Notwithstanding its occasional ability to stir my heart or capture a mood, regular readers of Shavings will know that I don't much care for classical music. If all classical music, however it be defined, disappeared tomorrow I would not be disturbed.
I respect other people's rights to enjoy it, of course, and never mind when it is played in someone else's house. In fact I get more annoyed when people unfamiliar with anything contemporary try to play music in their home that they don't like themselves but think I might enjoy. It makes me uncomfortable and often goes all Sadé.
What I don't like is the suggestion that somehow I am a second class citizen because of this taste. It took some guts, aged twelve, to persuade my parents to let me have some piano lessons when few of my friends played instruments. It was all seen as a bit poncey if you were also one of the football crowd. Even more so to admit that I was going to my Grandma's after school to practice because she had a piano. Advanced bravery was evidenced by my willingness, after my folks had purchased a piano, to renounce the lessons because I didn't enjoy them. A car accident the day before my Grade 1 exam gave me the excuse I needed to stop.
I then spent the next ten years teaching myself blues piano (and painting the piano blue) so the theme of parental sacrifice needs laying alongside teenage stubbornness. It must have been hell.
Yesterday I read this in the Guardian. 'Classical music needs to shake off its elitist stigma if its truly transformative power is to be realised.' Read the whole story here.
The writer, Philipa Ibbotson, makes the point that those who learn a musical instrument do half a grade better at GCSE than those who don't. Music may be her strong point but statistics certainly isn't. Most of those who learn a musical instrument come from households which have other advantages to exam-sitters, such as cash, educational background, parental interest and neighbourhood. She goes on to say that it makes her sad that someone might genuinely dislike classical music. Well how about those for two ideas which haven't quite shaken off their elitist stigma? (I posted this paragraph as a comment on her article.)
Art consumption is about preferences. Don't be sad at mine and I won't be sad at yours. I love listening to people performing their own music several times more than those who play the tunes of others, which is what classical musicians do, by and large. Most orchestras are no more than full-scale tribute bands. Embrace that, classical music lovers and I'll begin to be convinced you are not elitist.