It was with dismay and sadness this week that I learned in Slate of the demise of classical music. A genre I’ve loved for years, which was so loosely branded as to encompass one thousand years of history across dozens of countries and cultures, is gone.
In my grief, I groped for an explanation. How had this happened? Just two weeks ago, I was watching Pierre Boulez conduct Mahler 10 on public television in Cleveland, yesterday my wife was practicing Scarlatti in the living room while I cooked in the kitchen…but it’s too much to bear.
Despite the creeping despair, I searched the rest of the internet for clues. How could such a durable and yet nonsensical category of music finally have met its untimely demise? Was it a total loss? Could Monteverdi still be revived, or at least some medieval sacred music?
What proof did we have that it was truly dead? But, my friends, the answer came in the dark of the night, with the comforting glow of Facebook illuminating my pale visage: classical music is UNDEAD.
It had been right in front of my face. The signs had been showing up for years: time and time again, I’d endured the panic…suffering the familiar shock, racing downstairs to check that my record collection was still there. Yet, it always seemed to reemerge, not with a majestic roar but with its steady refusal to be completely extinguished.
Was I a fool to ignore what was hiding in plain sight? Could these constant reincarnations have ever been anything else?
My refuge, as always, lay in Wikipedia. I combed the annals in search of a clue. With dread climbing up my spine as a serpent stalks its unsuspecting prey, I keyed the search:
"An undead is a being in mythology, legend or fiction that is deceased yet behaves as if alive. A common example is a corpse re-animated by supernatural forces by the application of the deceased's own life force or that of another being (such as a demon)."
Oh, joy and horror, that it could be naught else!
How to reconcile that my lover was this mangled beast? Those sounds that had suckled me, the staggeringly diverse repertoire that only barely formed a coherent musical genre was a ghastly multi-headed hydra. Reeling, I confronted my present quandary with cool detachment and a clarity reserved only for madness.
I had to think, All of these years, I knew that “classical music” was a clumsy, blunt instrument used to lump together centuries of human creativity. Yet this thought had never troubled me before. It seemed as if the apparitions hiding within (for I now know them to be nothing less, dear reader) could survive the steady onslaught of lazy journalism…but how? I didn’t question that, I dared not. It was enough for me only that it survived, for I could not bear the truth.
My unsteady thoughts turned to the “other beings” to whom the Wikipedia tome referred. That classical music had usurped its own hidden life force to reanimate was obvious, but it must have had help. Who? The dizzying array of possibilities threatened to overtake my already enfeebled mind, as I now could trust nobody. My friends, my classmates, even my own family could be in league with the abomination, feeding its grotesque ambition.
Suddenly, the truth: the graying audiences, the conspiracy of silence in the concert hall, the lack of demographic savvy…these were the white hunters, holy warriors laboring in secret to save me from the evil that I dared not face. Oh, if only I knew...if only my naïve and careless love for many extremely different kinds of music had not blinded me!
I sensed that the grip classical music had on me from childhood was suddenly severed, as if by naming the creature I could defeat its unholy spell. Perhaps there was still time to arrange my escape, to hide from its gaze, if only for ---
-- wait, Justin Bieber was ARRESTED?