KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Music

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Dan Golding defends Highbrow Music

by Dan Golding , June 3, 2014Leave a comment

Last week at the Highbrow vs Lowbrow Cultural Showdown, six of our favourite writers faced off to defend their preferred cultural forms. This week, we’re publishing their speeches in full for your edification. Here, Dan Golding defends highbrow music.

The worst thing anyone ever did for classical music was label it ‘highbrow’.

Just the words ‘classical music’ conjure up immovable preconceptions. Classical music is old, angry men in tops and tails. Classical music is stuffy and serious. Classical music doesn’t even let you clap when you want to.

Classical music has today become one of three things: it is a lullaby for an ageing, elite generation who want to display their wealth. It has become relaxation music for boring people. And it has become a kind of medicine that will magically make babies smarter, even if you play it to them while they’re still in the womb. Classical music has been carefully sanded down into meaninglessness.

But really, classical music can be crude, and gross, and offensive, and generally, it is at its best when it’s all of these things. There’s very little that’s highbrow about what we now call highbrow music.

Let’s turn to Mozart, the music of cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Consider, for a minute, one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s lesser-known works from 1782, a canon in B-flat major for three voices, ‘Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber’. If you’re not fluent in German, here’s a translation of Mozart’s lyrics:

Lick my ass nicely,
Lick it nice and clean,
Nice and clean,
Lick my ass.
That’s a greasy desire,
Nicely buttered,
Like the licking of roast meat,
My daily activity.
Three will lick more than two,
Come on, just try it,
And lick, lick, lick.
Everybody lick their ass for themselves.

Your preconceptions about classical music be damned.

It is incredibly sad that classical music has now become the domain of the rich and elite. At the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913, the audience rioted. Although the music was beautifully violent and the ballet choreography jarring and deliberately sexual (the whole thing is about sex, as so many classical works are), it was class that prompted the riot too. The rich, elite aesthetes (who have taken over today) began to boo the performance – to which the audience in the cheap seats cried out “Shut up, bitches of the 16th Arrondissement”. I guess that would be a bit like going to the ballet today and telling the ‘grubs’ (to use a Christopher Pyne-ism) of Toorak to shut up.

So yes, highbrow music might be tuxedos, and serious men that tell you not to clap, and ballerinas receiving a cool $100m in the federal budget for a boarding school while every other art form starves.

But classical music is also open class warfare at the ballet. Classical music is also Steve Reich’s tape experiments that led to the Beatles creating Revolution Number 9. Classical music is Stockhausen’s Helicopter Quarter, which is performed by a string quartet with each member in a separate flying chopper.

On top of all of this, classical music is also some of the most evocatively beautiful, challenging, violent, and complex music ever created.

Classical music is Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, used in 2001: A Space Odyssey as the only appropriate music in existence to accompany the dawn of civilisation, the birth of knowledge, and science. Classical music is ‘Ode To Joy’ in A Clockwork Orange, and it’s Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue over Woody Allen’s black and white images of Manhattan.

Classical music is Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, which says something so universal about humanity that Mitt Romney used it at campaign stops — obviously not knowing that the composer was a gay, Jewish communist.

Classical music is also the only music to comment on humanity’s greatest crimes and traumas. Adorno famously wrote that there could be ‘no poetry after Auschwitz’ — but there was music, like Henryk Gorecki’s painful, desolate Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Classical music is Life. All of it. Not just the glossy, casual bits, but all of it. From licking arses, to class warfare, to global tragedy.

So don’t ever take the easy way out of writing it off as just highbrow. Highbrow music can mean a hell of a lot.

 

Dan Golding is a critic, journalist, and academic. Dan writes about videogames, music, and film for a variety of publications. dangolding.com

highbrowvslowbrow




9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

womeninclothes-600

Carody Culver

Closet Concerns: Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes wants to tell a more inclusive story, to reveal the pleasures, hang-ups and complexities that reside in the simple act of dressing ourselves, and to remind us that we don’t perform our style rituals in a vacuum. Read more »

4285342-3x4-700x933

Kylie Maslen

The Harp in the South and other stories I wasn’t taught at school

The classics I studied at school were certainly great works, but how relevant are these books to young Australians? Yes, they were valuable to study as examples of technical skill. But they were all by men, all white and all dead. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

WinterSleep-2-poster-450

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A matter of time: very long films

It’s a fatal moment for any film lover: that instant when you look away from the screen and check your watch, holding it up to the light to judge how much time is left before you can escape. A wince of pain as you realise there are still 40 minutes to go. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

In September this year, American author and illustrator Cece Bell released a graphic memoir, El Deafo, about losing her hearing at the age of four. El Deafo details Bell’s middle-grade life and deaf experiences: she wears a clunky hearing aid, ‘The Phonic Ear’; struggles to learn to … Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

9781863956925

Danielle Binks

Mean girls, bullies and private school privilege: Alice Pung’s Laurinda

Alice Pung’s Laurinda is hard-edged satire cloaked in contemporary YA: exploring class dynamics, everyday racism and bullying. Read more »

2530720_1332353117589.53res_500_400

Chad Parkhill

Mo money mo problems: The value of music in the age of streaming

While music streaming services have existed for a few years now – practically aeons in internet time – it is only recently that their impact on patterns of musical consumption and on musicians’ and labels’ revenues has truly begun to be felt. Read more »

2839965900_c23f818c97_z

Jane Howard

How many women composers? Classical music’s invisible women

After receiving yet another press release for a classical music concert, I tweeted an email I’d sent to the publicist asking why there were no women composers in the program. From then it became a regular task I set myself: when I received a music press release, I’d ask #howmanywomencomposers, and post the results on Twitter. Read more »

3827910256_89135334f0_z

Chad Parkhill

Who killed Amanda Palmer fandom?

Fans and consumers tend to avoid music made by people whose actions disagree with their moral compasses, and, conversely, to reward those whose actions align with them. But are they right to do so? Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. … Read more »

thecode_main-620x349

Stephanie Van Schilt

An obligation to be kind? Australian TV critics and The Code

When Margaret Pomeranz recently spoke out about the obligation of local film critics to support the Australian film industry, she generated an interesting conversation in the critical community. Are critics who discuss the small screen in the public sphere obligated to be critically kind in their local coverage? Read more »

bojack-horseman-exclusive-trailer-debut_bghe

Stephanie Van Schilt

Jerks, antiheroes and failed adulthood in You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman

In addition to both being really funny, two new US comedies – You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman – speak to a widely-held fear about what, exactly, constitutes ‘adulthood’. Read more »