Topics for conversation…

by Juliana

Photo from

Question: Why does no one converse about so-called classical music anymore? In Haydn’s day, even in Beethoven’s day, heck as recent as Stravinsky’s day, the audience for these great men passed judgment with the ease that one passes judgment on the likes of Lady Gaga today. There were of course, the “experts” then too, who proselytized to the uneducated mercilessly. But even said uneducated masses offered up opinions about the issues at hand.

I was just perusing the Sunday New York Times, itself already a badge of self-important elitism, over a cocktail in the light of the fading sun. The article about dinner conversation caught my attention, as I’ve always felt a mysterious importance lies in the ritual of the family dinner. The writer was discussing the traditions of the Foer and Emanuel families (as in Jonathan Safran and Rahm), and how their childhood conversations ranged from opining on the economic policy of the president to civil rights. Engaging your children like this sounds like intriguing advice, but I can’t help wonder, would such a scene ever include opining about John Adams’ latest composition? Much less the latest interpretation of Verdi’s La Traviata, or Beethoven’s 5th?

Somewhere along the way classical music entrenched itself so effectively in the arena of “high art” that it simultaneously bound itself to educated experts whose expounding serves to erase your individual experience and replace it with a right answer. Ask your kids about this at the dinner table – doesn’t it outrage you that classical music is no longer a topic for debate? Shouldn’t you be able to listen to music that speaks to and of the timeless themes of our living experience (in other words, not just the latest pop trend) without feeling like you need help?

Alright, I apologize for the rantings of an entrapped devotee, and leave you with this to ponder: Tan Dun’s Water Concerto