Music and Vision homepage


Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey



Your conclusions


'The musical world has dumbed down so much it hardly exists'.

From: Robert Jordahl

I am aware that there has been a 'dumbing down' in the music classroom at many levels. This may also be true in pop musics. However, art music is a whole 'nother ball game.

From: Irvine Greene

As already remarked, 'dumbing down' is a matter of historical perspective. Ever since man existed, (s)he thinks to have lost some Ancient Golden Age. But things do not go 'better' or 'worse', they go differently.

Actually, this is becoming a very interesting phase of music history. In a couple of decades everyone will have the power to produce music at what is now professional level. Orchestras will disappear, or exist only to play the standard repertoire of the previous centuries. The music industry will transform itself or disappear. Most new music will be created, performed and distributed in electronic form.

But creativity will not disappear, only evaluation parameters will shift.

From: David Thompson

No, I don't think the musical world has 'dumbed down', but maybe your correspondent needs to define 'the musical world'. It's true that lots of junk and crossover music is now promoted at the expense of the 'real thing'.

I think the rot really started a few years ago with the launch of Classic FM, where 'classical music' is reduced to tuneful, enticing soundbites with the result that the majority of its listeners will start thinking that to enjoy three minutes or so of appealing and emotional melody constitutes an appreciation of real music, which, of course, it does not, by several thousand miles. But an uncritical audience which does not appreciate the subtleties of genuine artistry, in composition, as well as execution, may well run away with the idea that a certain tenor 'Voice', or a certain young soprano of cambrian ancestry are to be compared with the likes of Wunderlich and Callas. Look at the so-called Classical Chart, awash with such stuff. And look at the enduring popularity of certain musicals, whose musical content is totally puerile.

The truth is, I think, that a true appreciation of serious music is, always was, and always will be, the privilege of a small minority. How else do we explain why one of music's supreme geniuses lies buried in an unmarked grave, whilst a purveyor of gratuitous, derivative nothingness can be a multi-millonaire, (and a peer of the realm to boot)? But for a few of us, music is a sublime, spiritual experience, where quality of content and performance will always out, and there will always be a hunger for it, which, despite the commercial promotion of the mediocre, will, like all great art, always survive. And we will not allow our own tastes to be dumbed down by anybody. We, surely are 'the musical world', aren't we?

From: Steve Hansen Smythe

I suspect that the well-known performer was talking about a small subset of the musical world: that portion which understands and appreciates classical music (in the broad sense). The musical world is full of invisible, insular pockets of expertise.

For a young listener just developing musical taste, the choices are overwhelming, and the ratio of listeners who travel the same path as the 'well-known performer' to the rest becomes smaller.

As a result, to each specialty the rest of the musical world appears to have dumbed down.

From: Jan Templiner

I don't think it's true, really. While there certainly is a certain point to that some parts of music are 'dumb', I don't think it has been any different at any time. Perhaps people used to not question this, but accept that there always needs to be a certain amount of 'dumb music'.

I believe that Darwinism also applies to the arts -- only the best survives. But that demands that there is a lot of less stuff that doesn't survive. I'm sure that in a century most of today's music will be forgotten, just like we forgot most music that existed a century ago. Nonetheless, the great music of our time will take a place just as special in history as the great music of former times.




We have received a number of answers to the question put to readers in an editorial entitled 'Professionalism' published on 31 January. The choice of 'true' or 'false' percentage-wise has so far revealed that just over half of received answers have indicated the assertion to be true.

That to me is surprising in expectation of a strong vote for rejection of the assertion; so the majority vote goes the other way and suggests that Music can be in danger of trends in some way detrimental to its acceptance by music lovers, and the public which attends some concerts and opera.

It is now my intention to invite a few experienced musical writers willing to share their thoughts on the matter, so watch this space! But I urge any reader fidgeting to add to the debate to get typing now.


Copyright © 28 February 2002 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK



 << Music & Vision home             Professionalism >>