Looking at yesterday's post, with fresh eyes, I realise now that there are aspects of it that are pretty unclear. Rambling is an occupational hazard in blogging and I see that I'm pretty guilty of it.
I should also point out that this analysis works a lot better in North America than it does in Europe, and given much of what I'm getting at is North American, I'm not even going to begin transposing it to a European context.
I feel I'm carrying the "brow" heuristic too far, but it seems to be working and it's kind of fun, so (again, my apologies to Joshua Glenn, any errors in my analysis that refer to "brows" are mine and neither his, nor Russell Lynes', nor Hazlitt's...
So, what was I trying to get at yesterday? Some theses (feel free to disagree).
1) The idea of "classical music", as popularly conceived by both classical music lovers and those uninterested in classical music, is premised today on the idea that classical music is a form of highbrow culture. This is false. It is, with some exceptions, a predominantly middlebrow preoccupation, as much as indie rock, techno or jazz are today.
2) For all kinds of reasons, such as the development of recording technologies and the ensuing commodification of musical tastes, a bifurcation emerged which posited classical music as "highbrow" and popular music as "lowbrow", and while these on some levels reflected social and economic stata, they were also tied heavily into the marketing of music in the early 20th Century (for see Caruso).
3) At some point during this time, a cognitive dissonance emerged in people who enjoyed classical music. On the one hand, they enjoyed classical music, which, from a broad cultural perspective, was seen as elitist and highbrow for marketing reasons (I believe this in part to be because classical music was, generally more expensive to produce and lent itself less readily to the recording technologies of the time - a jazz standard could be made to fit on a single side of an LP- a Beethoven sonata, was not so forgiving), and so classical music lovers identified themselves as "highbrow".
However, given the middlebrow weight of interest in classical music, the middlebrow desire to impose their values on the highbrow and lowbrow populations led to the emergence of the desire to proselytise classical music to the lowbrow, chastising them for their lack of self-improvement. At the same time, the "highbrow" were chastised for not listening to popular music, a situation which sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it?
4) This has led us to where we are today, which is that we have a false dichotomy between high and middle in the bulk of North American classical music culture, where people identify themselves as highbrow but, for the most part, behave like middlebrows.
OK, I think that's clearer than yesterday. I suppose the question remains as to whether or not this is a good or a bad thing. I instinctively want to say it's a bad thing, but I'm not fully there yet, because I do enjoy the idea of exposing people to Beethoven and Bach even though they may not think they'll like it. Why?
Because that's how it happened with me. But then maybe I was destined to be a highbrow...I kid.