Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Don't know about your private hell -- remember orwell's "room 101"? --  but mine is to be locked in a room and made to listen to barry manilow croon "i write the songs..." 

turns out it actually happens, in at least one town in colorado -- strikes me as a new chapter of the "scared straight" franchise. the story was buried a bit in today's LATimes, but it's an interesting and cautionary read about cruel and unusual punishment.

my interest in the topic -- and the relationship between aesthetics and politics is almost always interesting -- goes back to a piece i wrote for the same paper a few years back: it concerned the use of classical music as "bug spray," in the words of one of my sources, to keep ruffians from gathering.

it sent me on this excursion on the place of classical music and by extension high culture itself in these post-highbrow times. i discuss the difference btw classical music and elevator music, the notion of "cool," pavarotti's voice, and the way classical music has become something new, in the terms of ucla's Robert Fink, now that it's not "classical" anymore.

Photo credit: and Flickr user 11


Scott Timberg said...
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Sara S said...

music as torture...what an idea. that story is hilarious. could work as a great "consequence" in schools--instead of sitting in the dean's office, goofing around, they'll have to be quiet in a padded cell. what would torment my kids? hate to say it--bob dylan, tom waits. gruff, grumbly voices, not sickly sweet barry manilow!

Scott Timberg said...

i think everyone has their own bete-noir music... for me growing up in late 70s/early 80s i think having to listen to REO speedwagon in any context would make me do whatever the authorities wanted...