Scruton on Classical Music

Scruton on Classical Music December 27, 2015

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So here is what I would say about classical music and the institutions that sustain it. For many people music is simply a matter of enjoyment, irrelevant to the greater things in life, and a matter of personal taste with which we cannot argue. John likes hard rock, Mary likes bluegrass, Fred likes hip-hop, Judith likes modern jazz, and so on. Once you enter the realm of classical music, however, you realize that such simple views no longer apply. You are in the presence of a highly learned, highly structured art form, in which human thought, feeling, and posture are explored in elaborate tonal arguments. In learning to play the music of Bach or Beethoven, for example, you are acutely aware that you are being put to the test by the music that you are playing. There is a right and a wrong way to proceed, and the right way involves learning to express, to control, to respond in mature and persuasive ways. You are undergoing an education in emotion, and the skills you learn do not remain confined to your fingers: They penetrate the whole body and brain, to become part of your world….

Conservatives therefore ought to pay more attention than they do to the survival of musical skills, and to the place of music in the school and university curriculum. They ought to see that the symphony hall, the musical stage, and the instrumental ensemble are all institutions that they should promote, not as optional extras but as the very essence of what they value most, which is human life itself.

– Mr. Scruton, an English philosopher, is a distinguished senior fellow of theFuture Symphony Institute and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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