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Who Needs Classical Music?

During the last few decades, most cultural critics have come to agree that the division between "high" and "low" art is an artificial one, that Beethoven's Ninth and "Blue Suede Shoes" are equally valuable as cultural texts. In Who Needs Classical Music?, Julian Johnson challenges these
assumptions about the relativism of cultural judgements. The author maintains that music is more than just "a matter of taste": while some music provides entertainment, or serves as background noise, other music claims to function as art. This book considers the value of classical music in
contemporary society, arguing that it remains distinctive because it works in quite different ways to most of the other music that surrounds us.

This intellectually sophisticated yet accessible book offers a new and balanced defense of the specific values of classical music in contemporary culture. Who Needs Classical Music? will stimulate readers to reflect on their own investment (or lack of it) in music and art of all kinds.
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About the Author

Julian Johnson was educated at the University of Cambridge, Dartington College of the Arts, and the University of Sussex, and is currently a lecturer in Music at Oxford University. The author of Webern and the Transformation of Nature, Johnson is well known for his work on music aesthetics and the relation of music to society. He is also a composer.


There is much to admire and provoke in this book ... it warrants serious engagement ... Read it and discuss the issues it raises as widely as possible because it offers the opportunity for serious debate about music and its relationship to the way we live our lives. Popular Music Johnson takes on the difficult and touchy issues surrounding the inherent value of popular and classical art, and he's not afraid to be politically incorrect ... his views about the relationship between a society and how it responds to its art, and how it keeps that art alive and both preserves and advances it, are good ideas that are out of fashion these days, and it is refreshing to see them made with such force. Fanfare This book is a much-needed statement about some fundamental human values that many today are either afraid or embarrassed to articulate. For those to whom classical music has a value and a meaning, this book is essential reading. Fanfare ... eloquently written and persuasively argued ... an admirable contribution to the current debate about musical values. British Journal of Music Education ... interesting and powerfully written. British Journal of Music Education His wise, perceptive and inspiring book provides something of the same humanising effect, as well as passionately answering the question in its title. The Economist ... every page- at times, every sentence- is loaded with implications for further thought ... deserves the widest attention not only of composers, performers and ordinary listeners who value classical music but, perhaps especially, of the power-wielders of such cultural institutions as the London Arts Board, the Arts Council Contemporary Music Network and BBC Radio 3. Bayan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine

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