A Brilliant Cultural Analysis based on Classical Music

This article, although focused on classical music, at its core is a brilliant exposition and exegesis of the current state of affairs in our society.
From the transience of experience and rampant individualism, through to a constantly thwarted search for Australian identity, the observations in the middle section are rich and incisive.

“Last year, at my son’s primary school Christmas concert, the children did not sing a single Christmas carol. I thought this might have been because the word “Jesus” was verboten, but the principal later reassured me that it was not. …
I had recently returned from Germany, where a woman had asked me whether Christmas in the Australian summer could possibly be gemütlich. I sang one of the confected Australian carols I had learned as a child…
“Oh wow,” she marvelled. “That sounds really awkward.”

This awkwardness was writ large at my son’s concert. It was a Christmas concert in search of identity; never mind Christ, there were not even any references to Christmases past. It spoke to me of a larger Australian malaise: because we dare not confront the realities of our own past, we prefer to imagine there was no past. Instead, we busy ourselves with our home renovations and hero ingredients, and forget the Western humanistic tradition. We celebrate culture if you can eat it. (If we do acknowledge a heritage, it is frequently one of failure: Gallipoli, the Eureka Stockade, a suicidal swagman. This might look like the championing of the underdog, but nothing in today’s national actions suggests that we champion the underdog.)”

Its a long read, but worthwhile. Read it now: https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/october/1443621600/anna-goldsworthy/lost-art-listening


About Chris

  • John Cav

    Hey Chris, It is a good article. And although some of her cultural observations are great (others not so much), I’m not convinced by the solutions she offers to the problems she perceives.
    She follows the tendency of most musicologists to view the history and value of Western Classical music with rose-tinted glasses. Her take of Foster Wallace and reminiscing on Whitlam in particular strike me as off.

    If you have the time (and I know how fast you read) you should have a read of Jacques Attali’s “Noise”, or anything by Christopher Small.

    • Yeah, I’m no musicologist, I’ll leave that to the experts. I was mainly interested in the cultural analysis she provided via the lens of classical music. Its further evidence that the cultural shift that has been observed in a variety of settings is not limited to those groups.