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




100SB_YA books_KYD_Readings

Lou Heinrich

There is No Normal: Rachel Hill’s The Sex Myth

Feminist and journalist Rachel Hills spent seven years researching the limits of our cultural understanding of sex. In what may bring huge relief to readers, the resulting book, The Sex Myth, proves through scientific and anecdotal evidence (Hills conducted almost a thousand interviews around the Western world) that when it comes to sex, there is no normal. Read more »

9780733633782

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their July picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lead_960

James Tierney

I Call The Shots: The provocation of violent women

In a Western culture increasingly stripped of its old taboos, violent acts by women – real and imagined – still possess the genuine power to shock. Cultural representations of violent women can both affirm and react against the kind of pernicious questioning that posits women as fundamentally, and fatally, reactive. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

3ab01d05-2590-4aa4-80f4-45fab0eccec4-2060x1236

Anwen Crawford

Heart of Darkness: UnREAL‘s ruthless reality

Everlasting, the show-within-a-show at the dark centre of new American television series UnREAL, is a fantasy blend of champagne cocktails, pool parties and true love. Everlasting is a Bachelor-style game show in which a dozen immaculately groomed women compete for a handsome millionaire husband, and its relationship to real life is, like any ‘reality’ show, non-existent. Nothing goes to air on Everlasting that has not been scripted, staged, and edited for maximum controversy. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Keith - photo Shane Reid

Jane Howard

Local Courage, Global Reach: The National Play Festival

There is something to be gained from observing any collection of works in close proximity, and in these readings you could see the way Australian playwrights are reaching out into the world. Together, these works show the minds of our playwrights in robust health, with works that are itching to find their audience. Read more »

2015GISELLE_Artists of The Australian Ballet. PhotoJeffBusby

Jane Howard

The Beautiful and the Dated: Australian Ballet’s Giselle

The weight of history sits heavily on the Australian Ballet’s Giselle. One of the most enduringly popular ballets from the romantic period, there is much to delight in its presence on stage and its lasting lineage. But 175 years after its debut, in a production that premiered 30 years ago, the sheen of Giselle has been dulled. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »