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Sir Paul Exposes the Poseurs

Classical Music, on the Dole, Tries to Still Be Snobbish

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 19, 1997.

It is acid in the mouth to the snobs who would have you believe they listen to lots of classical music, by which they often just mean orchestral music. Paul McCartney, former Beatle and recently elevated to the British Peerage for being directly and indirectly responsible for about 75% of British export sales for thirty years, has had the best selling classical record for six weeks. It will be there for a while. It is called Standing Stone, a sort of musical tribute to the Celts. It is rather bland, inoffensive, light and simple music, caught somewhere between doodling and pretension, with moments of clichéd beauty and unique irritation. In short, it is like virtually every piece of symphonic music ever written with the few exceptions of marked genius.

This is nauseating to the hyphenated names who spend their time degrading all music that isn’t two centuries old and escorted into our escutcheon tubes by insane European conductors and/or performed by an Oriental fetus on speed. If a blue collar British rock musician can write - quote - classical music - end quote - than it sort of eliminates the snob factor. It wasn’t enough that McCartney was worth more than most nations, now he is a knight and has to be addressed as Sir, meaning the people who dis his work are socially only qualified to fold his laundry above the garage. This is doubly annoying. It’s hard enough to summon the courage to castigate somebody’s work when you have to approach on your knees and crawl out. And the people who are annoyed are very social conscious.

And the local radio stations that play classical music almost exclusively are in seizure over the prospect. For here their hypocrisies are highlighted and underlined. The assumption has been that classical music is, obviously, the superior product and only the intelligence, artistic sensibility, and good breeding of the very few can appreciate it. Jazz, minus the bloodline part, has exactly the same attitude, and now is in exactly the same boat. Both forms of music are on life support, with fewer and fewer contributors, so both forms are trying to blur the lines as to what is and what isn’t in the acceptable cannon, and both are desperate for welfare support.

So consider the management of classical radio stations and their posture. What does it mean when the people whose taste and refinement you have artificially praised and inflated for years put their money down on a supposed fraud, or at best a charming anomaly like Sir Paul McCartney and buy - and buy and buy - his CD? It means that you haven’t been selling quality at all, you’ve been selling snobbery. It could mean that people listen because there are no DJs for long stretches. It could mean that there are a few people that can distinguish Beethoven from Mozart or from Van Moltke, but not enough to support you. What to do? Cave. Utterly cave and promote the Carnegie Hall premiere tonight of Paul McCartney’s Standing Stone. Is it good music? Would it have been produced at all if not for the McCartney name? Or would the slamming reviews have been better if the signature on the manuscript was not McCartney but Glass or even John Williams? Who knows? But better not to even ask the questions lest the audience dislike the answers and drop cash support.

Artists used to be rather famous for their supposed courage; their opinion was their art. If it was ever true, it is certainly not now as herds of cowardly classical music mavens of both genders flock around, trying to figure out how to cash in on McCartney while snorting about him behind the back. It is a disgusting spectacle, but enjoyable for the sight of social climbing idiots trying to pat this situation into shape.

Remember, it worked with Amadeus, the movie about Mozart. That was the first and only contact many Americans had with Mozart. But the classic music establishment was shameless in its pilfering on the movie’s fame, barely stopping short of 24 Hour Amadeus stations. They did not use the movie’s popularity to expand appreciation, or to encourage new composers, or to do anything but simply to cash in. How will the support mentions go tonight? “Paul McCartney’s Standing Stone is brought to you by the high-minded, socially prominent law firm of Mew and Paw, that giggles at the pretension of rock musicians and, like you, waits to hear the reviews from the New York media before venturing an actual opinion itself. And by the legions of devoted listeners supporting fine music in Colorado currently slumming for the giggle.”

Elevating, classical music, what?