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Steven H Propp
- Published on Amazon.com
Lawrence Kramer is Professor of English and Music at Fordham University, and has also written books such as Interpreting Music, Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History, Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss, etc.
He wrote in the "In Lieu of a Preface" to this 2007 book, "few have asked forthrightly why and how classical music should still matter. That is exactly what this book does... [It] looks for answers that can appeal both to lovers of this music and to skeptics... It affirms the VALUE of classical music by revealing what its VALUES are." (Pg. vii) He adds, "This book... springs from an effort to ... ask for simple answer to a simple question: What's in this music for me? In other words, why does classical music still matter?... The idea is simply to suggest by example how classical music can become a source of pleasure, discovery, and reflection tuned not only to the world of the music, rich though that is, but also to the even richer world beyond the music." (Pg. 4, 6)
He suggests, "Classical music finds its special character in a sustained encounter with this dimension of melody." (Pg. 38) Later, he adds, "So rooted, so culturally fraught, is the principle of melodic return that its own return is virtuallly irrepressible. It seems like the force of nature itself, of a piece with traditional conceptions of cyclical time." (Pg. 69) He states, "The [musical] score is like a map that traces a route while erasing its destination... What makes a score 'classical' is the particular relationship between the way it is written and the way it is treated. The classical score has to project a conception of the fate of melody (or a credible alternative), and it has to endow its details with meaning and drama." (Pg. 81)
He says, "The history of the piano might be written as the gradual discovery and development of its ability to create an intimate space in which playing and listening meet, touch, part, and meet again. This ability... allows the piano to become a microcosm for the whole enterprise." (Pg. 137)
He summarizes, "Classical music still matters because we can now openly recognize something that has always been true of it but little heeded: that performance is a way to live with music, and even a little to live through music, and that anyone and everyone can play." (Pg. 87) He argues, "All classical music is designed to be heard attentively... More 'popular' types of music are more attuned to movement; they are something one moves to, not something one grows still for. People in the subway can literally take such music in stride. With music like this Bach, one can only stride away." (Pg. 210)
This is not a book particularly analyzing/critiquing the current classical music outlook (see books like Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics and Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall for such analysis), and reads more like a series of general prose essays, than an attempt to present a progressive argument. Nonetheless, for anyone who wants an intelligent commentator on classical music in general (that's less "negative" about popular music than, say, Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value), this book will be of much interest.