From here, a quote from Barenboim, apparently given in an FT interview (which I can't find):
I can't stand being in Chicago anymore and hearing the Brahms Violin Concerto in the elevator. Because that shows me that when they come to the concert hall they listen to it in the same way.
I have plenty of sympathy for this, having been to enough concerts where tuneful pieces were lauded over much better played but less tuneful pieces. Brahms as elevator music for the aged is, I think, an adequate description of the attitude towards music of the bulk of the CSO's patrons. Heaven knows I've been tormented by enough pseudo-intellectual conversations. I do wonder, though, if I'd been listening to Brahms as elevator music prior to this winter.
I'd always suspected that there was some contempt for the audience beneath his unexpressive demeanour when taking curtain calls.
Another interesting snippet from the Tribune interview (how I would love to read that cited FT interview):
The problem is that [music] has ceased to be part of the self-understood culture that a human being is supposed to have. The fact remains that a great majority of the intellectuals in this world are totally oblivious to the existence of music. Some of them enjoy the sounds they hear at concerts or when they listen to records at home. But it's not part of their intellectual worldview. This is a worldwide sickness. And I have to say the problem is more acute in America.
I'm not sure that there was any society in which the majority of the population had music as part of their "intellectual worldview". In fact, predictably misanthropically, I suspect that most people in all historical eras had nothing worth calling an "intellectual worldview".
He confuses things more, I think by first saying that music has ceased to be part of the self-understood "culture" that human beings are supposed to have. Culture = intellectual worldview? I dare say culture as conventionally interpreted is something largely non-intellectual. Culture = worldview is more believable, but I think most people do not think about their culture very much, so it wouldn't qualify as intellectual. And if he has culture = intellectual worldview, then it seems that pop music's close identification with pop culture would refute his point. The obvious answer is that he is talking exclusively about classical music, but given his ventures into jazz and other crossover-type stuff (I know he recorded some Brazilian Rhapsody thingy, and also the Tribute to Ellington), I'd thought he'd have a more accommodating view of music.
Supposed instead that he does have such an accommodating view, but thinks that in some way pop music doesn't mesh into the worldviews of modern humans. Inasmuch as we can grant the hoi polloi an intellectual worldview, however, it seems that pop music reflects some of that worldview, directly through the kind of lyrics that are composed, and probably also through the music (I don't know enough pop to be sure about the cultural currency of its music). Or is that just surface culture, not anything that is intellectually processed by its listeners? Endless piping from millions of iPods, none of which actually sinks in.
I also suspect that music is not part of my intellectual worldview either. (Pretentiously, I of course believe that I do have an intellectual worldview of a sort — primarily moral and metaphysical; not aesthetic. Music, of course, is not just aesthetic, but I have yet to figure how it would fit in with my existing moral and metaphysical stances.)
And yes, I also cannot stand it when I hear classical music being played as muzak.