The Dark Side of Classical Music

March 15, 2007 at 04:18 AM · For sociology, I am supposed to write: how does classical music effect children positively AND negatively?

Well, there are tons of positives. But I am having trouble finding the negatives other than the obvious fact that some children have forceful and overbearing parents. I should not have told my professor I was a violinist. He gave all the other students genres in which a large array of negatives can be found such as hip hop, pop, country, and rock. But here I am stuck with the genre that has been deemed the best educational food and good for the child's mind.

Please help.

And I would appreciate if your opinions had actual something to back it up since this is a paper that requires sited sources.

Replies (72)

March 15, 2007 at 04:25 AM · Greetings,

I always remember one of my post grad professors in another field telling me taht as long as you do the research ; present your reasons and ideas logically and rationally you are perfectly entitled to say that the research went nowher e and proved nothing.

However,assuming that you are free to decide how to interpret this question I think it is fairly easy although I cannot give you citations. State your position clearly: I am not aware of research indicating classical music (make sure oyu define it) has negative psycholgical /neurolgical effect in term sof the limited exposure that a normal (define?)child recieves.

That is a legimitae statement and if your professor doesn`t accept it he/she is arguably wrong.

You could then go on to disucss how historically the violin (for example) has been seen as a vehicle for escaping poverty (CF Szigeti with strings attached, Milstein, from Russia to the West). Music and politics/oppression and how perhpas this gradually became tied up with parents vicariously wishing to experience success though exploitation of the child- IE child prodigism (see Teaching Genius- the recnet book about Delay has good thoughts)Talk about Menuhin perhaps, or Michael Rabin. Or the paino player shwo burnt out.

Talk about competitions for children perhaps.

Maybe take a look at musicians injuries and attack the probelm from that angle. Check out all the books frequently mentione her like Playing Pain Free, the muscian as Athlete etc. Discuss the kidns of injuries and how one can go abotu avoiding them.

Hope this helps a little,



March 15, 2007 at 05:11 AM · Look for a book called Mozart In The Jungle, I've read it and it's .... interesting.

March 15, 2007 at 05:53 AM · Jasmine - How about the effects of competition? These can be both positive and negative. Competition starts at an early age in sports as well as music. There can also be a negative social aspect for teenagers. Strings are not as prevelent these days in the public school systems. If there is music in schools, most likely it is band to support the football team. Recalling my own childhood memories, being a part of the band or orchestra was a social stigma of sorts - typically the nerds and other social outcasts in high school.

And one last thought - if you are a violist (like moi), there are those never ending jokes that follow you for a lifetime!

March 15, 2007 at 06:17 AM · As Mendy said ..... social stigma!!!! ... if you grew up in state schools.... for me that was the so-called comprehensive schools in Britain. Being in school orchestra was worse than nerdy. Playing a violin put you in 'upper class'= you are a snob. Despite coming from a working class background and having the accent to go with it .... I still got bashed up and remember hiding in the loos with my violin at school.


March 15, 2007 at 07:31 AM · Picture a former astronaut who staggers around his trailer park throwing beer bottles and yelling "I walked on the Moon g*%$@& it!"

March 15, 2007 at 10:28 AM · Everyone comes down the backsides of mountains.

March 15, 2007 at 12:04 PM · from darcy lewis blog recently:

"3/2/07 – The

Times of London recently profiled violinist Maxim Vengerov: “Brought up in a tiny basement apartment, he had a miniature fiddle thrust into his hands at the age of 4, displayed astounding aptitude, and was rewarded (as is still the case in Russia) with a prescription of seven hours’ practice a day, every day, for the rest of his boyhood. Playmates and playtimes were relegated to a very distant second place in his life. Yet he expresses few regrets and no resentment. ‘I believe you don’t succeed at the highest level if your life is just pleasant’, he told me. ‘Life was hard in Siberia, and my musical education was just as tough. But the result was that I learnt the whole language of violin playing in just over a year’.”

it is up for interpretaton, but if you are argumentative, it is not difficult to make something dark of it:):)

March 15, 2007 at 12:08 PM · Great posts.

Jasmine, all of these posts point out the negatives of classical music related to studying it, being forced into it, having a career in it, or other social, interpersonal, and career consequences.

However, none of these negatives are related to the music itself. As Buri said, if there are no negatives in your research, then that is your finding.

Personally, the only negative I can think of as to the music itself is that it is more time-consuming than most other types of music. That is, it takes longer to listen to a Brahms symphony than it does to listen to a Beatles song. You could have been doing a load of laundry.

Good luck on your project.

Cordially, Sandy

March 15, 2007 at 12:27 PM · Hi,

Their neither positive or negative from music. Most of the negatives comes from aspects in and around the professions (especially in the string-world). It depends also how you view things. Some may find the hours of practicing a great positive goal as some may view the sacrifices having to be made as negatives. I guess that perception has a lot to do with it.


March 15, 2007 at 01:41 PM · When I was a little boy, my father would always have the radio in our station wagon tuned to KKHI, a classical music station in San Francisco. The music made me nauseous.

March 15, 2007 at 01:42 PM · Though it might have been from the exhaust flowing in from the open back window...

March 15, 2007 at 02:14 PM · Yes-KKHI and sometimes KDFC which stations in the longer run proved to be a positive civilizing influence.

March 15, 2007 at 02:33 PM · Hello, Jasmine!

I have listened to classical music since I was eight years old and, based upon personal experience, I see no negatives.

You might, however, want to research injuries related to playing, for example, the violin.

In addition, you might want to research major performers. For example, many great violinists performing today get lucrative bookings for concert performances, while very talented violinists with many recordings, but who are relatively new, are excluded.

Finally, you might research the many obstacles for individuals who wish to perform violin, for example, professionally (with an orchestra, for instance) -- as well as how many symphonies struggle financially and often are unable to pay musicians adequately.

I hope that these suggestions, assuming that you can find peer-reviewed works to back up these potential negatives, are of some help.



March 15, 2007 at 03:14 PM · Very very VERY interesting question. I expect to be mulling this one around for the rest of the day.

March 15, 2007 at 03:26 PM · i'm a capricorn. therefore i can find a negative in anything.

you could talk about classical music's historical reliance on benefactor funding, and how that conflicts with the modern commercial music industry's profit making goals. some would consider the nonprofit status of classical music to be a negative; their idea is that classical music must develop a business model and become competitive in the marketplace.

tying into this, you may want to speak about the disparity between classical music's upper crust image and the stark reality that many classical musicians earn below average incomes.

another negative is for you to speak about the large number of talented players vying for a very small number of playing spots. there are quite a few unemployed professionals who have poured their lives into this music thing.

finally, the one negative to classical music is the idea that it is snooty and unapproachable. classical music is one of the most direct human experiences known to mankind. there is nothing scary or intimidating about it.

March 15, 2007 at 05:37 PM · Are you supposed to be writing about music itself, or are you going to write about the "scene"?

In your initial post you talk about the "large array of negatives" of other kinds of music, country for one. In terms of "scene", country is an infinitely more healthy thing than classical, I think. For one thing, at the amateur level, where realistically everyone really is, no one is left behind. Why should anyone be excluded from music, if they would like to participate?

In terms of music itself, I don't think music really has a lot of some kinds of power we attribute to it. I see that thinking as a continuation of the thought phenomenon that outlawed some musical modes in ancient times. It's expression really, and maybe a fraction of one percent of causation. It's an interesting illusion really; if someone seems to be negatively influenced by music somehow, the music really wasn't the problem, was it? Uh huh... It has the potential to be a really good paper and one that's eye-opening for you too.

In passing, I heard something really interesting recently. Some of you will remember Tipper Gore and the music ratings crusade. When you rate music, you have taken away the normal control by social norms, that whole dialog, and made it so that "anything goes" as long as it has the proper sticker on the package front. So, the result was the opposite of what they would have preferred!

March 15, 2007 at 05:46 PM · O.K. Here goes. Someone may be so immersed in classical music that they become addicted. Playing and listening replace other more healthy activities. Young people may develop as skewed individuals due to the exclusion of normal developmental activities due to their own obsession or their parents'. The impossibility of achieving "perfection" outside of the recording studio (or perhaps even in it) launches individuals on a life of frustration, denial and a sense of failure. The vast range of talent and ability to work productively at an activity that is so easily judged from individual to individual sets up a stratified group of performers where most of them can never realistically hope to achieve what the few top individuals will.

That was hard to write. Please, these statements are NOT my own opinions! I am simply playing the devil's advocate to generate some negative statements which I think can be easily countered in any intelligent discussion.

Music in most forms is extremely powerful. Anything that potent will have negative aspects as well as positive.

March 15, 2007 at 07:58 PM · One other "negative" (depending on your perspective): many types of classical musical instruction can create excessive reliance on the written page, and eliminate the student's comfort level with improvisation. I can speak personally to this one, since I can sight-read like nothing else, but tell me to make something up, and I, well, can't! That's something that can also be improved by practice, but that sort of creative experimentation with the instrument is something that many classical programs downplay or discourage. Just a thought!

March 15, 2007 at 08:15 PM · I question the premise that the negatives of other genres of music are obvious, or even exist, in ways that are characteristic of the genres. The struggle to find negative effects of classical music on the listener might have more to do with the fact that, being classical music, most of the crap has been culled out and what we hear is the remaining best music that has stood the test of time.

I think most genres of music are guilty of having in their midst the stuff that Elvis Costello sang about in "Radio, Radio" -- and not because of the culture of the music but because of something larger and more insidious:

...They say you better listen to the voice of reason

But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason.

So you had better do as you are told.

You better listen to the radio.

...You either shut up or get cut up;

they don't wanna hear about it.

It's only inches on the reel-to-reel.

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools

tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel.

March 15, 2007 at 08:26 PM · There are plenty of cultures, now and throughout history, which have banned or severely restricted "classical music," for religious, nationalistic, and moral reasons. Perhaps it would be illuminating to focus your research on those cultures which actually did collectively decide that classical music was "bad?"

I'm interested, by the way, in how exactly you think your classmates have an easier assignment than you!

March 15, 2007 at 09:05 PM · I would have to say that the most negative parts of classical music is the classical music business. It is truly hideous and doesn't so much reward musical talent as it does political savvy. perhaps not much different than the rest of the world but infinitely nastier.

March 15, 2007 at 09:11 PM · For the darker side of classical music, you might consider the effect of Richard Wagner's music, especially the Ring cycle, on Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.

Wagner's operas were an amplification of various Teutonic myths and sagas, and as such were interesting from a folklorist's point of view, but Hitler's abstracting the more bombastic elements (OK, there's a LOT of bombast to abstract) and using it to amplify the emotions of the populace, to further the Aryan eugenic programs, and to glorify the more-or-less fictional history behind the Nordic myths, makes for a prime example of how powerful music can be, and nor any form of power can distort and be misused.

Any of the arts appeal to the imagination; and imagination is a potent amplifier of emotion. To use this basic human quality to effect inhuman ends was perhaps Hitler's contribution to the Arts. Consider the effect of the "Catherdal of Light" made by using giant searchlights to create the illusion of gigantic pillars of light, making a night rally in Nuremburg into an experience never to be forgotten by the attendees, and impressive even at many removes for people seeing only films of the event.

March 16, 2007 at 06:28 AM · Katherine wrote: One other "negative" (depending on your perspective): many types of classical musical instruction can create excessive reliance on the written page, and eliminate the student's comfort level with improvisation.

I was also thinking about this and find it is true. Maybe it differs from country to country. I don't think for example(but open to correction) in Hungary or Finland you would find that. It isn't just the inability to improvise but also to think chordally, harmonies etc... the frustration of many classically trained violinists..!!! because it wasn't generally part of your curriculum.

March 16, 2007 at 08:21 AM · I can think of one thing I believe may be unique to the feild of classical music that I wouldn't exactly dub a "positive."

I had a conversation with a good friend yesterday about how we always want to find "the perfect way" of accomplishing technique or shaping a "perfect" phrase. I think that serious students of music can have a real number done on their psyches: throughout our training, we jump from teacher to teacher, peer group to peer group, opinion to opinion; every which way, you get people telling you "method A is right, method B sucks" and "method B is right, method A sucks." Wanting naturally to please our teachers, and ever seeking the "ideal" for ourselves, we get tossed back and forth and can become confused and frustrated. Even the most enlightened musicians I know, who take all criticisms equally (that is, with a hefty grain of salt), are often frustrated when ONE person says something like "I think your [insert specific aspect of playing] is weird/could be improved." On hearing such things, our thoughts manically snowball. "Are they right?!" "But so-and-so told me to do it like that! Am I doing it wrong now?" "Why does it matter?? *I* think it sounds good! ... or does it?!"

I think the seriousness and intensity with which classical music in particular reaches towards -- demands, even-- lofty ideals of perfection is unique. While this keeps some healthy-minded individuals honest and inspired in their work, I would go as far as to say that for some sensitive types, this phenomenon can be particularly traumatic, impacting other aspects of their personality (they aspire to abstract "perfection" in other aspects of their lives, constantly seek to satisfy others, they can never do something well enough, feel exaspreated and hopeless... etc).

March 16, 2007 at 08:44 AM · .........yes,I second that .... to the previous post!

March 16, 2007 at 12:17 PM · The post about classical music in other cultures or times has also been true. For e.g., whereas the first Mughal emperors in India favoured the arts; the last one (Aurangzeb) totally against such activities as being "harmful" and classical music went underground, or also to the red-light areas! Until well into the 1900s, most musicians had poor social status and many great female singers started out their lives and careers in brothels.

I think another traditionally musically rich-culture like Persia/Iran has gone down this road in recent decades.

But I don't know if the music itself could be negative, unless you take into account the enormous personal sacrifices involved in becoming good at it. This applies to both Western and Indian classical music.

March 16, 2007 at 02:33 PM · Maia--insightful post. Sometimes the voices of others deafen us to the voice inside ourselves. When we let that happen, it certainly is dark. You reminded me of some key issues I need to watch for in my own teaching.

March 16, 2007 at 03:00 PM · Hi,

Maia - that was an very insightful post! Bravo!


March 16, 2007 at 03:19 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Maia Jasper, et al

Insightful post, for sure! But, this music biz definitely requires 'Eisen und Stahl' for intestines. So, a successful career approach might include such dollops of advice as ,......'desperately avoid taking yourself too seriously,' and certainly 'don't argue with success!'

And, without a doubt, 'you don't always have to start down bow!'

Best regards to all.

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

March 16, 2007 at 04:36 PM · Maia - I think beyond a certain level that's just a self-confidence issue. It comes from not having a solid reference to base a decision on, in the face of a thing that's driven by external and fundamentally arbitrary or arbitrarily biased opinions. To me, it's a weird place somewhere between science and fantasy. Practically, I think there are two solutions. First, the solution Vincent hints at, that is to think along the lines of what's worked in the past. Second, also along the same lines really ("you can't argue with success"), the advice of the successful :)

March 16, 2007 at 04:04 PM · I think you answered your own question in your question. The disconnect between other genres and how you perceive classical should be your thesis.

Others alluded to this, but more specifically, what are some of the disconnects between classical and more popular genres? How did they become? What were their origins (de Tocqueville)? What and where are the bridges for reconnects (Paganini rocks!) as does Oistrakh's favorite Cantabile?

Now, how do these present obstacles and opportunities for children in an interconnected world beyond parental obsession?

Further, why were bagpipes outlawed in Scotland? Why were Chinese male children dressed in girl's clothing? What is the role of music in 'everyman's ' life? How does a mother nursing a baby singing cradle lullaby differ from Beethoven's 3rd and why? Why was the color purple outlawed?

Sociolologically, classical music may be seen as the bad boy on the block, both for it's use and for those associated with it in being used. For instance if conflict enthusiasts see football as preparing men to die in war, one may argue similarly that classical has prepared children to justify and accept elitism.

And, those rockers who never realize exactly why Paganini rocks have been short changed by limited perspective because of the ethnocentrism interjected into the classical world at far too early an age. So your thesis: Could Classical music possibly have many overbearing cult-like characteristics?

Since Roy Clark is definitely at least one virtuoso in the pure sense of the word; and, Billy Powell in a more limited sense, as is the keyboard player of Emerson Lake and Palmer, why again do these disconnects really exist? Jethro Tull on flute?

More scholarly and microscopically: What are the regional streams of consciousness that fed these disconnects? How did they add to the self-propogating centrism? How did conflict add to this centrism in the sense of rhetoric(the history of vibrato as well as schools of playing style)? Will globalization pasteurize the entire environment into a goliath leveling what diversity at one time existed? Will the cult like adherence to schools of thought go the way of the Gnostics and be subliminated as antecedents?

Classical music is a definitive example of paradox. A hint: When groups must play together whether in voice or instrument, a new language must be used.

You will notice at the same time that the discussion so far hasn't focused on the sacrifice in becoming a gifted doctor being absent? So if you turn the logic on it's head in an increasingly popularized world: why are musicians not valued period? The community orchestra is the berth of classical music. So you may wish to follow that evolution in looking at the disconnects, or if you are really ambitious you may wish to go all the way back to the Canon.

How is it for instance that polyphony (more than one voice in harmony) came not from the chuch but from secular music, especially given the church's role (Bach 'family') in stewarding what would become classical music? How did this transference come about? When and why did secularization step back in (Beethoven and precedents)? How did this re-secularization parallel de Tocqueville? How will this mixing and blending play out in our interconnected world? Will children have better or worse opporunities as a result? Will the youth cult of today be mitigated to more reasonable terms that allow a wider variety of appreciation and accomplishment in popular terms, or will it remain like a tennis coach in search of a Sampras or a sport parent giving 'options' to the next Tiger?

Having received tutelage from a very accomplished, educated, and most importantly practical musician the generalizations above are pertinent to your quesiton: if you can figure out how.

March 16, 2007 at 06:39 PM · I cosign Maia's suggestion. She hit on something really important.

March 16, 2007 at 06:45 PM · Thanks for the dittos, guys.

I agree with Jim and the other poster who said that what I was talking about is primarily a self-confidence issue. That's what I meant when I said "some sensitive types are more easily affected by this phenomenon than healthier individuals." In answering the question "are there any negatives in CM?", my point is that I think some people's self-confidence issues are exacerbated by the very nature of studying a classical instrument. Their personalities can erode. Obviously, Maxim Vengerov was a strong enough person to practice 7 hours a day as a small child while drilling the intricacies of a very specific "School" of violin playing -- and it seems he turned out ok...

*However.* While I agree that "intestines of steel are required," I would say that the *happiest* -- but not necessarily the most "successful" -- musicians have them. Witness the erratic behavior of wildly insecure musicians we all know and love. Can't chalk all of it up to "the dramatic musical personality" -- I think some self-confidence issues are, more often than not, to blame.

I did not start out to offer any "solution" per se, but this website being home to the violinist problem-solvers we all want to be...

I think that for those of us made seasick by this phenomenon of tossed-around ideologies, developing Vincent's intestines of steel would certainly be a good place to start. But I also think it would be unwise to discredit comment or criticism we receive because it is convenient to our psychological agenda. In this as in all things violinistic, the "solution" should be personal, ideally not detracting from psychological calm, but always keeping you healthily on your toes playing-wise. After all, in that perfect musical world we all strive to inhabit, those two things are not mutually exclusive...

March 16, 2007 at 06:37 PM · Thank you for all of your responses. So many ideas, I don't know what to do with them. (Well that's a lie)

One person asked: how do I have a harder assignment than the other students?

Because the other genres have printed and published articles on both aspects of those genres. You can find tons of information on both the positive and negatives of hip hop, country, rock, and pop by just putting in one word into the google search engine. Whereas, classical requires some deep digging and more sophisticated search engines.

And yes, I am looking for negative aspects in the people involved in the music as well as the music itself. Which is another reason why the other genres are easy to research. Britney Spears, Fallout boy, Eminem, and I am sure some new age country singer make this pretty easy when researching the who's involved part. Not to say I don't like these people, but there are tons of articles on how these people's music affect and effect children badly.

I thank you for all your help. :)

March 16, 2007 at 09:12 PM · Jasmine, if you want an example of how ideas in classical music can affect children, you might want to do some research into the foundations that certain modern classical musical styles and modes such as abstract expressionism and computer music have made into alternative rock. There's a book called Hole In Our Soul that traces what the author calls 'perverse modernism' from such classical pieces as Salome (Richard Strauss), Wozzeck (Berg), Bluebeard's Castle (Bartok), and Verklarte Nacht (Schonberg) in combination with other artistic movements such as futurism. The author of that book points out that many of the so-called moral ills in rock, hiphop, country, etc. actually had their philosophical origins in movements such as futurism, constructivism, and abstract expressionism, that were designed to modernize classical music! Interesting read to say the least - especially when you consider that Russolo's Futurist tractatus was virtually the written blueprint for 2Pac and Puff Daddy's brands of bling bling and violence in rap! I kid you not.

Another thing you may want to investigate (and this ties into the Wagner/Nazi suggestion from above) is the current Symphonic Metal, Neofolk movements such as apocalyptic folk, folk noir/dark folk/pagan folk, and martial music. These bands are heavily influenced by classical, folk, and renaissance music, and they tend to write in a style that is a hybrid of classical repertoire with localized European folk. The negativity in these styles is that the classical element has been used to recruit young white listeners to Nazi sympathies through the subtle glorification of far right politicians and Nazi esoteric/occult philosophers. In this scene, racism isn't stated outright. Nazi lyrics are quoted out of context and it is 'suggested reading' for the listener to reference Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Wise Elders of Zion, and the works of Nietszche for example in order to make sense of the rambling lyrics. By the time an initiate understands what is being said, they have been tacitly in agreement with blatantly Nazi philosophy and has studied much racist literature entirely under their own initiative, and most likely have been seduced into joining various white power organizations, each of which gives only enough new information to continue drawing the initiate further into their agenda, and always with a friendly 'we mean no harm' demeanor.

Much of the music in these movements would sound right at home on this very website, but contrary to the gentle sound of the music, it must always be remembered that the genres' lyrics are a soft sell tactic to endorse Nazi occult literature, much of which is freely available on the web from white power websites and all of which is bursting with the most wretched levels of racism you can possibly imagine.

March 16, 2007 at 11:48 PM · "Perverse modernism"? Sounds like Eduard Hanslick meets Family Values. :)

As for the creepy Nazi music, can that really be described as "classical"?

March 17, 2007 at 01:30 AM · I was going to make conspiracy theory fun of this until I googled up the book mentioned in the first paragraph. There are 21 reviews of it on Amazon and you get at good idea of what the author (a WSJ columnist) is about.

I think I'd find the book boring or be frustrated by it, but I'm inclined to agree with what I believe her thesis to be; connections between elements of the artistic decline in Europe and elements in some European influenced pop music (I knew I hated Europop for some reason).

She believes the antidote is an American form of music - Blues.

From a review:

"...avant-garde trends in art that led whose aim is to that this antiart, together with racial stereotypes, has kept African American music, which should be a humanizing antidote to the brutal and the obscene, out of the mainstream. "

One time an important European classical musician I was corresponding with wanted to know what I listen to. I decided to send off a couple mp3s of Robert Johnson, who no one with a broad enough education could deny produced some of the most beautiful music of the 20th Century. Probably no one with only open ears could deny it. That met with complete silence. It was the end of the correspondence, for practical purposes. So there are all kinds of prejudices. Racial, musical...

March 17, 2007 at 12:31 AM · I would say, that especially in someplace like America, it can be a problem with cultural identities.

So many Americans view western classical music as part of our music, but is it really? Aren't entire genres that are native to the United States ignored and disrespected or not studied as in depthly in the schools? Why doesn't music education in the U.S. focus on more than western ideas rather than having western classical be the standard for everything?

What about those who aren't of European descent... a black woman or college student wanting to pursue opera but ripped apart when she does. A Latino playing guitar, and people not respecting the work they do and just saying, "oh, it's in your blood," and always expecting them to play pieces by composers like Albeníz and people not accepting them playing Bach?

Then you have composers like Wagner who had cultural biases & racist issues of his own.

There are most definitely biases in some of the things (not with everyone and not with all types of western classical music or composers or players or what not), but I think it is definitely a downside of it.

Why should people in Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey or any of those places look down on their own music and focus on music that is primarily from just Germany, France, and Italy? It's the total opposite of ethnocentrism...although the word escapes me right now.

Just some thoughts from another angle...

March 17, 2007 at 12:48 AM · Edit: ack, interrupted. I'm talking about that "Hole in Your Soul" book.

I just looked it up on Amazon. It looks like a rather strange book, in my opinion. I heartily agree that 98% of "popular music" these days is utter crap, but I have little patience for those cultural critics who persistently shout (to quote one of the Amazon reviews) that the country is going to hell in a handbasket full of CDs. Now, the culture might be in that particular handbasket, but whenever people start drawing cause-and-effect links between stupid music and delinquency, teenage pregnancy, anorexia, megalomania, the decline of the American Family, the End of Europe, bad test scores, bad breath, split infinitives and who knows what else, I start to get a little irritable.

If this author is trying to show that Verklaerte Nacht, Bluebeard's Castle, the Futurists, the Symbolists, late-romantic Expressionism, and all the other things I so dearly love about the years just preceding the Great War are somehow responsible for culture-wrecking rap crap, I'd like to hear her argument (but I'm not going to buy the book, can someone who's read it summarize??).

March 17, 2007 at 12:50 AM · I'm not sure about the connection between rap and constructivism or futurism. Instead, I tend to view hip-hop more in terms of minimalism: minimal talent, minimal interest, minimal social value. :)

March 17, 2007 at 01:51 AM · Maura, I don't think she would say the art you mention is responsibile, but that the progression was from there to shock; surrealism, dada, crap rap. I don't know enough about it to validate the theory of how we got here, but I think I might agree with a lot of the rest of her. But like you I don't blame music for a social state of affairs. That's just for getting people into a frenzy.

March 17, 2007 at 04:52 PM · "I'm not sure about the connection between rap and constructivism or futurism. Instead, I tend to view hip-hop more in terms of minimalism: minimal talent, minimal interest, minimal social value."

No offense...but that's an extremely elitist and ignorant thing to say. There are a lot of good and bad things about rap and hip-hop, no matter what your musical preferences are. This is an example of what I was touching upon earlier.

Besides...rap and hip-hop are different genres.

So to add onto what I was saying before...elitism/ethnocentrism AND the opposite where people deny or neglect parts of their own culture's music are issues that I would place in "the dark side of classical music."

March 17, 2007 at 05:28 PM · ...but we seem to have diverged from the original question, which was: does classical music have any negative effect on the development of children??

Makes me think of the famous Mozart Effect, and I've often wondered what the effect would be if a baby listened to nothing but Kurtág.

March 17, 2007 at 07:49 PM · I did not stray from how I feel it affects the development of a child.

If you are a child who is growing up who is not white or European, and grow up having classical music around you, or classical musicians, especially in an average city in the United States, and you go through the public education system with public musical studies... it will affect the development of someone's identity, personality, interaction with parts of society, etc.. What if at home they listen to altiplano music and salsa and maybe even reggeaton and rap?

Take this question into consideration:

**When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.** (from Peggy McIntosh's "White Male Privilege")

If you can answer yes to that, your development, and your child's development will be different than those people whose answer is no.

If a child grows up never being shown what people like him or her have contributed to society (be it gender, race, class, etc.) don't you think that would affect how they develop? How they think? How they view themselves? How they view others? How others view them?

Also, one of my professors was telling us in a musical aesthetics class that a study about the whole "classical music is good for the brain/ concentration/IQ" showed that it didn't really matter what type of music it is, rather the phrase length. Longer phrases tend to foster calmer thinking due to less distractions from shorter phrases.

And as for those who bash other music...who's to say that growing up listening to a type of rap music (say, from a musician that people DON'T see on MTV who are promoted by big business and rap about pimps and hos, for example, Talib Kweli who discusses social justice issues) won't affect how someone feels about the world around them? They might even develop to be more of someone who questions, problem solves, is involved in society as a citizen, etc.

I am completely staying on topic, just bringing up an angle that people haven't touched upon as much. I'm sure people would discuss these type of issues, say, thinking of the negatives of rap music (maybe even suggest that it would cause boys to grow up and abuse women, and for women to dress a specific way, etc.)...

I'm merely going from that angle that some people here would argue about other music, and am answering the question but by using classical music in place of what others have used rap and hip hop for.

What is so culture-wrecking about music that isn't classical to you, like rap? or hip-hop? or reggeaton? or rock? or pop? Do you realize the weight of that "label" you gave something? What do you know about rap music, the development of it, or anything to judge it like that? I'm sorry, but one or two songs on the radio don't qualify you to judge an entire genre or part of society in the way you have.

March 18, 2007 at 06:41 PM · When I was a student, one of flatmates only had time for classical music, and was absolutely horrified by the combined tastes of the rest of us - soul, r'n'b, reggae, pop. Basically just about anything you could dance to.

We are still friends though, and he recently mentioned that he was reminded of our student days, having seen a documentary on Bob Marley. He was surprised at the impact that BM had made around the world musically, spiritually and socially. BM was a bit before our time, but isn't it sad that my friend didn't realise the significance of someone who had lived in his own lifetime.

Now of course most younger classical music fans are not that insular, but there can more of a tendency for such individuals to believe that the best music has already been written, and all we can hope for is to do a good reproduction job. And that attitude in itself doesn't sound very innovative or creative.

Perhaps you don't agree with this, but hopefully it provides another viewpoint for you to debate.

March 18, 2007 at 07:57 PM · Wow, Allison, that is so true about me. I am so wrapped in Classical music that I often am very prejudiced towards other genres and their composers. Sometimes, I get stuck on whether there are really any true genius composers today. There are!! But I have been so blinded by the immense complexity and beauty of classical that I forgot about all the other genres of music that can sometimes also harness the power of change and the beautiful unspoken langauge of life or death. But I have learned to appreciate other music, although I still have more Sarasate and Stravinsky in my cd collection than Beyonce and Jimi Hendrix

March 18, 2007 at 08:02 PM · And thank you Dion for the suggestion of that book, I ordered through my school library.

March 18, 2007 at 08:37 PM · BM's greatest home videos. BM died from complications of a stubbed toe, which has got to apply to the risk thread, somehow.

March 19, 2007 at 12:18 AM · Jasmine, you're welcome.

Also, i'd like to second Jesse's premise from March 16. He and Alison have hit on something very important. I've been through that. It really does a number on your psyche to go through a situation where you devote yourself to something as involved as classical music and your peers do not understand.

Interesting side note: my aunt Hyacinth lived in a shanty house in Trenchtown, Jamaica. She knew Bob Marley because he slept in the alleyway across the street when he was a homeless teenager.

March 19, 2007 at 06:52 AM · The Dark Side of classical music was written by John Williams.

March 19, 2007 at 09:43 AM · May the force be with you, Emily, always...

March 19, 2007 at 10:10 AM · Turn to the Dark Side, Jon! It is your destiny!

March 19, 2007 at 12:00 PM · Dion that got my attention too. In the first part she's lamenting nothing but classical being taught, and in the second, lamenting people from some ethnicities not being accepted by classical. It seems to me the whole problem is trading away your cultural identity. Personally I've got no use for something non-essential that doesn't want me, much less something that does that whole thing. One dark aspect is it traditionally believes it's all that has value, reminiscent of other traditional Eurocentric and American thinking, if you follow. Not to imply they own that thinking. I wonder if I would feel like it's something that even needs to be broken into. I tried it out, wasn't happy for various reasons, and am now happy in my equally valid subculture.

March 19, 2007 at 09:45 AM · Prejudices and discrimination are a serious issue in the classical music world, I think. Very conservative system with a lot of traditional conceptions, that are dead for more than 50 years in societies, but not in the world of orchestras, critics or competitions.

The rate of women in European and American orchestras is not a success story in equality, there're significantly less women employed. (Not to mention orchestras like Vienna Philh. or Prague. I'll never understand, why champions-league-conductors like Abbado or Rattle do not simply refuse to work there.)

Even though a story like the one of Abbie Conant is not representative (I hope), it happened: she won the audition for solo trombone of the Munich Philharmonic. She needed 13 years full of mortifications, lawsuits etc. to get her right. A really kafkaesque nightmare. In hardly any place of the society, an affair like this would be possible. But for the members of the orchestra etc. the continual discrimination or the behaviour of Mr. Celibidache seemed to be quite usual.

How many female conductors are there aside from Marin Alsop?

Same with racial discrimination: listening to asian musicians, people seem to have that "It's not a trick - it's a Sony"-reflex, having those sessions of dozens of kids playing something unisono in mind. I played some concerts in the orchestra for example accompanying Tamaki Kawakubo (2nd prize in the Tchaikovsky-competition 2002) playing Tchaikovsky-concert: I hardly ever heard it played so sweet and touching live, but the critics of all four concerts were a mixture of "She is cute." and "Very accurate." Almost every musician from Asia I talked to confirmed, they have the feeling to start with a minus in the scratchbook playing competitions, auditions etc.. The classical music world still seems to be pretty suspicious of the efforts of asian artists. The less body language an asian musician shows, the less chances he/she seems to have, quite different to other people.

March 19, 2007 at 12:50 PM · jasmine, although your original question asks about the effect of classical music on CHILDREN, i am in awe of the quality of responses you have received so far and never have thought there are as many issues lurking beneath. i hope you find the posts thought provoking and helpful and write a great paper on the topic:) if well written:), this is something that should be published in violin related journals.

hey, how about NY Times Art section?:)

ps, one dark side is that if not very very good at violin, there is a dark future:)

March 19, 2007 at 02:36 PM · ...I just read the thread.... 'Beating your Competition' I am cringing inwardly ... that sure is a dark-side to Classical music in the USA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 19, 2007 at 03:51 PM · I agree with you, Teresa.

March 19, 2007 at 04:02 PM · we in the usa turn anything and everyting into a competitive sport, from watermelon seed spitting contests, to forcing democracy on others...

the winner takes it all mentality is instilled into the youth very early, a reason that long long ago we were very well liked.


March 19, 2007 at 04:16 PM · ....and are not widely liked anymore.

March 19, 2007 at 04:19 PM · to the point that i had a nightmare of being a travelling violinist and was scared to flash my american passport in public,,,,except in china, hehe.

i woke up in cold sweat realizing i was holding a fake one,,,

March 19, 2007 at 10:50 PM · Yeah, well, another U.S.A. basher. We know about those tenors over there trying to poison each other.

March 19, 2007 at 11:01 PM · "...I just read the thread.... 'Beating your Competition' I am cringing inwardly ... that sure is a dark-side to Classical music in the USA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Interestingly, Teresa, music competitions started in Europe, most of the major ones today are in Europe, just some food for thought.

March 19, 2007 at 11:06 PM · ...but the "beat the competition" thread was about crazy and out-of-persepctive competition for numbered chairs in school orchestra, not major international competitions for already nearly-established soloists. There's an important context difference.

March 19, 2007 at 11:26 PM · Maura, which is more out of perspective? Trying to beat your classmates in an exam, or trying to beat everybody in the world? :DD j/k

March 19, 2007 at 11:36 PM · LOL well, the point is that for the schoolkids, it's supposed to be about learning the joys of great music. For competitions, well, I agree it's all a bit like horse-racing, but at least competitions are upfront that competition is their only reason for existing. :) I don't like competitions personally, but what can you do?

March 20, 2007 at 11:43 AM · Jim and Nate:

I apologize if it seemed otherwise, but actually I’m not a US basher. Jim .... please do not label me that because that was not my intention....

I have lived in the USA and continue to spend 2 months every year there. Some of my closest and most trusted friends are in the US. I have never met such honest and selfless people as many I have met in your country. During the period I lived in the USA I also did Suzuki teacher training and observed a school for a whole year …. and in my experience, in the particular environment I was exposed to, all I met was creativity, the sharing of learning experiences, encouragement, desire for even the most difficult child to learn, no rivalry between teachers, etc etc. But then there is another side of America … which is much more cut-throat! (which comes across in the afore mentioned thread)

My comment stated ‘in the USA’ because the person who asked the question is from the USA and most people who write on this site seem to be American. We are talking about the ‘dark side to classical music’ …. And this can be different from culture to culture….eg where I live now a kid certainly wont get picked on because he plays a violin, in the UK I did … social stigma.. Here we don’t have so many things associated with being cool or not cool.

Anyway ..I am digressing.


March 20, 2007 at 03:54 PM · I wanted to carefully second the thoughts about discrimination Mischa brought up. I think he's right--Asian violinists don't always get a fair shake.

March 20, 2007 at 04:58 PM · i want to rather carelessly disagree with the above thoughts and i cannot pick a more civilized person to disgree with:)

"discrimination" is a very powerful word, not that it is wrong to apply it againist any groups or races, but i think in music, what it really comes down to is people's discriminating taste, or the lack of.

if you think you are an asian violinist, well, then you are not a violinist, because you want to be qualified differently.

how about others' view on you as asian? well, yo yo ma probably was labelled as asian or asian american, or even these days. i am sure he is proud of the heritage, but i do not think he would try to sell tickets with that, or complain with it, or beg mercy with it.

the music field is still a market--may not be as free as some would like---but still a market where over time, the better ones rise to the top, regardless of race, particularly in these day and age. jordon can play, larry bird can play, well, if you are asian and can really play, yao ming will make room for you.

one cannot stop others from forming opinions or biases. the best approach is to do your own thing, hopefully so well that people are speechless and beat a path to your door.

in fact, if you break it down by race, asian violinists have a disproportionately high representation in the field already. well, you ask, how about solo players?

my question: what do you have to offer to the people who are buying the tickets because this is show biz after all? simply playing great is not good enough, never was, never will. you need at least 10 other things to go with that and one of them is called charisma. i do not know what it is, but when i see it i know it, i feel it (a play off a judge's porn definition).

allow me to digress: not long ago a retiring LPGA blondie was complaining that LPGA will go down the tubes with all the korean imports. her position was that lady golfers need to be attractive to men so that there will be viewership:) (i mean, sometimes, i've got to hand it to those who are so clueless but brutally frank) she got blasted from all angles because the simple fact is most people follow golf for golf. in fact, with the new infusion from outside USA, the LPGA is stronger than ever.

i digress further: having said that, sport people have it easier than classical musicians. for athletes, at the end of the day, your score/stat does the talking. with musicians, in the comparision game, boy, what an uphill battle!

bottomline, my discriminating and inflammatory view is that asians have this discrimination game working for them pretty well,,,that they are often assumed to be good in math and good in classical music. how boring! true?!:)

March 20, 2007 at 08:08 PM · You're a brave guy, Al. Thanks for the nice comment about my being "civilized." I don't know a whole lot and I've only got my own experience to go by (and I'm not Asian). So, I'm glad to hear maybe Asians aren't being discriminated against. I hope that's the case, because I, like Mischa, have been incredibly moved by many an Asian performer. And you're right--Discrimination is a loaded word.

Lately I've been feeling like God discriminated against me by giving me these long fingers that have such a tough time flying around doing tenth position thirds (tee hee hee). But then, I guess these fingers are the same reason I thank Him when I don't have to shift as often because I can stretch instead! Ain't life grand! :)

March 20, 2007 at 05:44 PM · did you say with those long fingers you can stretch or scratch? :)

March 20, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Very funny. I'm afraid I have no nails--hazards of the job. And . . . talk to any pageant-queen-wanna-be--THAT truly IS the dark side of classical music. Sacrificial fingernails.

March 21, 2007 at 01:12 AM · Alison,

I think you get what I'm saying and I totally understand and agree with what you've brought up!

Although aesthetics and people's preferences aren't always the same, I really wish people wouldn't pass judgement on music that they don't know enough about to realize what is it behind it that makes it what it is.

There are amazing geniuses, and there are crappy musicians alike in all genres. What is marketed by businesses, MTV, or what is mainstream is not always a good representation of what is happening out there with creative people.

It's like how Wagner dissed the opera because of the business side.

One of my favorite quotes is on a professor's door at my goes something like... "the reason it is called mainstream is because it's shallow like one."

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