Saturday, February 5, 2011

talking about the dead people is much easier

This Anthony Tommasini's article on his own selection of "Top 10 Greatest (dead) Composers," which is appearing in The New York Times, January 21, 2011, is not serious stuff. Perhaps it's not for those who have been listening classical music for years, but for those who are thinking, "Maybe I'm going to give them a try." So, I actually have nothing to say about it. But, Nico Muhly even reads the comments on blogs. As Muhly puts it, Tommasini's article is exactly "the horror show" for those who are serious about music. Muhly goes on:

The thing about a list like this is that immediately two things happen. The first is that dead composers are pitted against each other: Britten is shoving aside Mahler; you can have Bartók or Stravinsky but not both. It’s maybe fine for people who are dead, but the idea of this way of thinking gets really gross if you imagine in six months’ time suddenly opening the paper to read “Top 10 Living Composers” or whatever.

I sense that those dead composers are not dead for someone like Muhly, but "already living," in T. S. Eliot's terms.

The listing reminds me of 4th graders' game of listing up the coolest boy or the cutest girl in the class. At this stage, the kids already learn the mechanism of the stock markets. They don't reveal what they actually feel about their classmates, but they vote for someone they think popular. And Tommasini's writing reads the same gesture.

I even cannot hierachize all the girls I've met.

I'm still reading Jacques Attali's Noise: The Political Economy of Music. It says:

Outside of a ritual context or a spectacle, the music object has no value in itself. It does not acquire one in the process that creates supply, because mass production erases value-creating differences; its logic is egalitarian, spreading anonymity and thus negating meaning. Value may then base itself, partially or totally, on an artificial, unidimensional differentiation, the only thing left allowing hierarchy, ranking.

This part actually explains about hit parades. Though the classical music market is much much smaller than the pop music's, the way it is consumed is the same (by the way, in Japan, the tofu market is bigger than the Japan's whole music market).

Attali's book was written in the 1980s. I wonder what he thinks about today's music. Though some people are rebelling against Simon Cowell, for me it looks like beating a dead horse. He exists for those who still believe in the significance of Top 40. And those rebellious are actually showing that they believe in it more than Cowell does.

Or, do I feel so just because I've gotten old and am not following the trend?


  1. I agree, lists and categorisations tend to reduce things. And I agree with your connection with T.S Eliot, when people or things are significant to us, they are alive!

  2. I like the Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" from "The Sacred Wood: Essay on Poetry and Criticism" very much.