On Classical Music
high culture is inherently masculine
Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul. - Plato
I stepped into the concert hall that afternoon and was enveloped by a world I had never imagined. The grandeur of the hall, the hushed whispers of the audience, and the anticipation in the air left me in awe. When the orchestra began to play, led by a conductor in a tuxedo, I was transported to a realm of breathtaking melodies. The music, performed on stage by musicians in elegant attire, washed over me like a gentle wave, stirring emotions I had never felt.
In that moment, I discovered the enchanting power of symphonic music. I left the concert hall with a heart full of wonder, knowing that I had just experienced something truly magical that transcended the boundaries of my modest life.
I first experienced the symphony on a field trip while in the third grade, that experience has stayed with me to this day. My experience in the symphony hall was a shock to my system. I felt like a was charged with a bolt of lightning because both because I was energized by the beauty and overjoyed to discover music could be presented in such a way.
The experience was refined yet visceral & masculine. I heard the works of Tchaikovsky that day and have enjoyed his music ever since. Besides frequenting the holiday performances of the Nutcracker, I most often enjoy listening to Tchaikovsky while reading great books on airplanes. The beginning of Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23 - Allegro non troppo gets me dialed in and is the music I start each plane ride with. Most recently I did this on a plane to Nashville as I read “The Decline Of The West”.
I did not grow up in a home that listened to classical music nor did anyone play musical instruments. We were a home of passive musical observers not active participants save for some infrequent singing along to the whatever was on the radio.
My mother listened to Motown and my father listened to Skynyrd. I don’t think either one of them ever had an interest in classical music. For instance we never played this type of music in the house or in the car nor was anyone encouraged to play a musical instrument. There was little to no high culture in the home in which I was raised.
High culture, often referred to as "cultured" or "refined" culture, encompasses the intellectual and artistic achievements that are considered to be of the highest quality and significance in a society. It typically includes forms of art, literature, music, and other expressions of human creativity that are esteemed for their depth, complexity, and cultural importance. High culture is often associated with intellectual and artistic elites and may require a certain level of education and appreciation to fully understand and enjoy.
Examples of high culture may include classical music, opera, ballet, literature by renowned authors, fine art such as paintings and sculptures from famous artists, classical theater productions, and other forms of art and expression that are considered to be enduring and of great artistic merit. High culture is often contrasted with popular culture, which includes more mainstream and mass-produced forms of entertainment and art.
On that day in the third grade I realized there is a dichotomy of culture and I that I had been missing out on the half that really appealed to me. The upper half were the style is cleaner and the people thinner… I was raised in a lower class home that was devoid of high culture. I don’t believe gnus was intentional, it was more to do with my parents socioeconomic standing.
My father was in the army and then drove long haul until he retired. My mother was a cosmetologist. Neither of them went to college. Neither of them read books. Neither of them frequented museums. Which means that for me I had to have some external influence that allowed me To see the other side. If I did not go on a field trip in the third grade, I would probably have been inculcated with the same myopic culture.
Thankfully the public school system provided the exposure I didn’t know I desperately needed. I might be the only one from that day that was struck by the experience, but I can now share that with my children and the tens of thousands of people that read my essays. That’s a win.
Like many others, I knew from a young age that I wanted something different from what I was exposed to at home. I knew I wanted a better life, an education, a career, a family, and I wanted high culture to flow through it all. I worked hard to cultivate such a life and I am now sharing it with others as I believe it needs to be discussed more.
I meet people all the time that seem to be living in an alternate reality than my own, they do not like classical music, they do not read, and they do not enjoy the arts (outside of what is mass produced). Not that these things are “needed” to live a joyous life, but I believe they are key components to a well rounded existence.
The arts and the high cultural arts for that matter, are an essential complement to the commercialized, algorithmic, and prosaic society we live in. High art is wonderful for its own sake, it doesn’t need to be utility maximized to oblivion.
Without music, life would be a mistake - Nietzsche
High culture should cascade from the elite onto the masses. In a sense it is the duty of the elites to ensure this occurs. It’s a responsibility a “noblesse oblige” if you will for the elites to set the tone for the rest of the broader society. Instead what happens is low culture pushes upward to the elites and forcing them to acquiesce to the current mass trends. This is a display of weakness and should not be how a successful society calibrates itself. This anomaly defies reason and should cease.
Why is the culture of the proletariat the dominant culture in such a rich, well educated society?
Because the world has been flattened by technology, the stratification of society has diminished and for good reason on most accounts. However, high culture should remain stratified for the good of our people. Why? Because it is good to set aspirational markers in all domains, the arts included. Just as one strives to be more like (insert someone you look up to) a society should do the same with its culture. Many things begin in culture and the foundation in which vital aspects of our society build upon should be of adequate strength and virtue.
For example, my wife and I recently attended a performance of Gustav Mahler’s 5th symphony in Salt Lake City. His symphonies are sublimely intense. I’ve enjoyed Mahler before it was cool. The majority of the crowd was rather old, my wife and I were amongst the youngest couples in the crowd. I was not surprised, rather I was disappointed. I had hoped to see more youthful attendees as recently the talk of classical music, symphonies, and operas have been more widely discussed.
Not too long ago, I remember reading a post on Substack lamenting the fact that it is so hard to attend a classical music performance. I replied that it’s not difficult to attend such a performance, rather it’s simply a choice to attend a Vivaldi performance instead of the next Marvel movie. Everything in life is a tradeoff. And most people choose to attend the movie or scroll social media. But, is this the right thing for our culture or should there be more of a push to the masses to consume high culture?
In 2022, the movie Tar sparked a small mainstream interest in classical music. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and secretly hoped that many others would as well. Tar was the best film of 2022 and hardly anyone talked about it. High culture is off putting to many people. It makes them feel dumb. Perhaps, most people are dumb and high culture simply smacks them in the face with this fact.
Within the Spenglerian model, it is possible for a culture to attain the height of a particular endeavor, after which it falls away from that practice, never to attain such perfection in expression again. Like classical music in Germany during the 18th & 19th century.
Briefly, these endeavors are broad categories like “religion,” “art,” “law,” “language,” and “economics,” Once these activities attain the apex of their form, the culture is capable of no more than reproduction of the same things over and over, at best, and at worse they devolve into dysfunctional, chaotic, or needlessly cumbersome parodies of themselves. Hence the seemingly endless amount of hip hop and rather scant innovation in classical music. According to Spengler, a civilization may persist in this ossified state for millenia. No bueno.
Human culture's relationship to Being is always in flux. But according to Spengler, once a certain ineffable, terminal point is reached, the culture becomes exhausted, and all of the forms it created in the various aforementioned fields can never be re-access or evolved, but only copied endlessly, and all cultural production becomes living fossils of a once creative society. This seems to be the case since the late 19th century. Overall, Western culture has declined and feminized
Heidegger puts it another way, in “A Letter on Humanism,” wherein he says this ossified condition of Spengler’s is a sort of “Homelessness” defined by the “abandonment of Being by beings,” and that it is the “oblivion of Being.” In other words, we become trapped in the final mindset of civilization, that of pure quantification.
This, according to Spengler, is the petrified, final stage of the economic thought-form, and economics is itself the final human endeavor worked out by a culture before it enters its winter, or homeless phase. And *this* is the essence of technology, pure quantification, which is itself nothing technological. It is the reduction of all Being to quantification, in which all objects are reduced to their use-value or their potential use-value. When one considers a tool, this makes sense, and for millenia this relationship to technology was simply one aspect of the totality of Being, incorporated into the fullness of our essence.
We related to the world as a cosmological whole in which entities were related to in their essence and we related to them from our essence and this relationship, rather than concealing one aspect of either essence, enhanced it and helped humans attain their Being as a whole.
In other words, our use of technology once entrenched our embedded-ness in the world around, but now with Enframing, it causes us to stand apart from it and consider the world - and ourselves - as a source of energy for extraction.
This standing apart, which Heidegger names “Ek-sistence” in A Letter on Humanism, changes the relation of entities in the world from one of integrated components to that of “standing reserve.”
This also enunciates Heidegger's distinction of physis versus poiesis. Poiesis is something growing into itself out of itself, like a flower emerging from what was once a seed. Physis, however, is when an entity actualizes its potential only after the action of an outside source.
Turning back to today. Tar was the very push/nudge I knew our society needed to get re-engaged with classical music. However, only a small interest was generated amongst the masses, this was also on during the tail end of Covid. Covid brought about an uptick in interest in many things related to high culture such as appreciation for classical music, classical literature, and art. Perhaps the lack of interest in high culture is not simply its complexity, but peoples limited time and the allure of the next thing. Time is a luxury.
Todays culture is predictable, subdued, and simple. To most people, there is a feeling of time being very constrained and very rushed. There is always something new being uploaded and talked about. The timelessness brought about by great works is rarely considered because people feel like they are in a constant state of time restriction. Too few, have the time, money, and interest to enjoy high culture (this is largely by design). Thus, low culture dominates because it is fast and cheap.
Recently, I was struck by this same dichotomy while watching an episode of Billions. Billions is a TV series about megalomaniac hedge fund managers, Machiavellian attorneys, and Freudian psychoanalysis. A trifecta of topics I find supremely interesting (you should too). It’s an elite show made for an elite audience. Succession and White Lotus follow similar lines with their plots centered around rich families, luxury travel, and power.
References and dialogue from these shows often leave viewers in the dark. Perhaps this is the point. If you don’t know what’s going on you are probably not the demographic these shows are geared towards.
As for Billions specifically, one has to be engaged with the show and possess a thorough knowledge of many things to understand the quixotic phrases uttered throughout each episode. Often pop culture from other eras is referenced juxtaposed with smatterings of current esoteric ideas. In the last episode there was a reference to a Barry Zito curveball and a crypto NFT scam. Tech bros in disbelief… two SF adjacent references brought up in one episode - magnificent. What a way to unite Gen X and millennials. The only thing better might be discussing single origin coffee at the dog park.
I know I am waxing on about what seems to be nothing. So, what is the point? The point is, in the last episode one of fund managers has the opportunity to conduct the New York Philharmonic. He gets to do so because the funds founder won the honor in a charity auction. This fund manager now gets to conduct the New York Philharmonic with one of Leonard Bernstein’s batons (a remarkable artifact from one of the greatest maestros in American history).
Shortly after this fact is shared with others in the office classical music/symphonies are quickly denigrated, being called effete and those that enjoy it being viewed as, what’s the technical term!? “pussy’s”. I laughed when I heard this. The masculine visceral thing I experienced as a boy is actually feminine? Nietzsche and Wagner are rolling in their graves. Schopenhauer on the other hand (the eternal cynic) is chuckling. I (not a famous German) was intrigued. Is this what the masses think of those who enjoy classical music, think or me? YES. Astounding I say!
I guess this fund manager should have simply said he was going to drink whiskey and air guitar some Garth Brooks or drink tequila and rap a Migos verse because that’s what a real man would do, right? Wrong. It’s what someone who is public facing should do because that is what the masses relate to. It all makes sense, during the episode it shows the difference between the elite and the masses. A look behind the veil so to speak. The issue being addressed in the episode is that this divide should remain hidden. This is the difference between the esoteric and the exoteric. The exoteric exists to obfuscate the true esoteric meaning of many things held dear to the elite.
Such is the trend of Nihilism. It occurs to no one to educate the masses to the level of true culture - that would be too much trouble, and possibly certain postulates for it are absent. On the contrary, the structure of society is to be levelled down to the standard of the populace. General equality is to reign, everything is to be equally vulgar. The same way of getting money and the same pleasures to spend it on: panem et circenses - no more is wanted, no more would be understood. Superiority, manners, taste, and every description of inward rank are crimes. Ethical, religious, national ideas, marriage for the sake of children, the family, State authority: all these are old-fashioned and reactionary. - Oswald Spengler
So, going to and enjoying classical music is viewed as effeminate by mainstream America? I find this to be quite rich being that we live in one of the most feminized countries in the world.
I don’t run into many men like myself. I can bench over 350 pounds, run a sub 7 minute mile, do over a dozen dead hang pull-ups, run successful businesses, am a devout father and husband and enjoy classical music. I guess I am a pussy to some people. However, I’d be surprised if someone were to say this to my face, but I digress.
For those of you interested, my favorite composer is Wagner followed closely by Bach and Mahler. I can also get down to Rachmaninov and Chopin.
So what is it people? Should a man shoot guns and blast CCR or sip a nice viogner and listen to Brahms? No wonder so many men are lost. Men want to be men.
Men should as Nietzsche said become who they are. To do this they need to be well rounded like the ancient Greeks. A man should be strong, intelligent, and cultured. Modern man should not be stifled by the feminization of society. So engage in rigorous training, read Aristotle, take care of your family and listen to classical music.
Someone might want to attend the symphony for a variety of reasons, and his interest in classical music doesn't diminish his masculinity in any way. Here are some reasons why someone with a strong sense of masculinity might enjoy attending the symphony:
Appreciation for Music: Regardless of gender, some people have a deep appreciation for classical music and the complex compositions performed by symphony orchestras. Music can be a powerful and emotional experience for anyone.
Cultural Interest: Classical music is an important part of many cultures' artistic heritage. Attending the symphony can be a way to connect with and appreciate cultural traditions and history.
Relaxation and Escape: The symphony can provide a peaceful and immersive environment where one can relax, unwind, and escape from the stresses of daily life.
Intellectual Stimulation: Classical music often involves intricate compositions and historical context, which can be intellectually stimulating for those who enjoy delving into the nuances of music.
Social Engagement: Symphony concerts can be a social outing, offering the opportunity to spend quality time with friends, family, or a partner. It's a chance to dress up and enjoy a night out.
Broadening Horizons: Masculinity is not limited to specific interests. A masculine man may have a diverse range of hobbies and interests, including a passion for classical music. Enjoying a variety of experiences can be enriching.
People of all backgrounds and identities can find joy and fulfillment in the world of classical music.
Twenty-five years after that transformative afternoon in the symphony concert hall in My life has taken a remarkable journey. My love for classical music had grown stronger with each passing year, and I have passed this love along to my friends and family.
As I stood in front of the same symphony concert hall that had opened my eyes to a world of enchanting melodies, I couldn't help but smile. My wife and I enjoyed the Mahler performance immensely.
We’ve frequented the symphony no matter which city we live in and plan to continue doing so no matter the location. You can do the same, skip the next Marvel movie or Top 40 artists concert and head to your local symphony. It is now the the thing to do for those who believe in Virtu.