I have asked why people would do psychoanalysis — 3, 4, 5 times a week for 3, 4, 5 years or more — if they could get the same benefits from once a week therapy, or what I call “that once a week crap.”

In today’s New York Times opinion letters, the following appeared, triggered by President Trump’s defense of Western culture earlier this summer, “We write symphonies.”

It was appalling to hear Mr. Trump invoke the Western musical tradition in furtherance of his Islamophobic agenda. Equally depressing, though, has been the rush of music critics practically tripping over themselves in attempting to distance those remarks from the image of artistic egalitarianism carefully cultivated in the popular and academic musical press over the last few decades.

[New York Times music critic] Anthony Tommasini’s article struck me as a particularly egregious example of this obsessive anti-elitism: a well-intentioned but ultimately unfortunate phenomenon for the long-term health of American classical music.

There can be no question that using Western art to belittle other cultures will further alienate the general public, but so too will the idea that what we do is no better or worse than any other cultural offering.

We need not swing from one extreme to the other, and if we do — if we accept, as Mr. Tommasini suggests, that “Eleanor Rigby” “is just as profound as Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony” — we’re digging our own professional graves.

The letter write concluded:

After all, who would voluntarily sit through an 80-minute, or even a 30-minute, symphony if one could have an equally profound experience with a two-minute pop song?

Advertisements