What the classical devotees get wrong about modern music

Hewett, I. (2018) What the classical devotees get wrong about modern music. Prospect Magazine, 270 ISSN 1359-5024


A review of 'Music as an Art' by Roger Scruton published in the September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine. For Roger Scruton the western classical tradition reigns supreme over modern music. But other harmonies are available. There are many ways to write a philosophy of music—but two in particular stand out. One way is to approach music with the curious ear of the ethnomusicologist open to all the varieties of music around the world. This critic sees them as embedded in specific forms of life—and only really comprehensible when viewed within them—and so is careful not to treat any musical culture as a yardstick against which to measure the others. The other way, now seriously out of fashion, is to regard western forms of music, especially the classical tradition, as central to what music is, or ought to be, or could be. The problem with this approach is that other forms of music are inevitably found wanting when compared with these majestic works. All that matters, for this kind of critic, is the inner state of the solitary listener, communing with a long-dead composer genius.

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