“Dumbing Down” the Music Scene: Classical vs Pop

In an article posted by Fiona Hamilton on The TimesOnline it seems, "Boris Johnson yesterday criticised the “dumbing down” of culture for young people, saying that they should be targeted with opera and ballet as well as hip-hop music and movies." When I first read this I thought, "Great! He's equating hip-hop and movies with opera and ballet," but sadly this is not the case.

It seems what Mr Johnson is asking for is the arts world to not always target the younger audience with use of hip-hop music and movies, but to try and enrich their lives with opera and ballet. While his program in London will try and get more instruments into the hands of the young (pale in comparison to il Sistema program in Venezuela), Mr Johnson seems to feel hip-hop is somehow less an art form, or that movies aren't as cultural as ballet.

Yes, there are some great works of art in opera and ballet. I am a huge fan of both. But to consider hip-hop less an art is to not understand the craft that goes into it. To suggest that operas written with hip-hop music, or movies with urban dance are somehow artistically less than a classical ballet is failing to see the artistry in urban dance.

I am not a dancer, but I know dancers. And they speak of the difficulty in switching the placement of their weight between dance of classical ballet and urban. They say urban dance is no less difficult, but difficult in a much different way. I am not a hip-hop composer, but I can admire the craft hip-hop composers/producers go through to create their music. It has all the elements of truly developed music, even if the harmonic progression is limited to 3 chords (and even that is not always true).

I think, rather than say London, as the City of Culture, needs to encourage more opera and ballet aimed at it's youth, the establishment needs to start looking at how culturally diverse and exciting hip-hop and movies can be in terms of creating new and interesting art. Yes, get the youth involved!!! But don't discount their music; it's better than you give it credit.


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