as their limitations — is well worth reading. She and I only rarely cite each other’s work (too incestuous, and neither of us needs the other to blow our horns). But her blog is terrific, and I think this post sympathetically answers some of the questions that were raised in the comments.