I Welcome the Catastrophe

Classical music is still relevant, it just needs to be intensified, libidinised, delirialised. Defended against its defenders. Worthy tomes such as Lawrence Kramer’s Why Classical Music Still Matters point to both the crisis and to some of the music’s power, but do not speak adequately to the structural, institutional straitjacket that deprive classical music of the exorbitant critical aesthetics that it deserves.

Endless analysis jargon provides a theory rush of a kind, a disarticulation of the music object to the point of the founding of a sublime critical/musicological technologics. Writers like Paul Griffiths, Brian Ferneyhough, even Taruskin, sometimes approach the poetry of confusion. At the opposite terminal to analytical jargon-fetishists, we feel crushed by the weight of a million Gramaphone and Opera magazines, all choked by competency. Clarity is not what is needed; prolepsis can be a trap. Where the writing to set brains on fire, to pump hearts into motion? The music clings onto its life-altering energies, just about, in spite of its straitened circumstance. Somewhere in the middle sit well-meaning writers such as Greg Sandow, desperate for something like a modernisation in the concert life of the canon. But the root of the disease lies in the weave of conservatism palpable in the custiodial institutions of classical music performance, practice and thought. Thoughts of the music’s liberation, even of a targeted insurrection, provide a glimmer in the stuffy darkness.

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