My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Friday, October 28, 2011

In praise of middlebrow culture

In a laudatory review of Gunther Schuller's autobiography, Terry Teachout writes: 

I was especially interested in what Mr. Schuller had to say about "Fantasia," Walt Disney's 1940 animated feature film about classical music, which he saw for the first time when he was 14: "That film masterpiece truly changed my life, particularly its Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring' sequence, which, as far as I can remember, was the first time I heard that remarkable music. It completely bowled me over. I knew then and there that I had to be a composer."

Needless to say, snobs of all kinds have long taken a dim view of "Fantasia," with its dancing mushrooms and cavorting hippos. Not so Mr. Schuller: "I hope [Stravinsky] appreciated that hundreds—perhaps thousands—of musicians were turned onto 'The Rite of Spring' (and by implication lots of other modern music) through 'Fantasia,' musicians who might otherwise never have heard the work, or at least not until many years later."

Which leads Terry to reflect on the important role that middlebrow culture once played in introducing young people (and not-so-young people) to high culture:

Back in the days of middlebrow culture, the movies weren't the only way for children to get a taste of the classics. I initially made the acquaintance of such literary gems as "Macbeth" and "Moby-Dick" in comic-book form, courtesy of the unjustly mocked Classics Illustrated series ("Featuring Stories by the World's Greatest Authors").

So did I. (Terry and I are the same age.)


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