CBC 2:The Change

What have we lost? Fans of classical music ruled the roost at the CBC. Now we don’t. But maybe we shouldn’t. Why should taxpayers underwrite the few – the relatively few – Canadians who want to have classical music available all the time at a flick of the switch?

Cultural snobs in this country ask the taxpayers to fund many of their pleasures: art galleries, the opera, concert halls. People who don’t go to the galleries, don’t attend the opera, have never heard a string quartet, help to keep my ticket prices down. Where’s the justice?

Harvey Mansfield suggests that people who don’t go to classical concerts nevertheless think it’s a good thing that their country has them. And for that matter, people who don’t watch the Olympics tolerate subsidies to amateur sports. We’re willing to fork over. It’s appropriate. Is Mansfield’s argument sufficient? Maybe.

I regret most about The Change that we’ve lost the morning request program. It had this distinctive feature: requesters dedicated their selections to parents, children, spouses, teachers, friends, workmates. Shelly or Catherine would read letters and e-mails commemorating births, deaths, family anniversaries, friendships, happy memories, success in life.

Gratitude was the dominant note. Canadians have lost a program that celebrated the bourgeois life, the ordinary business of the ordinary day in this country, from coast to coast to coast. A program that said, hour after hour, to the accompaniment of glorious and affecting music: life is good. Canada has been good to me.

Those of you who worry about social and cultural supports for the institutions of liberal democracy take note. Are we seeing another prop kicked away?

Those of you who think that liberal democracy needs especially the support of religious sentiment will remember that classical music is one of the most powerful vehicles in our time for belief in the Deity. There are the hymns, masses, texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. And there’s the music that overwhelmed the classical world in the 1990s: the music of “holy minimalism,” which incorporates a profound sense of religiosity defying category. Gorecki, Hatziz, Pärt, Kancheli, Tavener.

I guess it’s goodbye holy minimalism, hello minimal holiness.


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