The recent discussion surrounding Richard Taruskin’s piece in The New Republic made me think of Indiana. I swiftly sifted through the article, but it required a printer, as 12,000 words are no friend to eyes staring at a computer screen. In its stead, I read Marc Geelhoed’s and Drew McManus’s commentaries. Paul A. Alter, in one of the comments underneath McManus’s commentary, states: “But I inferred from RT’s [Richard Taruskin’s] article the attitude that the continuing existence of classical music needs to be justified. Maybe it’s really not in there, but there sure has been a lot of it going around — and for a very long time.”
And that’s what I wanted to point out: the notion that the continuing existence of classical music needs to be justified. It is no coincidence that one of the books Taruskin reviewed is named Why Classical Music Still Matters. There, Indiana crossed my mind. Specifically Indiana Beach. For years now, this amusement park has been airing commercials on Chicago television with the horrific line “proving once again, there’s more than corn in Indiana.” These simple words and the simple fact that a commercial is trying to prove there is more than corn in Indiana, create the perception that there really is nothing but corn. And perception is reality; it effectively reinforces the stereotype.
Now I don’t have anything against Indiana and I know my neighbor state has plenty of offerings beyond corn. In that same manner, I don’t have anything against classical music and I know it still matters plenty. Indiana will probably not attract a universal mass audience and classical music does not attract a universal mass audience either. (In addition, hypothetically Fort Wayne might be my thing, but maybe I have no interest in Bloomington, just as in practice Shostakovich is my thing and Mozart is not) But I am sure Indiana (including both Fort Wayne and Bloomington) still gets plenty of tourists and, again, in that same manner, as Geelhoed writes: “2,400 people showed up to hear the Chicago Symphony play Mozart and a Mark-Anthony Turnage premiere last night.”
Geelhoed continues: “The defense of classical music will persuade no one, because you can’t argue in favor of art. People either respond to it, or they don’t, they don’t accept rational arguments for why they ought to like something.”
I do not mean any discussion on the sustainability and relevance of classical music is futile, but as McManus concludes: “a more productive discussion than whether or not classical music intuitions are doomed is whether or not they will reach their utmost potential.”