25. July 2007 · 4 comments · Categories: Ramble

So I read a news article that began:

Forget the stodgy image of stuffy people playing the music of dead European men; classical music is a young art for the new generation of composers and musicians. And both will be on tap with the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival.

Which caused me to wonder how many things I’d find if I did a search of “classical music” + stuffy. Hah. Google suggested that maybe I meant “classical music” stuff. No. Of course I meant “stuffy”. Silly Google.

The results from Google? Well, they showed me 1 – 30 of about 167,000 for “classical music” stuffy.

And who, you wonder, wrote stuff with “classical music”? Well … here you go, page 1 (cleaned up a bit for your enjoyment):

About Stuffed Penguin
We think the stuffy, black-tie culture surrounding classical music deters people from getting to know the music better. We want to create an environment …

Classical Music Starter Guide @ Everything2 . com
Tip #1: Classical music is not stuffy. Classical musicians are not stuffy. Well, most of us aren’t. We give off that impression because of our ever-so-quiet …

Boundless: Why Listen to the Dead White Males?
Many fans of popular music think classical music stuffy and outdated. The irony is that much of what they’re playing will be forgotten in a year, …

oboeinsight » Blog Archive » Stuffy. Again. (Yeah, yours truly right up at the top.)
Stuffy. Again. The stuffiness of the setting put me off, a stuffiness you could feel … But the writer of the above quote isn’t dissing classical music. …

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – music: Classical music is not a …
But that doesn’t make classical music a “well-behaved form” – far from it. … Scratch that, they can be very stuffy. But those people you see dripping with …

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
The “classical music is stuffy” cliché is generated largely by TV commercials and movies; it has little or no relationship to reality, unless you’re at an …

A new crop of conductors and performers is taking Generation X to …
“We started Telling Stories because we love the idea of taking classical music out of the stuffy concert hall and attracting a younger audience,” says …

Theater, Opera, & Classical Music Audio Books, Podcasts, and …
LearnOutLoud’s Theater, Opera, & Classical Music section allows you to learn … This is no stuffy music appreciation lesson. Author Kathleen Krull makes …

The shocking truth about sex and violas – Telegraph
Is the world of classical music too stuffy by half? Certainly Muso magazine seems to think so, writes Julian Lloyd Webber. Are we our own worst enemies? …

Matthew Hindson » The Future of Classical Music?
Is classical music inherently boring, stuffy, pretentious and even irrelevant to younger people? We’ve all heard plenty of music that fits the above …

Classical music: Graham Fitkin Group Arnolfini, Bristol …
Classical music: Graham Fitkin Group Arnolfini, Bristol from Independent, … to get away from received notions of classical music as stuffy or un-cool. …

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Classical music fans ‘go digital’
I am not surprised – classical music has only ever been regarded as stuffy by the ignorant and a few fools who think that listening to it makes them better …

And You Shall Be in the Blog: Classical Music Corner
Classical Music Corner. As I’m writing, YouTube is down for maintenance, …. Go grab your headphones and learn yourselves some old stuffy music! …

Classical music is really old and stuffy. New stuff exists, but a lot of it is on the fringes, because it doesn’t feel classical at all. …

The SNL Rant
Some people might think that classical music performers are old, stuffy and boring. Well, old isn’t necessarily bad (see the last sentence of the last …

Vinyl Anachronist
When I was young, all my friends told me I was weird for liking classical music, that it was boring and stuffy and for old people only. When I got older, …

Quinteto Latino – Celebrating Latin American Classical Music
We also do a lot of explaining as appropriate. If you tend to think classical music is stuffy, we’d like to think we’ll prove you wrong! …

Arizona Daily Wildcat – Making classical music safe for students
Certainly there’s nothing boring about classical music itself. … was something almost criminal about restricting such great music to stuffy concert halls. …

Rocking classical stereotypes
There are some assumptions that classical music is stuffy and that people who play classical music can only talk about classical music. …

The music that dare not speak its name | | Guardian Unlimited Arts
The media do little to dispel the playground perception of classical music as elitist, stuffy and uncool Meurig Bowen Monday August 22, 2005 …

John Corigliano or stuffy classical… still good « Chatquah and …
John Corigliano or stuffy classical… still good. November 23rd, 2004. I’ve always objected to that peculiar fascination with how much classical music sucks. …

Sequenza21/ » Is Classical Music Too Arty-Farty for Its Own Good?
The image of classical music as “stuffy” persists no matter what. Part of it is that, I think, it’s just ingrained in our culture. …

Jessica Duchen’s classical music blog: November 2006
I was startled to find a classical music forum in which a bunch of gentlemen …. A great deal of music writing is stuffy, sawdust-dry and elitist (oh yes, …

deseretnews.com | Composer nurtures fresh approach to classical music
Forget the stodgy image of stuffy people playing the music of dead European men; classical music is a young art for the new generation of composers and …

Barnes & Noble.com Music – Classical Interview
Classical music can be very stuffy — and I don’t mean that it’s boring — but I certainly feel that you have to wake up to the fact that we are very far …

Amazon.com: Comment on this review
This is a wonderful addition to those works that try to bridge the gap between pop and classical music. This is highly recommended for all except the stuffy …

If you think all classical music is stuffy and starched, think again. Kronos Quartet fans may become distracted. 5 out of 5 stars Kronos Quartet fans may …

[PDF] Study Guide for “Who’s Afraid of Classical Music?”
Beth shows students that classical music is all around us: … music is performed by stuffy guys with white hair who wear tuxedos. HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE? …

CBC.ca Arts – Classical concerts stuffy, twentysomethings say
London – A survey conducted in Britain and in the United States suggests that people in their 20s consider classical music concerts too stuffy and formal. …

Take a Jock to the Orchestra | Chicago Classical Music
Stuffy? Yes, I guess we are a lot of the time, and on top of that, … I brought quite a few non-musical types to classical music events and still do so …

But what does all of this mean?
Heck if I know! Except that … well … it is true that it seems a lot of classical musicians talk about being stuffy. We either are busy saying we aren’t stuffy, or else we are saying we are far too stuffy and need to change.

Maybe we should just stop using the word stuffy and talk more about how great “our” music is.

Just thinkin’ ….

OH. But I DID then do a google search on these words: rock music snobs

Guess what?

Results: 429,000 for rock music snobs

(Wow. Did I just waste an hour doing this goofy little task? Heh.)


  1. Such an interesting adjective, “stuffy”. I think its common use in regards to “classical” music concerts is a reflection of the change of relationship to “music” since the development of recording. The easy access to music, breeds a familiarity that allows one to develop tastes, ownerships. It also allows one to wash dishes, clip ones toenails and other such activities while listening. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a deeper relationship, it just means one gets to pick and choose one’s time to sit and listen as opposed to clipping toenails with music. It is always available. So much of the concert world is a reflection of the long time rarity of music, young people are used to listening as they want, and editing their listening for greatest affect. The patience to wait through music for the parts that one likes is rare. Meanwhile, the exposure to huge amounts of music for your average 21st century person, compared to the exposure at the time most “classical” music comes from, implies a different audience then the composer wrote for. So you take this 21st century young person, who has heard more music (or at least structured sound) then Brahms did in his entire life, stick him in a room (often, when very young, stuck into constrictive clothing by parents) and remove the ability to edit to taste, demand a certain social respect for the others in the hall (a pet peeve of mine with the young and old alike, the lack of respect of my concert space, comings and goings, talkings and coughings. I am used to the quiet of my listening sanctum at home) and they will find it “stuffy”.

    A difference between “stuffy” classical musicians and rock music “snobs”, the former expects the latter to help financially support their music.

  2. Hmmm. I actually haven’t ever thought that rock music lovers (or the snobs … and of course I was joking about that whole thing … there are snobs in anything) should support what I do. Ever. I have hoped that some people would eventually get the “music I love” bug, but I don’t expect anyone who doesn’t care for what I do to support “my” music.

    Ooh, clipping toenails to music? Yikes! I can’t even handle the sound of clipping toenails alone, much less to music! (Really. I guess it’s like that scratching on a chalkboard to some folks.) There are some string players in the orchestras I’m connected to that clip their fingernails at a rehearsal. Hurts. My. Ears.

    But yes, listening has changed. For me, listening is a very taxing thing. There are times when I half-listen and feel guilty, but sometimes my brain just can’t handle more.

    I’m rambling … as usual … just writing out loud …

    My kids came to rehearsals at times, and to concerts at others. They seemed to enjoy it. (Our youngest begged to stay for an entire opera when we thought he’d stay for an act.) Maybe it’s how music is introduced. Maybe it’s about taste. I dunno. Our kids like “classical” music, but they like other music as well. (You can hear my older son’s music here. I don’t think it would be called “classical”. (Sorry about the quotes; I still struggle with the use of “classical” as the all-of-it. My problem, I know.)

    Hmmm. Not sure I’m really even responding to what you wrote. Sorry. Bad brain! Bad brain!

    Oh … and about the “listening sanctum” … I have a tremendously difficult time at concerts. I’m so used to being in the middle of the muddle, sitting on stage, where the music surrounds and encases me so much. I get into a hall and all I hear are candies being unwrapped, people coughing, cellphones (even after an announcement to tell us to turn them off) … you name it … and, as happened at the last concert, someone sketching right next to me. Still, I go because I want to hear things the “real” way; the way an audience hears things. It reminds me, for one thing, of how unimportant I really am up on the stage the majority of the time.

    Okay … ramble done … back to the Tour de France ….

    (Thanks for writing!)

  3. Ooh, you mention something I find interesting. As one who played violin in school orchestras, and then as a rock/jazz musician and then a studio player, I got used to the sound being all around me, and at a certain volume. I often want to turn orchestras up (and sometimes rebalance), but this might be a case of my music listening at home. Of course, now in my mid-fifties, I have 24/7 tinnitus, although it has not (apparently) damaged by frequency spectrum much, and I have the usual loss of top end (I’m not much above 10k). I am glad to see you mention that experience.

    Those lucky children of musicians must be a wonderfully strange lot (when it comes to musical tastes) 🙂

    I am with you on the “” classical biz. Music labels seem, sometimes, to be half of the problem.

    As to “bad brain”, I prefer to think of blogs like counters at coffee shops, and not a formal academic setting, as must be clear from my often incoherent ramblings. As I sometimes blog from the middle of the night, alone with my computer, I burst out in very inpolite blasts, untethered to the people I am communicating with, their facial reactions etc.to temper my expression. I often have to apologize, but that is what makes it a very vital form of communication to me.

    Thank you for your blog, your writing seems so honest that I feel I am truly enjoying the perspective of the oboe chair.

  4. When I go to concerts to listen rather than to play I have several reactions.

    1) “It’s too soft! I want more. Why am I not surrounded by sound?”
    2) “The audience is too noisy. And there’s so many perfumes. And why are people so fidgety?”
    3) “Wow! So I am not the center of everything after all! I thought that low note was more important than it is. I thought that solo was longer. Funny how the distance changes things. I should be less stressed on stage. Go figure.”

    So even with the distractions and the audience that gets in my way of total enjoyment, I go to be reminded that I’m not the center of the universe. 🙂

    Yes, our kiddos have very eclectic tastes. Our younger son listens to opera, musical theatre, Beatles, Philip Glass, Johnny Cash, White Stripes, Queen, Simon & Garfunkel … I never know what we’ll be hearing! Our daughter? Deerhoof (sp?), Beatles, Decemberists, former opera fanatic although I think that’s died down … and more …. And our older son is more into some sort of dance stuff (of the three I’m most unfamiliar with his music), electronic music, much more …

    Of course I can’t list the “all of it” with the kiddos. I can’t keep up with them! But when we are in the car together (getting rarer now that they are all adults) they choose music and I get to hear what they are currently into. I enjoy it.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve managed to offend someone merely because of my incredibly creative (?!) sense of humor. Guess they need to see my smile, eh?

    And yes, I try to be as honest as possible. I do exercise great caution when it comes to those I work with though. I’d love to blast a few conductors and a few of my colleagues have stomped on my toes so hard I’d probably enjoy getting back at them. But I won’t go there. Wouldn’t be wise, nor is it kind or necessary.