When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once…


Alex Ross, The New Yorker's Gen X classical music writer, may be the most self-infatuated jackass at that august publication—and at a magazine that employs David "American Sucker" Denby, that's saying plenty. Mr. Cutlets alerted me to Ross's latest purse-lipped gem, "A classical kid learns to love pop—and wonders why he has to make a choice," with the warning: "He's like the mutant offspring of Deems Taylor and Jackie Harvey!" It's a pretty apt description: Although this "kid" mentions in the article (an unintentionally hilarious argument for demystifying classical music) that he's only a little more than midway through his life's journey, he does a dead-on impression of a vain old fuddyduddy. Some quotes, wherein Ross shows that he's "down" with the teenyboppers:

The best music is music that persuades us that there is no other music in the world. This morning, for me, it was Sibelius's Fifth; late last night, Dylan's "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"; tomorrow, it may be something entirely new.

The music does not lend itself to the same generational storytelling as, say, "Sgt. Pepper."

If you were to play the "Eroica" for a fourteen-year-old hip-hop scholar versed in the works of Eminem and 50 Cent, he might find it shockingly boring at best. No one is slicing up his wife or getting shot nine times. But I would submit to my young gangsta interlocutor that those artists are relatively shocking—relative to the social norms of their day.

Soon I was astounding my friends with pronouncements like "'Highway 61 Revisited' is a pretty good album," or "The White Album is a masterpiece."

Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks" anatomizes a doomed relationship with a saturnine clarity that a canonical work such as "Die Sch?ne M?llerin" can't match.

If I were in a perverse mood, I'd say that the "Eroica" is the raw, thuggish thing—a blast of ego and id—whereas a song like Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place" is all cool adult irony.

On my iPod I've been listening to the new Missy Elliott song "Wake Up." It's an austere hip-hop track with a political edge.

There is something thrilling about setting the player on Shuffle and letting it decide what to play next. Sometimes its choices are a touch delirious—I had to veto an attempt to forge a link between Gy?rgy Kurt?g and Oasis—but the little machine often goes crashing through barriers of style in ways that change how I listen. For example, it recently made a segue from the furious crescendo of "The Dance of the Earth," ending Part I of "The Rite of Spring," right into the hot jam of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues."

In the words of Nurse Diesel, "Who gives a crap?" Most of this is just harmless cheerleading in the spirit of "Shakespeare was actually writing thrillers for the groundlings!" or "Church doesn't have to be boring anymore!" The article contains some interesting history of the way classical music got defined, then enshrined, then roped off, then ignored, and at last completely forgotten, in the artsyfartsy ghetto—and more interestingly, of how both lowbrow and highbrow snobs maintain this false distinction. And of course, who can question the courage, the sheer chutzpah, of a visionary bold enough to praise Blood on the Tracks and the White Album? But as Nick "The Kid" Gillespie noted a few years back when he analyzed Ross and a collection of Dylanologists, this is one critic who never had a bong-fueled eureka he didn't feel was worthy of our immediate attention. How do I get a job like that? Whole article here.