Tuesday 9 October, 8.00pm until 10.00pm, Crossclub, Plynární 23, Praha 7, 170 00, Czech Republic
Who’s better? Who’s best? Mozart or Madonna? Dvořák or Dizzee Rascal? Beethoven or the Beatles? Prague is home not only to a world-renowned club scene but equally to a fine tradition of classical music, with many more orchestras than its size might suggest. It would appear that both forms of music exist happily side-by-side. Underneath the surface, though, there are clear divides, with the clubbers likely to dub the classicists posh, elitist and old, while many classical aficionados have never heard of dub. If one believes no form of music can be better than any other, then maybe this divide doesn’t matter. Each to his own. But can we truly understand music unless we try to make judgements of quality?
Aesthetic theories have always tended to promote a certain ranking of the arts. For existentialists theatre was the best; for Aristotle the tragic; for Plato music (good music at least) could bring a soul into harmony from discord. It can be argued that if we are to understand what is special about any particular art form, we have to be open to the possibility that one form might be better than another. So might classical music be better than modern music? Or is it the other way round? What would be involved in making such a claim? The superficial health of classical music in cities like Vienna, Berlin and Prague tells us little about whether or not it is a thriving tradition. After all, many of those listening to performances are the elderly or tourists brought in by young musicians dressed as period Mozarts. Do we even really understand what counts as ‘classical’ today? It can be hard to draw a line between Bach, Schoenberg and John Cage. Is postwar classical music the same thing as before? Is it still in the same tradition?
What about contemporary claims that one does not need to read music to be a musician? That it might be just as easy, just as hard, to be a rock star as a concert pianist? Do both require as much work, training and discipline? Does it matter? Is pop just play while classical demands commitment? What would pop, rock and rap be without the vocals? Is pop ephemeral, the classical, well, classic? Does the relatively longer tradition of classical music represent just a quantitative or a qualitative difference? Might it be the case that modern music simply hasn’t been around long enough to build up the same tradition, the same critical appreciation, around it? But that it will over time? Does classical music retain any claim to be simply the best?
|Varhan Orchestrovič Bauer|
composer; orchestrator; arranger; conductor, film and stage music; founder, Immediate Filmic Orchestra
associate fellow, Institute of Ideas; editor, Culture Wars; editor, Debating Humanism; co-founder, Manifesto Club
clarinettist; teacher; arts project manager, Royal Philharmonic Society
aka, DJ RaveBoy, underground philosopher and cultural activist
freelance music journalist, author Hudba ohně (Fire Music) and Tribes
co-director, NY Salon; co-founder, London's Truman Brewery
The truth is that there is simply no need to go down the Classic Brit route. What you are in effect saying with this monstrous spectacle is that Joe Public is too uncultured, too dense, too stupid to deal with an unedited, beautifully played Chopin mazurka, Mendelssohn concerto or Beethoven sonata.James Rhodes, Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2012
Classical music is changing. There are operas in bars, Baroque bands in pubs, circus acrobats in concert halls. Rock stars compose. Classical clubbing is de rigeur. What is going on? In this series of articles, Paul Kilbey talks to some of the key figures making changes in classical music, and tries to make some sense of it all.Paul Kilbey, bachtrack, 14 September 2012
If you think classical music is snobbish, just take a look at indie culture.En Liang Khong, New Statesman, 23 July 2012
How we describe pop music proves that we find moral significance in music. How do we tell what music we should and should not encourage?Roger Scruton, American, 28 February 2010
The word 'music' in the early 21st century means many things. It means Mozart in the elevator, 50s pop songs on TV adverts, Finnish folk songs on Nokia 'phones. It means inflammatory Serbian nationalist song, ancient Coptic Church chant, Berlin electronica, Wynton Marsalis.
Ivan Hewett, Continuum, 17 March 2005
Death in Venice: is tourism killing or saving the city?
"The Battle of Ideas is a weekend like no other. I found the 2011 festival immensely stimulating. It gave me a great deal to think about, and a whole new list of books to read - from Virgil to Vygotsky. On to greater battles in 2012!"
Ken Macleod, award-winning science fiction writer; author, The Restoration Game and Intrusion