Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is It Just Me, or Is This Really Lame?

There are so many reasons to cancel your subscription to The New York Times. Alastair Macaulay is one. This might be another.

Maybe it's Tommasini's condescending tone ("I don't do rankings"), or his ignorance of the music media that exists all around him (which contributes to the condescension), or his cloying set-up (that whole thing about the high-school student), but today's how-to-make-a-top-ten-composers-list-if-you-really-want-to article annoyed me.

One of the goals of this article (I guess; it's hard to say what's going on) is to question assumptions about the canon. As an alternative, I suggest Benjamin Carlson's series on the Atlantic's web site, published last  spring.

Carlson can come off as a little didactic, but his list of instructions on how to listen to classical music can be helpful. For people new to Bach, Beethoven, and the boys, it provides a firm launch pad; for more experienced listeners, the list helps focus in on aspects of the music we take for granted. I found myself disagreeing with Carlson at times (he wrote three articles in all), but at least he gave me points to think about.

I may just be grumpy this morning. What do you think? You can
e-mail me if I'm full of beans.