Classical music not for dummies

Neither is physics

George Carlin
  • George Carlin
  • “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
  • – George Carlin.

I came across this quote recently and came to an uncomfortable realization. I only say that it is an uncomfortable realization because I want to paint myself as being somewhat compassionate.

The nature of a classical music concert or an opera performance excludes those with below average intelligence. Stupid people are not welcome.

Wait, isn’t everyone welcome at a classical music concert? Yes, the organization putting on the concert welcomes anyone and everyone to “come as you are.” The music, on the other hand, excludes the dummies.

I could go to a physics seminar. I’m sure I’d be welcome to buy a ticket and that the staff would be friendly. However, the physics part would make me feel like a complete idiot.

Now, I might have a suspicion that what was happening at the physics seminar had some intrinsic value, and I might begin to study physics and learn the rules of physics. If I did that, I would be an above average person. I think it safe to say that an average person would simply give up on physics seminars.

I’m wading into dangerous waters here by suggesting that stupid people are not welcome at classical music concerts. Yet I think it is important to acknowledge that the music itself is the barrier to most people participating in classical music or opera. People can wear cargo shorts and flip flops to the symphony as often as they want to. The unwritten dress code isn’t the excluding element.

The bandwidth required to receive an hour-and-a-half to two hours of music is beyond the capacity of basic people. The fact of the matter is that the music requires more of us than many of us can give.

Am I trying to reassert the image of classical music as an elitist venue?

No. I’m asserting that we expect too much of the average person. We expect them to go to a symphony or opera and “get it” right away.

People try to run marathons without training. It doesn’t go well.

If classical music and opera are to continue to function in our culture, then we who love the art form are going to be required to help people train for concerts. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend a classical music concert to the average person.

“Hey friend, you should go to the opera. You’ll love it.”

Wrong.

That person will probably hate it and never go back because they just tried to run a marathon without having ever run a 5K.

The goal isn’t to make stupid people feel welcome. The goal is to help people become less stupid.

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