Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Till Death Do Us Part?

Ed Morrissey has a fascinating column up in the Weekly Standard about 'staying true' in an increasingly commitment-phobic society. He follows up in his blog with an amusing post on more dilute versions of marriages and how much like season ticket subscriptions or prepaid cellphone cards they could be like.


I used to work in Music Publishing; for nearly ten years I held what could very well be be considered as close to a dream job as I'm ever likely to have. This all ended a few years back when our owners (the heirs to a major musical theater dynasty) decided that our venture, one of the oldest music publishing firms in the country was losing them more money than what it gained them as a tax writeoff. One could argue that music publishing has gone the way of the music industry and book publishing - larger companies buying up smaller companies for their catalogues, creating even bigger conglomerates. I'm sure that that played a large part in my company's demise.

Another important factor is that, on the whole, our society is a lot less musically literate than it was in preceeding generations. Some of this has to do with seeing some realms of music education as elitist (read: uninteresting), therefore purged from curricula. Also, kids nowadays (I'm willing to bet) aren't being made to stay the course on learning a musical instrument. It's just too darn hard, too much of a commitment to keep up beyond, say John Thompson's second piano book or Tune-a-Day for Trumpet. Why bother when there are other, more instant means of gratification out there?

My company, which specialized in choral music and music pedagogy on the publishing side, also had a retail business that seemed to be shrinking month by month. I worked in wholesale/publishing and noted that in my last two years there, something like 35% of the smaller stores I'd sold to had closed down or been bought out by chains. 9/11 hastened along the inevitable. To be honest, I can't blame my company's former owners for letting go and moving their capital into better investments. Music making seems to be a losing proposition nowadays.

The current war, marriage, learning a musical instrument: Three seemingly random subjects linked by the need of the participants to commit to something in a society that presses more and more for finding the "easy way" out.


Anonymous said...

Check out -- if you haven't already -- Theodore Dalrymple's fascinating essay on Ibsen's seminal if unwitting role in where we are today culturally [via Roger L. Simon]:

"The modernity of Ibsen's thought hardly needs further emphasis. The elevation of emotion over principle, of inclination over duty, of rights over responsibilities, of ego over the claims of others; the impatience with boundaries and the promotion of the self as the measure of all things: what could be more modern or gratifying to our current sensibility?"


Be said...

Thanks, Sissy...I'm currently looking at that issue of City Journal, but haven't made it to the Ibsen essay yet. In general, I'm a fan of Dalrymple and am saving my pennies to get a copy of Our Culture, What's Left of It for reading when we're downeast (T minus 10 days...but who's counting?).

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Fascinating post and comments -- I'll try to get to that Dalrymple essay. I tend to think that individual writers, even great ones, are symptomatic of their cultures more than creators of their cultures. They sense, anticipate, and amplify their context. Poor old Henrik had enough problems, without blaming him for the modern world.