Furthest Right

The Firebird Suite

Classical music is dead. DED dead. Nerdsville, man. Total nerdsville. Only Chinese people do that. But then again, you know what Asian parents call a kid who’s GPA is lower than 4.0. A mistake.

Back when my little boy was a baby and my wife and I were still a two-income family by necessity we took our kid to a baby sitter in the AM and picked him up on the way back home. One evening we were invited to dinner by one of our sitter’s friends. Our hosts were a very respectable Korean family who had been early entrepreneurs along Route 236. They were cashing in rather nicely on having gotten there firstest with the mostest.

As part of a pleasant afternoon/evening, they gave us the nickel tour of what was (for Northern Virginia) a pretty vast spread. In one room there was this tiny violin. It looked like a replica of what actual adults played. It was a wee bit too small to issue out to a member of The Halfling Symphonic Orchestra. The lady of the house saw me perusing the little violin and told me her daughter (five at the time) got her start on it back when she was two. She was pregnant with another one, so the violin hadn’t been sold. So why make the toddlers cut their teeth on Suzuki Volume One? Perhaps this.

There is little doubt that classical music produces better minds, and promotes success in other fields. Academic studies show that music lessons raise the IQs of six-year-olds. Elite American families still nudge their children toward musical study. At Brearley, New York’s most exclusive girl’s school, playing in the orchestra is a requirement. American medical schools accept more undergraduates who majored in music than any other discipline (excepting pre-med). Any activity that requires discipline and deferred gratification benefits children, but classical music does more than sports or crafts.

Most of us assume IQ is G-Loaded and you get what the sperm and egg gave you. But what isn’t addressed is how well that potential is honed by practice. Kirby Puckett may have been a baseball beast, but he didn’t pop out of mom able to murder the curveball. There needs to be a method to train the brain. Music is apparently one part of it.

But that isn’t the only benefit that classical music has. It is a subtle way to reinstate Freedom of Association. People blast music as a method of establishing their scene and also of policing it. The barrio has its salsa music and rap owns the black urban ghettos. What allows urbanized whites to control their territory as well? Bach at the Burger King.

The inspiration for the Burger King plan, a CMCBD official commented, came from the London Underground. In 2005, the metro system started playing orchestral soundtracks in 65 tube stations as part of a scheme to deter “anti-social” behavior, after the surprising success of a 2003 pilot program. The pilot’s remarkable results — seeing train robberies fall 33 percent, verbal assaults on staff drop 25 percent, and vandalism decrease 37 percent after just 18 months of classical music — caught the eye of the global law-enforcement community. Thus, an international phenomenon was born. Since then, weaponized classical music has spread throughout England and the world: police units across the planet now deploy the string quartet as the latest addition to their crime-fighting arsenal, recruiting Officer Johann Sebastian as the newest member of the force.

In all three cases, the salsa on Berendo Street — the rap on MLK Boulevard or Bach at the BK — a fair arguement could be made that this is just a totally positivist celebration of unique cultural diversity that makes Amerika great! It will lead us to intercultural musical harmony. OK, I’ll can the horse manure. This is a direct manifestation of art as a weapon. Vladimir Lenin is chuckling in Hell.

Music is an auditory method of enforcing the negative but vital component of Freedom of Association. This is music as a territorial pissing. If salsa music pisses you off on some level, you are probably someone that Jose wants off of his fvckin lawn. He improves his neighborhood by cranking. Old School Tupac is used the same way. Why not Igor Stravinsky? For those who don’t appreciate his ethnicity, here’s why not.

Today, most young people encounter classical music not as a popular art form but as a class signifier, a set of tropes in a larger system of encoded communication that commercial enterprises have exploited to remap our societal associations with orchestral sound. Decades of cultural conditioning have trained the public to identify the symphony as sonic shorthand for social status — and, by extension, exclusion from that status. The average American does not recognize the opening chords of The Four Seasons as the sound of spring but the sound of snobbery. On screen, Baroque is the background music for Old Money, High Society, and condescension. In essence, its music is not meant to be appreciated, but associated — and those associations are overwhelmingly elitist.

As someone who can appreciate Stravinsky’s ethnicity and according family legend, shares a drop or two of its blood, I fail to see any of what I read above as a bad thing. Elite is good. It implies pretty strongly a fundamental lack of the suck. Vivaldi didn’t write Four Seasons to exclude. It was designed to be a year-long course in how to play violin. One block of lessons per season. Four semesters per academic year. Like school. Which I guess non-elitists who feel excluded are hermetically allergic to.

I’m totally digging the elitism. I like having the option of choosing to associate and only associate with people who can appreciate this. That, my friends is the emphatic way of telling someone that it is #OKToBeWHite.

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