We thought Mahlergate was yesterday’s news, but two new pieces of commentary just popped up. One was an op-ed in the New York Times written by an audience member, saying that the cellphone episode was “a defining moment in the career of Mr. Gilbert”–even though it had little to do with Gilbert’s actual music-making.
The other commentary was from Slate.com‘s Culture Gabfest, a podcast where Slate’s critics sound off on the cultural events of the week. Since classical music is almost never part of their conversation, it’s instructive to hear what they have to say about it:
…this Mahler symphony which was described, basically, as like, objective fact in the New York Times, as “one of the most sublime, perhaps the most sublime bit of music ever.” WHAT? Like the idea that, you know…”if it was like a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, it would have been OK, but because it’s this sublime Mahler moment…” [laughs]
I like the factuality of that statement. “We used the Sublime-O-Meter, and that’s it! And so it’s the most sublime. So of course you can’t play the Marimba during it.”
They’re referring to the statement that the ringtone went off “during one of music’s most sublime moments,” in this Times story.
We reply: WHAT? It’s not okay to call a piece of classical music “sublime”? Doing so somehow denigrates other genres, even when they’re not mentioned? And note how quickly the actual Times quote is twisted around to mean “this is the most sublime music ever.”
What’s wrong with merely saying that the best classical music is among the best music anywhere? Pop music lovers often go much further than that, arrogantly pretending that no other music is even relevant. Take Rolling Stone’s list of “The Greatest Singers of All Time”: all post-1950 American popular singers with a few token Brits. Not even Édith Piaf, Robert Johnson, or Mahalia Jackson get a nod.
So, apparently classical music lovers are always seen as snobs, even when they’re not, while everyone else gets a pass with their snobbery.
–Amanda and Michael