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February 15, 2021

High Culture [TheJamesMadison]

So, I was thinking about culture recently, mostly the idea that high culture is dead. Everything has been democratized to the point where even those who drive cultural conversations tend to have similar cultural tastes as those who just consume.
Marvel? Everyone talks about it. Game of Thrones? Everyone talks about it. Music? Games? It's all the same conversations in and out of the "know".

What set them apart in decades past? Access to things like the opera, but they don't have any interest in things like the opera anymore. There is only the mass media product, and it probably has something to do with the fact that they don't understand the more exclusive forms (even then, you can find plenty of opera on Youtube, not to mention companies like Fathom broadcasting them to theaters). They don't speak Italian, so they can't go to Don Giovanni or The Marriage of Figaro. They don't speak German, so they can't go to The Magic Flute.

In what way do they possibly lead anymore culturally? In what way do they separate themselves? They used to be able to look down their noses at us because we didn't have access to Broadway or the Met, but they don't care about them all that much anymore, and even then, the stuff on Broadway or at the Met gets transmitted out to the world anyway. It's also not all that elevated, just joining the unthinking popular soup of culture. In what way is a display of a woman's bedroom high art that can't be understood by the hoi polloi? It's not filled with references to books only those with enough leisure time can access, it's an expression of largesse, sloth, and emotional reasoning easily understood by a child. In what way does Hamilton deviate from popular culture with its use of rap music conventions and a threadbare narrative that makes no real effort to explore the man at its center?

Why is it that our "elite" have tastes as base as the rest of us in terms of culture? It probably has something to do with education. How many of our "elite" even learn another language other than English? How many of them read the great works beyond watching some productions of Shakespeare in high school? How many of them study the great men of history? It seems like a vanishingly small number. And as goes their education, so goes our higher culture.

What kind of higher culture gets created when the artists don't know what came before them?

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posted by Open Blogger at 05:38 PM

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