Are snobs the new dinosaurs?
May 10, 2006 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Who is buying music by Shostakovich, watching silent movies, and reading Thackeray?

I love classical music, old movies and classic literature. But most of my peers prefer pop music, contemporary films, and graphic novels. So when I want to talk about my passions, I usually have to find someone older than me (I'm 40).

My question is, when I'm 70 and all my elders are dead, will I have anyone to talk to? I know that the big media stores have classical sections -- sometimes quite large -- but who is shopping there? Does classical music sell to people under 30? If not, are we losing our past? Will interest in older works fade to nothing? (I suspect there will always be an audience for Beethoven's 9th Symphony, but what about more obscure pieces that aren't used in commercials or movie soundtracks?)

For a while I suspected that the classics might get lost for a while and then re-discovered, but now I wonder. Often things from the past become trendy in the present, but it's usually stuff from the RECENT past -- like 60s fashions coming back. No one ever wears Elizabethan clothes, unless they're in a play.

So have I just been unlucky in the people I've met? Are there actually tons of 40-year-olds, listening to Mahler and watching Billy Wilder films -- AND passing that love onto their children?

I know some of you could reply to this by saying, "I'm 23, and I love classical music." That's great, but it's not what I'm looking for. I KNOW there are exceptions, and I suspect Metafilter members to be exceptions. I'm talking about general trends. How much of a dinosaur am I?
posted by grumblebee to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
None of the things you mentioned are things that are enjoyed by the people who originally enjoyed them, so I don't see why you're seeing this as a function of generation rather than a simple function of age. People change.

And some things do fall in and out of fashion over really long periods, as in... centuries. Literature, definitely. Clothing, not so much because while it's a fashion, it's not strictly an art form, it's also a way of covering up and protecting us, and there's economics and all that stuff involved.
posted by dagnyscott at 11:29 AM on May 10, 2006


"Core classical recordings struggle so hard in the marketplace that quality recordings may sell as few as a couple hundred copies in the US. In Canada, the sales figures are worse; the average classical recording sells 300 copies [National Post] recouping only a tiny fraction of its production costs. As a result, the classical genre has become so marginalized that classical best-seller lists are dominated by crossover recordings [The Guardian] by the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church that only a few years ago might not even have been considered for the classical category."
posted by Gyan at 11:43 AM on May 10, 2006


I don't have a definitive answer for you, but I have a few thoughts about the many issues you raise, which may in turn contain some sort of answer.

There really is an explosion of content through the 20th and into the 21st century. In all of the arts you've mentioned the availability of new stuff is huge and so it can be much harder to focus on things that were produced before. It was possible at one point to have read most of what was worth reading, be familiar with the bulk of the music most worth knowing, and it was even easier to pay attention to the truly artistic movie directors. Now production far far outstrips any person's ability to keep-up, and that's only likely to increase.

On the other hand, there is a reason that these things you talk about are called the classics, and they are likely to endure, if only as a niche market. I know more than a few people in my generation, which is also yours, who are passionate about all of the things about which you are concerned. There are people writing new scores (and performing them live) for silent films, etc. I do think that those folks of our generation get a bit swallowed up in the much larger group of older people interested in the same things, but that a more distinct and recognizable set of groups led by our generation will emerge as older folks "retire."

Finally, I'd point you to the notion of the long tail (blog), and suggest that if your concern is having a community of like-minded individuals with whom to share your loves which will renew itself, you can rest easy. If your concern is for the future of civilization, you can also rest easy, but you may have to let go of the notion that it should be predicated on an appreciation of Some Like It Hot.
posted by OmieWise at 11:44 AM on May 10, 2006


Not sure there is a trend, to speak of - more that classical music, great literature and old (good) movies tend to be minority pursuits and will probably remain just as much minority pursuits in future. That's not to say they will die out, though.

(data point - I'm 27, was brought up on classical music and still love it, both to produce and consume, and did a literary degree)
posted by altolinguistic at 11:45 AM on May 10, 2006


Why not try to evangelize to your friends and spread it that way? There's not a single one who would try Vanity Fair? No jazz fan that you could slip one of Keith Jarret's classical recordings? No experimental film fan who would respond well to Caligari or Aleta?

I'm 32, listen to Shostakovich (though I prefer French composers), enjoy silent movies, and am currently picking my way through some of John Ruskin's works. Close enough? There's not millions like us (and I don't like what I've listed to the exclusion of more contemporary and/or fluffy things), but there are probably thousands. And sometimes there are ground swells of new interest in "antiquity": the Renaissance was such an animal in many ways, as were the various romantic movements of the 19th century. I refuse to believe that mankind has devolved to a point where the conditions no longer exist for such renewals and rediscoveries, especially when it has become much harder for works to be permanently lost (despite the digital incompatibility doomsayers).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:45 AM on May 10, 2006


Well, I'm in my 40s, and I love those things, and I know other people my age, older, and younger, who love those things, and other people my age, older, and younger, who don't like any of those things, and other people my age, older, and younger who love some of those things. I always chalked it up to people having different tastes, not any kind of trend. As for "passing that love onto their children," well, I don't have any children, but on the other hand, my parents were in the "don't like any of those things" category, so I didn't get it from them.
posted by JanetLand at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2006


In general and on a large scale, you're absolutely right - classical music, literature, and film are not very popular.

However, in specific populations - I'm thinking of students and faculty at serious universities - all these things are quite popular, or at the very least people pretend to like them. (Facebook tells me that 58 of my fellow facebook-registered classmates at the University of Chicago have Shostakovich listed under their favorite music).
posted by bubukaba at 11:54 AM on May 10, 2006


Shostakovich got a boost in certain circles recently from William T. Vollmann's Europe Central, a novel in which he figures heavily. I'd never bothered to check out his symphonies before reading it.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:59 AM on May 10, 2006


Not to worry, there are lots of us out there. I just turned 46 and love all those things, and so do my daughters.

My oldest, now graduating, high school, is an absolute jazz and classical music fanatic. And she loves nothing better than a 50 year old movie. My youngest has signs of being a voracious reader just like her old man. And sitting beside my reading chair is a copy of The Oresteia, which I'm passing through again. All three of us carry 60 gig iPods filled with classical and jazz, and yes, plenty of pop. In fact, your post encouraged me to pull out the iPod and play "24 Preludes and Fugues".

But it's not popular culture, which means you'll have to search around to meet folks like us.
posted by cptnrandy at 12:07 PM on May 10, 2006


I'm 28 and I know people my age and (much) younger than me who are into all of these. Maybe that's atypical because I'm bound to go looking for those people, but then isn't that exactly what the Net is for?

If you just go to the pub you're less likely to find fellow classical music or literature lovers. But even then it's going to happen. I really wouldn't worry.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:26 PM on May 10, 2006


I work in the classical music industry, so to speak, and have spent much of the past 15 years--since I was an undergrad--thinking about things like this. I totally empathize with the feeling of having to seek out the company of those older than I to discuss much of what I love and surround myself with.

But I don't think it's fixed by generation, as dagnyscott rightly pointed out--I just think that most people (hopefully) tend to become more thinking and contemplative as they age, a natural part of longer experience, more knowledge and thus--again, hopefully--more wisdom. That seems to be when people start to gravitate toward more substantive art, literature, etc. So a lot of it is built in: the more complex, subtle, and/or challenging a given work, the more attention and effort it requires on the part of a viewer/listener/reader; a younger person is much more likely to be wired for immediate stimulus and gratification than one more tempered by life.

Also, we live in a culture that's sort of reversed from how things were when much of the work to which I assume you're referring was created (c. 18th cen. to present)--prior to our consumption and communication saturated environments, an individual had to fit him- or herself much more to the world in which they lived. There simply weren't nearly as many opportunities for things like self-expression, or outlets through which to find a diversity of influences or points-of-view.

Now, not only is a whole world of information and opinion immediately available, but there is an astonishing diversity in the ways in which to express them, too. Couple that with the consumer/profit oriented dominance of every sphere of public life, all of which is either catering to as many whims and desires as possible, or creating whims and desires to cater to, and you end up with a world where one really isn't under so much pressure to be a certain way, where so many social, ethnic, gender, and class boundaries are significantly more permeable, etc. etc. etc., and people just don't develop the kinds of introspection they used to.

Also, the kinds of works created were fewer, and therefore more easily digested. At the end of the 19th century, for instance, one could be intimately familiar only with German music since Bach, with some knowledge of a choice few non-German composers (mainly French, a few Russian and British), and be splendidly educated and knowledgeable about music.

Now, there is literally a whole world of amazing, classic, substantial music available: European music from the late Renaissance on, including the phenomenal explosion of creativity through the 20th century, plus at least a century's worth of American classical music, as well as major musical styles from throughout the world. Also, amazing non-classical streams have emerged, too--electronic and computer works, jazz, popular styles, it goes on and on. So it can be a bit daunting to find something you enjoy as well as want to learn from in all of that. Plus, in the US anyway, arts education is so tremendously suck-tastic that anyone who does crave substance is starting from zero and self-educating, which is great, but requires more effort and persistence.

And finally (sorry for the rambling), some interesting trends are reversing: for many symphonies in the US, and opera companies, the audiences have actually been getting younger. The institutions themselves have been slow (read: completely recalcitrant) to respond to the massive cultural changes of the last 50 years, and some change has finally really happened over the last 5-10 years, and seems to me to be accelerating. Many of these changes (in concert music, at least) are resulting in greater attendance and general enthusiasm. Also, iTunes' classical music sales have gone WAY up in the last couple of quarters (4Q 2005, they were 10-12% of sales!), which was surprising to all involved. So we'll see.

And I could go on about the abysmal attitude toward great artistic work ingrained as part of the anti-intellectual set of the American public sphere, but I've written enough. I have to go and actually work now, but will be very interested to read the conversation that takes place--this is a great question.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:28 PM on May 10, 2006


It seemed to me that the crowd for the Los Angeles philharmonic got quite a bit more "younger" people (<40) after they moved to the nice, shiny new Disney Hall building. It was suddenly fashinable to be seen in this cool buiding, I suppose. A few seasons later, the crowd is not quite as young as it was the first few months, but it's no longer like it was 5+ years ago, when it seemed that 90%+ of the crowd were of retirement age. Perhaps there will be some long-term results of younger people sticking around for the music (in this limited case).
posted by Spurious Packets at 12:36 PM on May 10, 2006


My best guess for all three categories is: academics. I can't think of anyone else who'd willingly read Thackeray (though I'm not above the occasional Trollope myself), and certainly film historians would be interested in silents, and as far as Shostakovich goes, well, try hanging out at Juilliard.
posted by scratch at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2006


so I don't see why you're seeing this as a function of generation rather than a simple function of age.

I hope you're right. My reasoning is likely to be faulty, because it's based on the small sampling of people I've met and have grown up with.

But I noticed that my Dad (who has similar tastes to me) always had tons of people who shared his passions. He's in his 70s.

When people in MY generation discuss music, they DO look back, but mostly at The Stones or Pink Floyd. Not all the way back to Handel. And whenever I come to work with a Dickens novel, people make (friendly) comments. "Doin' some light reading, huh?" I work with college-educated people my age in New York city, so it's not exactly a backwater. They mostly read Stephen King, graphic novels, etc.

My tastes are a novelty. It didn't seem as odd for my dad to carry around Dickens.
posted by grumblebee at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2006


And whenever I come to work with a Dickens novel, people make (friendly) comments. "Doin' some light reading, huh?" I work with college-educated people my age in New York city, so it's not exactly a backwater. They mostly read Stephen King, graphic novels, etc.

Hm, maybe it's just the particulars of your workplace? In the last two workplaces I've been in (both in Chicago and here in L.A.) I've encountered a number of people who actively enjoyed classic literature, film, and music -- I can rattle off several coworkers (past and present) who I could easily expect to see reading Bleak House at lunch, for example, or who would jump at the chance to go see a screening of Metropolis. In other words, sure, enjoying Dickens on a regular basis is a novelty when compared to the culture at large, but not such a novelty among my own workplaces and social circles. (Which is not to say that I don't have plenty of coworkers who prefer Stephen King and graphic novels.)
posted by scody at 1:07 PM on May 10, 2006


There are people out there, but not enough. I'm 19, and the three Dickens novels I've read have been for pleasure.
posted by danb at 1:20 PM on May 10, 2006


But most of my peers prefer pop music, contemporary films, and graphic novels.

Well, if one of the contemporary films they prefer is Vanity Fair, then they may know, or be willing to hear, who Thackeray is. Same with those who have a passing interest in Kubrick, a la Barry Lyndon. Then you can tell them that the hero of Notting Hill (played by Hugh Grant) is rather ponderously named Will Thacker, and why (but...you didn't bother to see Notting Hill, right?).

I would echo an earlier comment about the world of academia. College English Lit departments are teeming with people under 40 (hell, under 25) who care about Thackeray (or, at any rate, have read him).

No one ever wears Elizabethan clothes, unless they're in a play.

Well, that's a bit reductive. No one wears Elizabethan clothes per se, but contemporary designers do sometimes claim such bygone eras as influences (just look at the 'contemporary film' Unzipped to see Mizrahi doing the medieval thing). Also, people in Elizabethan times were not walking around wearing togas, unless they were in a play, or having a party, or what have you, so it's not as if this lack of interest in wearing clothing from centuries before is a recent phenomenon.

In the same vein: I went to film school, and none of the instructors could speak for more than five minutes without referring to the brilliance of Billy Wilder. Plenty of young people know who Wilder was, and many of them want to make, or are making, films of their own.
posted by bingo at 2:24 PM on May 10, 2006


Actually, a lot of people do wear Elizabethan clothes for fun, and while there's lots of dorkiness involved, I'd bet that more than a few of them are fans of classical music and literature.
posted by bubukaba at 2:36 PM on May 10, 2006


grumblebee, keep in mind that at least in terms of music, there are no long-term trends to speak of. There have only been about six generations since the invention of the phonograph, five since its widespread availability. Before its invention, music was highly regional and musical taste was largely dictated by class. Six generations is few enough that even if you're right and classical music is more-or-less uninteresting to today's fourty-somethings compared with their parents, there's no telling what that says about subsequent generations.

I don't know what's been popular when since the dawn of the phonograph, but my intuition is that on the whole, the number of people listening to and appreciating classical music is going up at the moment, not down. There are some statistics in this article which seem to suggest that at least in the last decade, things are looking up for classical music.
posted by louigi at 2:37 PM on May 10, 2006


My guess is that the younger folks who are into classical music these days are mostly upper-class. They were kids who got violin lessons, went to private school, and now are well-paid urban professionals with the disposable income to buy season tickets to their city philharmonic.

It's pretty much a similar crowd I see at the "oldie" cinemas scattered around the cities I've lived in, and it's part of why I like living in those cities.

So basically I think the question is about demographics, and the demographic you're looking for is sort of tied up with class signifiers, wealth, and the big city. I know a lot of folks like this, for what it's worth, mostly via my Ivy League college experience and my later experience training and working in the medical field.

I don't feel like this is a very insightful answer to your question. I hope it was helpful.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:05 PM on May 10, 2006


When people in MY generation discuss music, they DO look back, but mostly at The Stones or Pink Floyd. Not all the way back to Handel. And whenever I come to work with a Dickens novel, people make (friendly) comments. "Doin' some light reading, huh?"

Then those particular people have superficial/bad taste in music/literature/whatever. It happens. They probably know a lot about some other subject.

But I don't think it's something specific with any particular generation. I mean, I'm 21 and I could make the same generalization about my peer group. Most people just don't have an appreciation for classic (insert anything here).
posted by ludwig_van at 3:26 PM on May 10, 2006


If it helps any, I'm 26, and I've been on this whole against-the-modern-world kick lately. I've been increasingly moving away from pop culture and towards "high" culture these days, especially when it comes to literature. I'm not much of a film buff, so I can't really say much on movies one way or another, but the only (fiction) books I've been reading lately are the classics. Presently I'm reading and enjoying Don Quixote, and before that it was Macbeth and A Midsummer's Night Dream.

Music is a funny one for me, though. I don't tend to listen to classical music much, but I think that's mostly because my parents played lots and lots of it when I was growing up. So for me, it's this really familiar, homey thing that I strongly associate with childhood, and listening to it now feels somehow redundant, or something. I don't know whether that's reassuring from your standpoint, or the opposite...

In any case, even if there aren't that many young people who respect and value the art and culture of the past, there will always be some, and I don't think it will ever die out entirely.
posted by a louis wain cat at 3:51 PM on May 10, 2006


Why are those things snobby? I'm 28, and I listen to Shostakovich, watch silent movies and read Thackeray. Snobbish is saying only art forms of the past have any value.

I also like Dolly Parton, Wyclef Jean, Fountains of Wayne, Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. And right now I'm spending more time watching Arrested Development on DVD than silent movies, though I've seen many and I have an intense interest in seeing many more. I don't have the patience for most immediately contemporary literature, but I'm working my way through the American cannon of the 1950s and '60s.

Maybe you're assuming that people who have an interest in contemporary/modern pop culture don't have an interest in the culture of the past.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:07 PM on May 10, 2006


value the art and culture of the past

You're all assuming that those before us did something worthwhile. This is very probably true, but there is something to be said for survival of the fittest memes. Hairless monkey's aren't terribly creative either, so if your beloved chunk of soculture bites it in a few generations, someone else will generate a more or less similar one eventually.
posted by phrontist at 9:08 PM on May 10, 2006


s/soculture/culture/g;
posted by phrontist at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2006


i hate to say this, but i suspect that some of the things that you currently love will probably fade into oblivion as the people who remember them die or forget them. While that's sad, you should probably remember both that really great works will fade very slowly, and that some (few) works being created today will prove to be the next generation of classics.

but here's a meta-question for you: are you upset about society forgetting the 'classics' or are you really upset about the superficiality of modern society?

For a while I suspected that the classics might get lost for a while and then re-discovered, but now I wonder. Often things from the past become trendy in the present, but it's usually stuff from the RECENT past -- like 60s fashions coming back. No one ever wears Elizabethan clothes, unless they're in a play.

The reason is ask is because i'm wondering if you really want people to rediscover the classics. If Shostakovich did become instantly mainstream, what would be next? A club mix? No matter what happened, i highly doubt that the majority of society is ready to appreciate your interests on the same level you do. As an example, take just about any music subculture that became popular. The original fans label everybody as 'sellouts' and 'going mainstream' because popular interest introduces pressure to dilute the art form and make it more accessible.

So, reinterpreting your question somewhat as 'are all of the non-superficial people going to die and leave me alone', i would suggest that the answer is no. As plenty of above comments have pointed out, there are plenty of smaller groups of people who are capable of deeper interest in just about any subject. They may not know about your particular favorites (until you introduce them!) but they'll relate to your love of [insert favourite form of expression here].
posted by nml at 9:57 PM on May 10, 2006


Well, with regard to music, the great music of the past requires institutions to preserve it. Music isn't like other artworks, you can't put it in a museum--it must be performed to actually exist (and no, recordings definitely are not the same thing). So, it takes a critical mass of interest (and money) to preserve it.

Substantive music (like Shostakovich) can be challenging to listen to--at least at first--and thus will likely never gain any widespread popularity. The concerns of symphony orchestras and opera houses these days is that there isn't that critical mass of interest and financial investment to sustain the art form (let alone generate the creation of new works in the medium).

This is why those in the arts advocate increased governmental support for them--much of the work in these traditions (new or old) is complex, nuanced, and the antithesis of what has broad appeal. So expecting it to compete in the free market is absurd.

(FWIW: the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world, could not exist without a base of tax revenue from the city of Berlin. Even in one of the epicenters of orchestral music, where the tradition is alive and well--at last count there were ELEVEN full time professional orchestras in that city alone--an orchestra cannot exist solely on ticket sales and donations. So this is a concern to those who care about the life of this art form.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:23 PM on May 10, 2006


Genuine interest in unfamiliar experiences can serve as a criterion to describe the type of people you're asking about, grumblebee. Here's the thing: The people most people know are more or less mostly like them. Any genuine interest in experiences unlike those they already know is rare, since people usually want comfort more than novelty, but I suspect such interest defines the type of person you're asking about; I suspect you're such a person, too.

Contemporary popular culture in the U.S.—my culture—affords extravagant familiarity, especially disguised as novelty, but I feel it insulates me from genuinely new experiences as a matter of course. (I suspect "culture" generally insulates its inheritors from outside influence—culture seems to work as a kind of "membership" mechanism—but that's speculation more than anything else: It's certainly not earned knowledge.) It's weird, but the works of art you ask about—which posters say they like, too; it's not the end of the world; unpopular doesn't mean unliked; et cetera—are genuinely new experiences, as I understand them, because popular culture—my inheritance—affords me no direct access to them. Thackeray isn't properly packaged and I'm not properly educated or informed enough to appreciate his work without some effort on my part. Popular cultural works of art achieve their effects by adhering to cultural norms and by making no demands on me. Dickens is another hard target. Footnotes required.

ikkyu2 raises the point that demographic and class issues affect who can belong to the culture club, saying he knows "a lot of folks like this"; but I think he's talking about a different kind of person than you're asking about. I think he's talking about the people bubukaba mentions, who "at . . . least pretend to like" demanding works of art. These people are The New Yorker's market but they're not your asked-about and hoped-for peers.

(I guess to be clear and in hopes of forestalling accusations of arrogance, I should claim that I'm not one of these hoped-for peers, either. I haven't read Thackeray, haven't really heard any Shostakovich, don't watch or love silent movies, and I've only read "The Christmas Carol" or anthologized bits by Dickens. Mostly I'm interested in your question as a way to help myself understand how people behave. I'm not marking any territory, otherwise.)

New popular things tend to be small variations on old popular things, not genuinely new things, because anything genuinely new is, by definition, unfamiliar, and so not comforting. (A trite example: Audiences frightened by L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de la Ciotat in 1895.)

The sciences are another arena of genuinely new experience, often popularly neglected or misunderstood for similar reasons, too hard to understand or appreciate immediately.

I suspect the people you hope to talk to, the people you hope are around when you're 70, the people you remember your father had as friends with common interests, I suspect those people don't exist now and didn't exist then, at least not as a population. I think the types of conversation you hope to have about your passions are inherently transient and contingent things, as they were for your father, but you remember them as better than they were because you want them so much.

Also, I think I understand this question because I want to have similar sorts of conversations and feel there's nobody to talk to, too.
posted by cgc373 at 2:36 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


nml, thanks for your answer, but I don't share your interpretation. People who don't share my tastes aren't superficial -- they're just different. Or, if they're shallow about Mahler, then I'm shallow about Radiohead.

I don't expect Shostakovich to become the next Jennifer Lopez. Anyway, if he did -- and, as you suggested, it was in a watered-down form -- that wouldn't count. Watered-down Shostakovich isn't Shostakovich.

In my Dad's generation, people who love classical music are a minority, but I thought they were a LARGER minority than exists today. Some people here have suggested I'm wrong about that, and I hope that's true.
posted by grumblebee at 3:33 AM on May 11, 2006


Maybe Sonny Bono will lock down enough new material so no one can enjoy it and then those will become the only things available.
posted by BigBrownBear at 5:18 AM on May 11, 2006


All three of your examples are easily available on the market and have been since their distant creation (film less so only because the technology to make them home friendly didn't used to exist- I'd be long on silent movies).

If they still sell at this late date, I really wouldn't worry too much about their losing their appeal in the next thirty years.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:37 AM on May 11, 2006


In my Dad's generation, people who love classical music are a minority, but I thought they were a LARGER minority than exists today.

Well, you're older than me, but this may still apply.

In MY dad's generation, particularly when he was in high school (early 1960's) lots of people were into jazz/folk/classical because all popular music sucked big time.

If you listened to the radio you only heard the same few lame songs with creepy old guys singing about 16-year-old girls and 16-year-old girls (or someone who sounded like a 16-year-old girl) telling their boyfriends to be real men and beat them up. It was BAD.

But today there is popular music that's actually decent, so more people will listen to music that's broadly under the term "popular music" and fewer people will listen to classical, folk, and jazz.

It's not that people don't have taste, it's that people have OPTIONS to listen to indie rock, progressive rock, even video game music (Yasunori Mitsuda!) -- all sorts of popular music that has some complexity to it.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:44 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


nml, thanks for your answer, but I don't share your interpretation. People who don't share my tastes aren't superficial -- they're just different. Or, if they're shallow about Mahler, then I'm shallow about Radiohead.

I sort of already said this, I think this is overly relativistic. Some people really do have a shallow appreciation for music (for example). It's a matter of how one relates to music, not the amount of artists with which one is familiar. Now in a sense I agree with you - where someone else has a shallow appreciation of music, I have a shallow appreciation of gourmet food, architecture, or fashion. And that's okay with me - but I don't try to say that I simply have a "different" appreciation of those things. I simply haven't put in the time and effort recquired to acquaint myself with them and learn to discriminate amongst them.

And that's the point - complex art forms require training, or at least active familiarity, in order to have a good appreciation. In today's world of massive, rapid cultural output, as alluded to above, people simply can't find time to develop a taste for everything. Now if the education system were tweaked a bit, this could probably change, but that's another issue.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:22 AM on May 11, 2006


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