Bill Eddins, the music director fo the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, was pilloried on his own blog for his earlier post (It’s Schoenberg’s Fault!). Undeterred, he posted a second blog (No One Expects the 12-Tone Inquisition!) now claiming that he was being attacked for challenging “orthodoxy” and attacking a “sacred cow” by suggesting that the music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern was responsible for a supposed lack of interest in classical music among the general public.
The new blog is almost as incoherent as the first (and does not deal with my prior blog on the topic). In the end, Eddins backtracks a bit from his original posting, even claiming that his title was just a tongue-in-cheek attempt to be provocative.
Of course, no one can blame Shoenberg [sic] for the current crisis in classical music, anymore than one can blame Queen Elizabeth II for the fact that no British born man has won Wimbledon since 1936. . . . But that was never the point of my post, and it is very, very interesting that this was understood immediately in the social media world yet almost completely mistaken on the “serious” side. The point was, and is, that there are way too many sacred cows in this business. Orthodoxy is very, very bad for religion, nationalism, and art.
Oh, sorry we misunderstood.
Eddins’ main problem is that he’s just not smart enough. Sorry, that’s the real sacred cow. It’s a truism that the smarter people are, the more they are able to appreciate new and difficult music (or new and difficult anything). And people who aren’t that smart, generally don’t like smart people telling them that they aren’t smart.
Apparently it is ok for someone like Eddins to denigrate the entire output of a composer like Schoenberg, but it is not ok for someone to challenge Eddins’ opinion and point out the logical errors in his argument. So, for example, Eddins takes issue with those who pointed out that his repetition of the myth that “In the width and breadth of this mighty land the universities and colleges during this era were the bastions of the Dodecaphonists” was simply not true, according to the recent statistical study by Joseph Straus (The Myth of Serial “Tyranny” in the 1950s and 1960s). The comprehensive study can be ignored, apparently, because Eddins himself once witnessed a member of a faculty at the school he attended “deriding” a student for writing a melody. ”It was depressing in the extreme,” he writes. No doubt. No one likes being told by an authority that they aren’t talented or smart enough. And the standard defense is to challenge the authority as “elitist,” as if that epithet can explain away the pupil’s deficiencies.
Here’s his new explanation of why Eddins thinks people don’t like classical music:
However, I can’t count how many times I have gotten into a conversation with someone who no longer attends classical music concerts because they were made to feel uncomfortable expressing a negative opinion about the music they were listening to. Because they didn’t like what they heard, and they happened to not be “experts” on music, their feelings were denigrated. Herein lies the worse aspect of orthodoxy – the inability to understand or give creedence to an opposing point of view without denigrating it with attacks or arguments of a condescendingly personal nature.
According to Eddins, music is a “very personal choice” that apparently has nothing to do with training, education and innate intelligence. So, I suppose it is perfectly appropriate for someone who lacks all three qualities to denigrate a piece of music, or even a composer’s entire output. Not only appropriate, but the lay critic can then be offended if someone with more training, education and intelligence challenges his opinion. Imagine if this were true in physics, and Mr. and Mrs. Average could say “I just don’t like relativity and that whole quantum physics thing. Newtonian physics was better. Down with the ‘sacred cow’ of new science. If only scientists would stop talking about the Higgs Boson, I would pay attention to science again.” And if anyone dared to point out the problems with Mr. Average’s views, he would say
It doesn’t mean that the [science] we dislike is evil, but rather it is not for us. It also doesn’t mean that the [science] we like is good. However, I can’t count how many times I have gotten into a conversation with someone who no longer attends [science lectures] because they were made to feel uncomfortable expressing a negative opinion about the [science] they were listening to. Because they didn’t like what they heard, and they happened to not be “experts” on [science], their feelings were denigrated. Herein lies the worse aspect of orthodoxy – the inability to understand or give creedence to an opposing point of view without denigrating it with attacks or arguments of a condescendingly personal nature.
Mr. Eddins, we all “understand” your point of view. You have an inferiority complex. Sorry if that’s a personal argument. Sort of like blaming your own inability to connect with audiences on my grandfather is personal.