I can't tell you how thrilled I was to listen to this interview with Greg Sandow, longtime composer, music educator and critic who blogs about the future of classical music. While showing great respect for the mainstream institutions who program and promote classical music, he also advocates on behalf of judging an art form's worth by the levels of thoughtfulness and rigor with which both creator and audience engage. Simpler, it is possible to engage with The Sporanos like a sophisticated consumer of culture and with opera like a dodo bird. What matters is how we make the arts a meaningful part of our lives not how well we've done completing a canonical to-do-list of culture.
Dana Gioia, a very smart man with a very misplaced sense of cultural value, has spent his tenure as director of the NEA alternately lamenting that symphonies aren't shown on primetime television (as they were in the untouchable 1950s) and scolding Americans for not patronizing the arts as symptomatic of not caring about civic participation, physical fitness or the political process. The evidence in this last point is on his side. But as more forward-thinking minds like Sandow and Steven J. Tepper have pointed out, engagement itself does not make value judgments. Passionate engaged fans of Coldplay are just as likely to be active citizens as passionate fans of Brahms.
What Mr. Sandow is saying, as I tried to in my book, is that snobbery will not serve us well. He may like classical music better than gangsta rap. I may prefer Salon over People. Those are issues of preference, not policy. If boundless interest in culture is out there (and it is. Ever spend some time here?), it's up to the producers and presenters of it to rally that interest around their own activities, to have the arts serve as a university,a place of learning, dialogue and contribution and not simply a house of worship.
Greg Sandow, if you're out there, you have a new biggest fan (via the good people at Kadmus Arts).