January 26, 2003
The Perfect Philistine (Hunter, Not Hlatky)

Gregory Hlatky of A Dog's Life tells us why he despises the music of Philip Glass:

. . . classical music that's suitable only as sonic wallpaper is not good music. I want to scream whenever I see one of those "Classical Music to Relax By" compilations. You shouldn't relax when listening to classical music. You should be at the edge of your seat. You should exult, or cry, or jump up and conduct (what I call "air baton"). You should be moved to go over passages again and again to say did I really hear that right?

This reminded me of a passage from Kingsley Amis' The Anti-Death League (p. 109 of the Penguin):

'This is music, you fool,' said Hunter in his ordinary tone. 'Worthless by definition. I remember sitting down to listen to a whole piece of it once. Somebody's symphony in four movements, it was. I couldn't make out what it was supposed to do for me. It seemed to be inviting me to run about, lie down and go to sleep, rush about, and then run about again. But I didn't want to do any of that.'

'You were using it for the wrong purpose,' said Dr Best. 'Except for martial airs and such, and in a rather different way music for dancing, the art is not concerned with action. It moves us to contemplation, which assists us in resolving our various conflicts. Through harmony we progress toward harmony.'

'Well, I didn't, the time I was telling you about. I progressed in the opposite direction, thank you. That's another thing I've got against it. It introduced me to conflicts I didn't even know I had.'

'Who was this monster?' asked Ayscue. 'He sounds to me rather like Sibelius.'

'No, he began with a B. But then most of them do, don't they?' Hunter continued to disparage music in general, on grounds that became increasingly obscure, . . . .

Not that I agree in any way with Hunter, but I've always liked the passage. It's one of the few that stuck with me from reading the novel years ago, so much so that I just spent half an hour leafing through the book to find it, though I don't have time to read the whole thing any time soon.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at January 26, 2003 09:30 AM

Agreed, in spades. This is why I thought that Fripp's Ambient 1: Music For Airports was a really, really bad idea for someone who wants to be taken seriously as a musician. On second thought, perhaps that was the whole idea.

Posted by: David Perron on January 27, 2003 12:23 PM