In so doing, he found himself in conflict with a religion he evidently didn’t know exists. And it’s a religion with an ugly side – self-righteous, condescending, and eager to enforce its beliefs with brute force.
In his breezy piece, Oppenheimer questions the social importance of classical music and also ballet in the year 2013. He points out that none of his friends who studied a “classical” instrument are now involved with this art as adults. And he also questions the practical value of this kind of childhood education.
You can read his article here. And, immediately following it, you can also read the chorus of disapproval that it generated. Here are a few samples:
“I instantly realized your ignorance level is so deep that there isn't much hope to educate you,” wrote one irate reader.
“I would almost say you must be very uneducated and/or just plain ignorant,” declared another.
“Stopped reading after the fist paragraph, writer is a philistine,” stated yet another.
And there’s worse, which I won’t quote here.
Oppenheimer was apparently shocked by the intensity of the opposition to his article. In a subsequent article (here), he wrote, “The past day has actually been a rather difficult one for me, as that piece upset a lot of people. In e-mail, on Twitter, on the telephone, and in person, I have defended myself and offered apologies.”
I draw attention to this dust-up not to argue for or against Oppenheimer’s views, but rather to comment on what followed. And I have a simple message to all classical music enthusiasts.
This sort of thing isn’t helping!
Too often those who would support classical music resort to indignation and outrage. Too often bluster and fulmination, rather than reasoned argument, are thrown in the faces of those who would dare to question our sacred art. And too often classical music fans respond to those who question this music’s value as though they were questioning the value of all music – or as though classical music were all music.
For the record, I’m not of the opinion that all kinds of music are created equal. (See here.) But I’m embarrassed every time I hear someone insist on the special value of classical music (above all other kinds), as an article of faith. We in the classical music world simply make ourselves look ridiculous when we resort to such tactics.
So let’s calm down, smarten up – and stop pretending that classical music is a religion.
© Colin Eatock 2013