29.11.06

Elitism

Anne Midgette reviews the first performance of Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone. Ms. Saariaho's piece concerns the life and death of Simone Weil, the French "philosopher, mystic and activist. Near the end of the very thoughtful review, Ms. Midgette writes:

. . . this piece represents many things Weil wanted to get away from; even if it is conceived in a spirit of breaking down barriers and challenging the status quo, a work presented in this form will reach only the elite it ostensibly sets out to reach past.


A large part of the on-going discussion of the future of concert music, which discussion often dominates writing about concert music, concerns the music's status as an "elite" art. I have no answers, but lots of questions:

What is meant by "elitism", particularly in the artistic world?

Is elitism a good, bad, or value-neutral thing?

Are there different kinds of elitism and different kinds of elites?

Does it mean anything w/r/t elitism that, in very general terms, popular musicians are wealthier than their audiences and, in very general terms, audiences for concert music are wealthier than the musicians?

Which is, in that case, the more elitist art form?

Rather than attempting to "reach past" the monied elite that can afford to see/hear works like La Passion de Simone, isn't that elite precisely the audience that need to get the message?

Which artform has a greater claim to being "counter-cultural", popular music or concert music?

What, if anything, does the answer to that last question have to do with elitism?

4 comments:

  1. Good post, Steve.

    Does it mean anything w/r/t elitism that, in very general terms, popular musicians are wealthier than their audiences and, in very general terms, audiences for concert music are wealthier than the musicians?

    Which is, in that case, the more elitist art form?


    I had never identified that, but I think it is a most interesting question and observation.

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  2. It certainly costs less to go to Symphony, than to go hear either the Rolling Stones or Barbara Streisand.

    Cheers,
    ~Karl

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  3. Is there something about this topic that is of particular interest to clarinettists?

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  4. Our reeds grew up in the swamps.

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