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Walter Ramsey

"Better" or just "different"? The frustrating question that is all the rage today. For a definitive answer on the subject, read Henry James, "The Ambassadors," which describes a world - hopefully not lost - where people actually -can- be more cultivated, and better, and not just "different."

Dan Green

Boy, if you can say the world depicted in The Ambassadors is "better," you and I already inhabit different worlds.

Len Edgerly

While in the Caribbean recently, I heard an example of how differently these questions of culture look from a different vantage point, in this case the non-fine art community of island hip hop. The FM station on St. Thomas, JAMZ 105, in the middle of a driving rap song would play a snippet of a British-accented man saying "Excuse me, could you possibly rewind and come again?" The effect was humorously to marginalize the Brit's world and to assert the primacy of hip hop.

I do believe there are qualities in any art which we can value for their ability to call forth the best that is human in both artist and audience. Those qualities have to do with hard work, innovation, delight, and enthusiasm honed by sustained passion and attention. Thankfully, no one culture has a monopoly on those qualities, and art remains the royal road to reconnnecting us across differences.


There is something misleading about Douglas’ assertion.

By the time the masses had the leisure time to pay attention to non folk music, which required more structured settings and such (orchestras and large ensembles, appropriate venues), radio was available and was more inclined to deliver so-called pop music. —though the Met Opera was regularly broadcast nationwide, as was the New York Philharmonic and that icon of culture, Arturo Toscanini. Opera in Vienna was a popular entertainment back in young Mozart’s time, well into the19th century. Suggesting that there is something about orchestral music and its devotees that inherently excludes large numbers of people is unverifiable and just plain arrogant.

How is it that some compositions can actually become "hit" records. I remember a movement of Mozart’s 21st piano concerto (Elvira Madigan), Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarthustra, (2001) and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now) all achieved pop status. And in the lamented by gone free form FM radio days, adventurous radio jocks thought nothing of intermingling all manner of musics. Did they have mass audiences? Probably not, but there is no reason they couldn’t have significantly larger numbers of listeners.

Here’s the thing people who enjoy music and for whom it is a central pleasure in life don’t go around fencing off large acreage of fertile for themselves and their snotty cronies like the Michael Gambon character in Open Range. Nope— Emimem and Bela Bartok, Robert Johnson and Julian Bream— are appreciated non-denominationally.

Mutatis mutandis indeed.

Ray Davis

I've been an underground comics fan, a Restoration literature fan, a 1970s science fiction fan, a Renaissance song fan, a Hong Kong movies fan, an atonal twentieth-century academic music fan, a rural blues fan, a James Joyce fan, a Leslie Gore fan, a Howard Hawks fan, and a Language Poetry fan, among other things. Treating each enthusiasm as its own area of study with its own band of passionate enthusiasts has rewarded me far more than trying to figure out which representatives of each belong to the High, Low, or Middle Arts and then treating the clumps en masse. Even "classical music" seems an absurdly broad category.

I'm also a fan of late Henry James. But I wouldn't live in any of those books if you paid me. (If you paid me what I'm making now, I mean. If you paid me four times as much, OK, sure.)

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