A Lesson in Class Lines

So I attended Alex Ross’ lecture/Q&A session at Wheeler tonight in which he talked about his new book, The Rest is Noise, an accessible history of 20th century classical music. One of Ross’ main points in his book is that classical music has been ossified and been banished to the cultural dust-bin of elites in the 20th century.

And he wants to make classical music relevant again, by arguing that classical music is not hermetically sealed from the rest of culture, high or low-brow.

Therefore it struck me as especially ironic, as I looked around the audiences gathered in Wheeler hall, eagerly awaiting Ross: 90 percent of them are old, white, and presumably well-off.

Exactly the kind of audiences that make classical music seem impenetrable to the general public.

So even in trying to arguing for the relevance of 20th century classical music, Ross finds himself speaking to an audience which presumably pay attention to classical music to begin with.

I saw maybe 10 other people in the audience my age; not a single member of the audience is African-American or Hispanic. In fact I think I was the only Asian person in the audience.

If that’s not a demonstration of clear class lines in the politics of art, then I don’t know what else is.

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