As the father of five very musical children, I find myself in the company of classical musicians and teachers with some regularity. One would be hard pressed to find a more reflexively liberal demographic than that of classical musicians. Their brand of liberalism, though fairly radical, is genteel and seldom confrontational. In a superficial way, I actually enjoy the company of these people and can usually find enough common ground to have an interesting conversation. Indeed I am more socially “comfortable” around them than I am around most people in the great middle class. Yes, this does seem to be a class phenomenon. We have similar levels of education. We think about the same kinds of things – they on one side, me on the other. They read books. They have decent manners. They don’t mind putting on a coat and tie, or a long skirt.
And they are liberals. Let me clear: these are people who adhere to an evil, destructive ideology that is responsible for plunging our civilization into barbarism. On the other hand – and this is what confuses me – they seem to be the only people interested in preserving the treasures of western civilization, apart from a few cranky Catholics and other traditionalist malcontents of negligible influence. America’s “conservatives” – at least our middle class conservatives – couldn’t care less about classical music, literature, philosophy, or the arts. Make no mistake: if we turned culture completely over to them, we would lose the best of our cultural patrimony. I don’t like admitting this, but reality is what it is.
I used to chalk this up to the desecrating impulse of liberalism. For example, anyone paying attention to America’s big cities is familiar with the phenomenon of sodomite hordes buying and restoring beautiful Victorian homes in the oldest neighborhoods, as if to defy and defeat the values of those who built them. Similarly, modernist desecrators proudly possess all the grandest old churches - buildings designed specifically and exclusively for traditional liturgy and piety. Local historical societies are most often dominated by liberals: that way they can dispense local history to local citizens through their own ideological interpretations.
But I don’t believe that desecration is behind the liberal hegemony in classical music and the arts. These people truly love the music, often to the point of betraying their own liberalism, as when the text of a Bach cantata is sung and printed in the music program without commentary. They crave authenticity and, in my experience, seldom interfere with the authentic message of the music. Why they don’t seem to actually get the message is a mystery to me.
So here’s one of the things we traditionalist conservatives must face. When it comes to culture, we seemingly have little choice but to make alliances with liberals, who for better or worse, are the de facto guardians of the western tradition in music. God bless the New York Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, early music groups like Sequentia and Chanticleer, National Public Radio, Julliard, Jacobs, Yo Yo Ma, and thousands of liberal musicians who are keeping the tradition alive.
As an aside, we also participate in another musical world, that of American bluegrass and old-time fiddle music. We know many of these musicians as well: rural northern California, the Appalachia of the west, is, in fact, a “hot spot” for this kind of music. These musicians don’t read many books, they don’t dress well, and although they do “act locally”, most of them do not “think globally”. Neither cosmopolitan nor wealthy nor highly educated, they are religiously devout, instinctively pro-life, and normally (but not always) politically conservative. Lest I overstate their virtues, they are no strangers to destructive and sinful behavior, and furthermore they do not mind telling you all about it. Although I find myself more comfortable in the classical milieu, I have a soft spot for these people and think the world could use more of them.