Sunday, December 07, 2008

Especially the poems


"I like Beethoven. Especially the poems." Ringo Starr

I've mentioned before that I find Meghan Daum, Op Ed columnist for the LA Times, to be a bit of an idiot. When I think more rationally, I realize she's probably quite bright, but forced by her profession to explore, so to speak, Idiot Space. She does it very well. (I used to hate the very similar Joel Stein until I realized he was trying to be funny. After that I found I could tolerate him.)

In Saturday's LA Times, Ms. Daum is once again pouring scorn on the internet in an article entitled From YouTube to Carnegie Hall. YouTube is asking classical musicians to try out for a place in an orchestra, which has got her goat. Her thesis is that YouTube, being on the internet, is hopelessly populist, but classical music is a sort of cultural pinnacle. The idea that common people might get their sticky hands on classical music, of all things, fills her with column-writing horror (which is much worse than the superstitious or existential kind, but pays better).

But is it wise to allow an orchestra to be selected by those accustomed to posting about pet tricks? How, after all, can an audience raised on Auto-Tune vocal enhancement and digital sampling be expected to tell one violinist's pizzicato technique from another's? Won't "American Idol" standards prevail, saddling the YouTube Symphony with musicians who have questionable pitch but really awesome hair?
She's not done with the sarcasm yet! There's another half-dozen digs at people on the internet – that's you, by the way – in the article. Her barbs include "mouse-clicking masses", YouTube being the "official network of forest yodelers and babies slobbering mashed peas down their chin", and imagining YouTubers thinking "I thought an oboe was that thing that looked like a bong". [1]

I believe the print press hates teh intarwebs. I would too, of course – a buggy whip manufacturer is unlikely to think much of horseless carriages – but Daum always takes it further, into disliking people on the internet for their crime of being on the internet. She's an elitist, in other words. If everyone can watch YouTube, then it can't be worth watching. She's unaware, or willfully ignorant, as in the earlier article I discussed, that most of the internet, including YouTube, comes with both a search engine and filters. These mean one is not forced to watch pea-drooling babies unless one wants to do so. If one does want, a few words in the search box will ensure that pea-drooling babies are all one sees.

The classical piece which is exercising her snobbery centers is Internet Symphony No. 1 "Eroica," a new work by Chinese composer Tan Dun. Here's YouTube's first search result for it, as of today.

It happens to be the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tan Dun himself rather than a baby snorting peas, but I'm sure that won't get in the way of Daum thinking YouTube is filled with awful people and their awful pets and awful babies.

Here's how to join the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.

[1] It is, isn't it? I'm not sure what a bong looks like. Maybe an alto sax would be closer?



Casey said...

Great post. As an elitist/futurist/populist (contrdoctiona much?), I struggle with amateur culture vs. professional creation all the time. But I totally agree with you here. Great post.

Casey said...

Contradiction, meant. Typing on my phone.


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