This is changing the goalposts. The article talks about "serious" classical music associated with evil characters... then uses two light-hearted comic operas as a counterpoint? Sure, technically both classical, but as far away from each other as you could get.
Look, this isn't mysterious. Rich people are associated with evil in films, and their stereotypical "too-good" pursuits -- mansions, opera halls, tuxedos, and yes, classical music.
> Maybe millennials are repelled by classical music not for coherent reasons but by a vague sense of mistrust, nourished for decades by movies and media.
This is ridiculous for a million reasons. It's simple, and I say this as someone who has studied classical music for many years (including conducting): classical music isn't that much fun, compared to so many other options today. The kind of people who like classical music are the kind of people who enjoy watching documentaries or reading Shakespeare. It's high-effort, high-reward for a particular kind of person.
Growing up where I grew up, Country music had a terrible reputation for no other reason than my friends hated it. Their friends hated it. Everyone I was surrounded by hated it... therefore, I hated it. If everyone I knew thought it sucked, it must suck.
A few years back, I decided that it was time to stop with this nonsense and started exploring Country music on my own, figuring out what I liked and appreciated, figuring out what I wasn't really that fond of. I discovered that there was a ton of country music I really like. I discovered a whole genre of music I'd written off just because my peers had written it off.
Unfortunately we suffer many cultural biases like this that until we wake up one morning and realize that we have our own brains and are entitled to our own opinions instead of those of everyone around us, continue to propagate.
If millennials are repelled by classical music, given my own experience, it's likely through no other reason than their friends, friends friends and friends friends friends have decided that classical music sucks.
It probably has nothing to do with distrust bred from movies and media, it most likely has more to do with the fact that classical music isn't easily accessible, it's not popular, they can't relate to it like they can to pop music which not only tells a story they can identify with, but it's popular with all their friends and thus gives them a vehicle for social acceptance.
I grew up with classical music - and there's still a lot I haven't heard precisely because it is so inaccessible. I will agree that it's high effort... I would say that the reward often isn't comparable to the effort required to listen to it.
Stereotypical pop-country that's largely novelty tracks, corny relationship songs, and trucks & dogs, and that're the bread & butter of most country radio stations, though, not so much. Most surf-rockers aren't thought of too fondly, either, outside a very narrow scene—they're not all the Beach Boys.
I do agree that knee-jerk dislike of country may be rooted in ignorance—but as far as social influence, I'd class that as being good at determining which bad music people like (I like plenty, and it's mostly for those reasons) or dislike, and the country on the radio in the US is, for the most part, firmly of the "you'll only like it if it's part of your scene" sort, so people with a blanket "I don't like country" opinion have very likely only been exposed to the equivalent of its Tenacious D or, at best, Styx (to expose some of my own sub-par likes). It's not their fault they assumed the genre was putting its best foot forward.
And hey, Elton John made Tumbleweed Connection, so there's that. :-)
Villains having classical soundtracks around them is a trope that goes back to shitty ‘80s action movies too, so this is hardly a millennial thing.
The music is still valid, but the production, or lack thereof, 'dates' the music.
Classical music will never be the most popular music, just like classic literature will never be on the best sellers list every year. That doesn't mean it isn't popular.
I ultimately became a lover of classical music for a similar reason. Most music today is so generic and bland - you can hear every song before you've finished listening to it.
This might partly be why people love the music they heard as teens first. I hear a lot of stuff now that just seems like riffs on stuff I’ve heard before. I don’t have the nostalgia of first being exposed to it in my formative years to carry me through.
And yet, working and middle class folk, far less affluent and educated than today's consumers, used to be very much able to enjoy classic music, including singing opera arias
for fun, in Europe at least.
Why take it that "classical music is not fun", and not the inverse, but equal reading "the modern music consuming public is crude".
Like it or not, society sees classical music as up-tight.
"Leading scientist ejected by audience after 'trying to crowd surf' at classical music concert" 
>Before the performance, Mr Morris invited the audience to bring their drinks into the standing area in front of the stage and instructed them: "Clap or whoop when you like, and no shushing other people."
When I think of fun shows I've been to, I don't exactly remember any with audience reminders that showing enjoyment was permitted.
I don't dispute that (I of course dispute that they're correct in thinking that, but not that they think that).
That classical music is inherently "not fun" is what I responded too -- and my argument is in the past classical music was very much appreciated by all kinds of middle class and working people in Europe.
>When I think of fun shows I've been to, I don't exactly remember any with audience reminders that showing enjoyment was permitted.
Another problem is that enjoying art == having some kind of crash fun, like teenagers at spring break.
Of course, I'm biased, because I'm one of those people who likes attending classical performances. But its for the same reason that I don't want 3 televisions blaring while I'm eating a fancy meal.
At a certain level, distractions take away from the enjoyment of the thing you're concentrating or enjoying.
I don't think there's anything uptight in this: I could say the same thing about people turning on the stadium lights during a mosh-pit/rave.
Its as simple as some human experiential dimensions exclude other human dimensions: we can't, biologically for the most part, experience or investigate the full extent of all our senses at the same time.
Sitting still and enjoying art is orthogonal.
Some might not like sitting still, but that doesn't make sitting still incompatible or constraining the enjoyment of art in abstracto -- just for them.
I read this claim as physical expression of emotion is entirely voluntary and consciously constraining physical response does not change the experience. And for the people who it does, it's a matter of socialization not human nature.
This type of perspective - even if true (I disagree but will not discuss here any further) - is why classical music is up-tight.
The idea that one must jump, dance, and prance around as of paramount importance is more tied with teenagers setting the agenda of "popular music" since the 50s or so, than some inherent human need.
That's because you've learned how to act and what is acceptable in those circumstances.
Would you expect someone from 1850 to just appear at an EDM club and know what exactly is happening?
I think an important factor is... the hardware. The modern way most people listen to music (often with crappy speakers, or with headphones and lots of background noise) is not great to enjoy classical music.
When I was a child and I lived with my parents, they had a great hi-fi system and I loved listening to classical music in it. Then, I grew up and my habits changed. I would listen to music in my PC instead of with my parents, or in my MP3 player on the street or the bus. I all but stopped listening to classical music, I didn't enjoy it much any longer, I preferred music with less dynamic range and more "punch", which endures that kind of conditions better.
Fast forward to 2 or 3 years ago, I buy a relatively good Bluetooth speaker, which gives good sound (for a Bluetooth speaker). Suddenly, I begin enjoying some classical music again. I listen to like 20% classical music, 80% other genres.
And a few months ago, being 36 years old, finally I do something I had wished for a long time: I get hold of my own hi-fi system, perhaps not as good as my parent's, but quite good. Now that I can listen to music with high dynamic range and not suffering from distortion in the strong parts, I enjoy classical music a lot again, and now my listening is like 70% classical music, 30% others...
tl;dr: cheap headphones, iPods, listening to music on the bus, etc. kills classical music.
This is pretty funny considering the connotation of Shakespeare's works at the time.
Something similar with video games in more recent times. Playing NES games has a slightly high-brow -- or at least higher-status -- connotation, compared to when the games were new. Now they're retro, which means playing them or similar games is more serious or something. Whereas back in their heyday, they were seen as almost entirely the domain of nerdy little boys, a silly thing for silly children.
if my memory from music history class serves, this may be even more apt of a comparison than you realize. iirc what we call "classical music" was a reaction to the highly complex baroque style that preceded it, and the contemporary "old guard" looked down on it for it's simplicity and deviation from the older rules of harmony.
Well that's because, of course, at the time Shakespeare was highly accessible! The language was everyone's native language, and the cultural references were current.
Today it's basically a foreign language that requires a lot more effort to comprehend at a reasonable level, and a ton of cultural allusions that aren't part of our background anymore.
My parents still think of NES games as silly blocks on the silly TV. But their generation progressively gives up on writing articles in magazines or curating expositions in museums, whereas people now in their 40s who loved and still love NES games are now in charge.
Which oddly, is more like classical music to me. Modern music tends to be around 3 minutes, there's no long intros or different sections. It's just press play, bam music. With classical music, it's broken into movements, with long introductions, or interludes with single instruments or some such a thing.
I know that wasn't quite the point of the comparison, it was just an odd thought that came to mind.
And "2019 AAA game" is neither a genre nor a style, so the comparison you're making here is even weirder.
The idea is that the first one is enjoyed by most and appears in many forms in popular media. They are instantly recognizable hit songs "flight of the bumblebee" and "baby one more time" are not so different in that regard.
The second one is probably the one you are thinking about, and it embraces almost all of modern classical music. It is usually enjoyed only by connaisseurs.
Famous pieces like Vivaldi 4 seasons and others are both. They are classic timeless hits and also classical music in the sense it is serious business.
I don't think it's that simple. Rich people today are more modernists than classicists. They live in modern buildings and listen to any music. They work in modern office buildings.
Classicism is about man vs man. Man vs nature, man vs God. The fight between two men, is a classic conflict. Modernism does not celebrate the fight between men, it cannot without undermining its fight with the self, it's fight with the non-existence of God.
A fight between two men is classical in western literature, hence the classical themes when a fight on film breaks out.
Just saying the train of thought when writing a conflict into a story is the classical approach is to have man vs nature, man vs man, man vs god. Modernist is man vs society, man vs self and man vs no god. Postmodernist would be man vs technology, man vs reality and man vs author.
So the choosing of a backing music to fit a written fight would be reminiscent of the classical thinking that celebrates man vs man fights.
Hans Zimmer would be the more modern composer that celebrates conquering the self in interstellar/inception, ect.
But how many people actually pick the Magic Flute when they're in the mood to listen to music? It's just not that popular.
And when most seats at a classic music concert are ~$100 or more, with only a few rows in the ~$50 range, I'm 100% sure that skews rich. A night out for the family will be hundreds of dollars. It's not a $15 movie ticket.
Here's tonight at the New York Philharmonic:
In fact classical consistently appeals to older listeners. The median age at most concerts will be the far side of 50.
For a certain kind of music lover, pop starts to sound boring and samey after a few decades. Classical scratches that itch.
Orchestras and opera companies regularly worry about this, but in fact the supply of new listeners tends to be fairly stable.
The biggest marketing change was the extra push given to classical from around the 1920s to the 1970s. There was huge state and network support for classical music, and a lot of effort went into bringing both live and radio performances to US audiences - partly for noble reasons, partly so agents and networks could make money by marketing the work of performers and conductors.
From the 1970s the nature of funding changed. Sponsorship became corporate, and then the corporates cut it because they got a better return from sport and straight advertising. So a lot of the old support disappeared in the late 80s and 90s. The orchestras and opera houses that survived are more or less stable now, but it's a smaller market niche than it used to be.
Classical music isn't "popular" just like classic literature. Pride and Prejudice won't be on the NYT Best Sellers anymore than a new Beethoven Piano Sonata recording would top the Billboard Top40.
'beloved' is probably not the best word for 'accepted / aware of it'?
Also they do play classic in some undergroundstations in munic to get rid of teenagers.
I think it's simpler than this; classical music is still pretty fun if you're into it.
People listen to music that they culturally relate to, and the experience of music is a way to express identity. Once, people lived in a time when the classics of classical music were being written and were a current thing. Listening to Chopin or Liszt was a way to express pride for your country, as well as to do what your friends were doing. Now that so much time has passed, classical music has just been crowded out by other music that expresses identity and culture. Classical music for most people is no longer a thing that your friends are doing, and it hasn't been for your parents, either.
My alternate theory about how classical music gained sinister connotations is that it's a cultural marker that expresses a cultural identity, but one that the audience members and their friends don't relate to. It's a convenient way to present the character as an outsider, and disregarding the societal implications for this, it's a convenient tactic for a writer who wants to paint a picture of a character as being sinister or untrustworthy. If you consider the alternatives, you'll see why classical music is an easy go-to in this situation; if you give the villain Coldplay as their theme music, it's going to risk making them feel more relatable.
So far as "rich villian" goes, i think it is best expressed in anime and kung fu movies, but you will see it in cowboy movies, crime movies, etc.
In this story the protagonist takes down not just one evil person (say Dirty Harry vs Scorpio) but an entire evil organization.
That organization inevitably has a social hierarchy that goes from bottom to top. The protagonist first beats up the poor bad guys and then beats up the foreman who is paid $2
an hour more for being a little more responsible. Only after beating up the poor criminals does the protagonist get to beat up the person at the top of the conspiracy.
"Lethal Weapon 3" is a great example, but "Sailor Moon" defeats a supernatural invasion that is organized like a military organization with enlisted monsters, lieutenants, generals and Queen Beryl at the top -- it demonstrates how the structure can fold and unfold like an accordion and fit any timebox.
Tons of classical is fun! The anvil chorus, the final section of Beethoven's 9th, whatever that really catchy portion of Carmen is! You (clearly) don't even need to be much of an expert to enjoy it.
It turns out Hollywood isn't particularly good at understanding what the root causes of a movie's success or failure is, so there's a lot of cargo culting, and cultural shortcuts.
As for how it started, I think it was just a simple class signifier, used for incongruity's sake. (Itself something that Hollywood has cargo culted; incongruity is a powerful tool but IMHO it's more than just jamming things together that don't seem to belong, which is done a lot. There's thought that can be put into what is being incongruous and why.)
(Note this isn't a terribly strong criticism of the article, it's more a terribly strong criticism of Hollywood. Sometimes a subject matter just doesn't have enough strength to support a careful analysis in the first place.)
> cargo culting, and cultural shortcuts.
You've just described "cliché", an unavoidable component of any industrial art.
The article explains that very same thing when it argues that Kubrick's "The Clockwork Orange" started the trend.
Philadelphia uses Hanks’ appreciation for opera to signal his class status, not villainy. Silence of the Lambs uses music and food same way.
Making the direct hop to villainy is too simplistic, and pointing fingers at Clockwork Orange is absurd. That film’s synthesized classical music is used to draw a parallel between the commodification of violence and the commodification of culture more broadly.
I grew up as a music student and loved going to the symphony as a kid, so I'm not necessarily the target audience here. But the one thing I notice when I go these days is that sitting through an entire performance challenges my attention span much, much more than it used to.
It's a common theme I've seen around HN, particularly with reading. The symphony isn't really a visual experience (unless they're showing video, which is becoming more common), and it can be really difficult to sit through sometimes, especially if you don't love the music. There are a couple of symphonies I love to listen to all the way, but most have a few exciting themes with several minutes of "meh" in between them IMO.
One example: I recall when Star Wars came out, a lot of my friends bought the soundtrack. It served as sort of a gateway to classical music. It's hard to measure, of course, but I'd bet that that had a larger positive impact on classical attendance than, say, Hannibal Lector killing people to Bach's Goldberg Variations had a negative one.
To your lack of visual stimuli hypothesis, I'd also add as other more likely drivers of classical's decline:
a) Live classical music is expensive and getting more so.
b) Sound quality in a concert hall is different than via digital means. It doesn't wash over you like it does when listening via your Bose headphones. It's less visceral and more distant. And you have to tune out the other sounds of coughing, people shifting in their seats, etc...
c) And finally, we have the best recordings of any work available on demand. In economic terms, that creates really cheap substitutes. Speaking for myself, I'd rather just listen to the Vienna Philharmonic on the couch for free than dress up, drive across town, find parking, and pay $100+ to hear the Austin Symphony play the same work.
Same for my generation w/r/t the soundtrack to 2001
Besides that, there's an important difference between 2001 and Star Wars: 2001 utilized existing classical scores that are excellent for their own reasons, whereas John Williams composed entirely new scores for Star Wars that were similarly excellent.
It is just my personal opinion, but I think it will be a very long time before we see another symphonic movie score that embeds itself so deep into the cultural fabric as Star Wars did. Not only was the music phenomenal and stands well on its own, so many of them are elevated because of the action taking place with them on screen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_OSeRxhGOY Still gets me as excited today as it did when I was 8.
I recall Lucas saying in a DVD commentary that he got some push-back in the industry for the idea of using a classical soundtrack in Star Wars.
I’m glad he stuck with it, it’s hard to imagine Empire without the Imperial March.
I don't think a classical orchestra could even keep me awake for half of that. And I don't think it's because of the source material.
If you traded the string section for fewer musicians with amplifiers, and added more modern instruments, and allowed the musicians to dress with independent fashion and be more mobile on the stage, you could keep the audience going on public domain music alone. It's the conservative image of classical orchestral music that kills it. A violin player strutting around a stage with an electric violin and a red alligator-leather dress that shows some skin is a lot more interesting to me than 8 of them dressed in black and white, seated in a row, and synchronizing their bows.
You could arrange the pieces for one rhythm drummer and a bass drummer, move the melodic percussion to a synth keyboard, cut the brass to one trumpet, mellophone, trombone, and sousaphone, cut the woodwind to piccolo/flute, clarinet, move the double-reed parts to alto and tenor saxophones, and pare the strings down to one electric violin, move the second violin part to electric guitar, one electric cello, and electric upright bass. Then add some guys for the mixing board, and a couple of vocalists with operatic pipes. Now you can play symphonic music in a large venue with questionable acoustics, and show movement and personality on stage.
Another small reference that I think is misused--he mentions Fritz Lang's M, and the "Hall of the Mountain King" melody that the killer whistles. First the film was made around 1931. Classical music would not have that sort of reference to the audience at that time. In my opinion M was the first movie to really understand sound film. The whistling tunes was a way to use sound to evoke presence without the character on screen. We could see a child playing, and hear the whistle in the background, and know that this child was being targeted without having to cut away. We get this kind of film information all the time in movies, but this is the first film that used the technique, and it had nothing to do with classical music. (Lang also invented some other sound dependent techniques in this film.)
This is not to say that some of the other examples are not instance of signaling "bad person" sing classical music, but I don't think its evil. I think the association of classical music with wealth/elitism is well established in modern films, so its presence for a wealthy/elite killer is expected, without taking that to also denoting evil.
They point out a 'villain' playing Bach. But to me, the whole film score is classical music. Yes the film is about an evil thing but the music conveys other things.
He identifies A clockwork Orange as a turning point . I could point to a host of 70s and 80s film that had classical music scores, Star Wars, Indiana Jones etc, etc.
I'll admit 'pop' music has become more popular in recent films, but classical music is still really good at communicating certain moods, including but not necessarily villainy.
Let's not forget Zardoz (1974)!
Weird sci-fi, Sean Connery, and Beethoven's Seventh; what's not to like?
I want to look to confirm, but then I don't.....
Edit: Even worse than I remember. I had forgotten the bandolier.
'Classical' music, old and new, is prevalent in movies
As a guess, because it is able to affect mood indirectly, 'in the background'
- Classical music: Signal of a "cultivated"/intelligent mind. Similar to how many villains play chess.
Also, is a contrast of how some high evil actions contrast with the "calm" cold mind of the villain.
- Pop music: Signal of fun. Depending also, romance, liberation, etc
- Rap music: Signal of the oppressed. Street-wise.
- Rock music: Signal of rebellion, action.
- Jazz music: ?
- Latino music: Is Latino!
Take the movie "Shine", for example, from 1996. The story of David Helfgott. There's a dark side to be sure, but nothing like villainy. The classical music in that movie, in fact, comes to symbolize a kind of redemption or transcendence over madness -- not a succumbing to it.
As for the decreased symphony attendance, drawing a connection to his claim seems pretty outlandish to me. A more likely explanation is that the symphony as a live concert format is just really outdated. It was all the rage in the 1700s and 1800s in the western world. But that was a long time ago.
Sounds like the exact kind of conspiracy theory he's accusing "the populace" of having.
Also why Romans have British accents?!?
Most of the Romans depicted are aristocratic. The intersection of present-day aristocracy and native English speakers happens to be British. When the script goes beyond aristocracy into the wide spectrum of Roman classes, British dialects offer a much richer toolkit to signal the differences than any other form of English.
On top of that, the upper class British accents predominantly used feel quite old-timey to an American audience, adding to the general flair. Also, if you imagine an percent-day English speaker who is educated in ancient Latin you would likely imagine a high-class Briton as well. This also makes that accent feel more consistent with the setting even though the reasoning does not actually make sense.
That being said, when/if the current deluge of Marvel/DC adaptions is finally over, someone will likely make a sandal movie where all the gold-encrusted Romans talk like rappers. Just for kicks.
I don't see how:
1)Romans were upper-class foreign rulers
3) Romans have English accents.
That leads to 3) above pretty easily, since in the mind of the hegemonic movie-producing culture (Americans), their archetype of a foreign empire was, of course, the British (English).
A more interesting criticism would be hearing how, say, the Spanish language is rendered in Latin American films about Rome or other historical empires. Do they put a Yankee accent in the Spanish language as such a marker? (I suspect it's probably more of a continental Spanish, though.)
Would be interesting to know of other non-Anglosphere cultural products that use implicit (e.g. American accents) cues of the new Rome to denote the class status of historical depictions. Global HN'ers?
I'm biased anyway, being British and not upper class.
This is like expecting Mashreqi Arabic to be closer to the spoken language in Mohammed’s time than Levantine, Egyptian or Maghrebi Arabic. There’s no real reason to privilege one of the Arabic languages above the other as more conservative, a priori.
If you’re interested in Latin pronunciation read this.
[gestures vaguely at British Empire, Irish famine, etc.]
Perhaps it's due to Alexis Carriington
"But the 1960s ushered in a new era of mass entertainment. The expansion of film, TV broadcasting, and especially TV advertising toppled the orchestra’s place in popular culture..."
Three points: Pop music has come to demand high royalties. Most classical music is in the public domain. Use a recording by a small orchestra, and ... cheap. Like RKO.
Next: 'the orchestra's place' was not very high in American popular culture -at any- time since the LP was introduced. There were many people who tried to make it that way (the inventor of FM for one) but no. Leonard Bernstein tried, but no. Author's misreading history here.
Finally: Films as a whole, sorry to say, have gotten A LOT darker in the past 50 years. Still, I can go through any number of movies made in the decades since Space Odyssey and find uses of classical that wasn't associated with darkness. Just one example: Elmer Bernstein, very successful in the film-score business, borrowed heavily from classical for his music, and wasn't associated with 'heavy' films in my recollection.
Listening to and appreciating classical music (as it is, not for any social status it may pretend to confer) takes time. Like any advanced art, much of art music is inscrutable to the casual listener. That may further the disorientation of the dark-film fans.
Classical music is used to convey pretty much every different idea/feeling.
Aaron Copland is often used for fun, to use just one of the infinite counter examples should the author choose to look
"an ideology which presents "the people" as a morally good force against "the elite", who are perceived as corrupt and self-serving."
So in Hollywood blockbusters those who listen to classical music are identified with the elite, which by the enjoyment of something "complicated" sets itself apart from the good common people who pay the ticket to see once again Good triumph over Evil.
So I would say suspicion aboit the burgoise or the establishment played always a role. Or maybe they read about the opera loving Nazis and thought this is a interesting contrast.