Monday, December 12, 2005

take me out to the music game

"Certainly nobody had to be educated to like classical music in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it flourished, and when in fact it was the only musical game in town... In those days, the music we now call classical spoke to people as readily as pop music speaks to us now."

This statement by Greg Sandow reminds me of something I railed against back in august.

A reader comments:

"What town are you talking about? My peasant immigrant forebears didn't know any classical music. What they knew was folk music, that was handed down aurally. Of course, this Type of music is dead in the West, and quickly dying out in the rest of the world. It has been replaced by composed pop musio."

I half agree: folk music is overlooked by classical music historians (I'm surprised to see Sandow do this, considering his background), but to call it "dead in the West" is an overstatement. Celtic music, Greek music, Balkan music, Gypsy music, does flamenco count?, various flavours of other Spanish folk musics, etc. continue to exist in core forms and as influences in other spheres (many European jazz musicians have pillaged folk for melodies and rhythms). I think that this myopia leads to the exageration of classical music's social importance, at least before the rise of a mass middle-class market extricated the music from the palaces and wealthy patrons. Maybe that was an exception rather than the historical norm.