The commodification of classical music in popular culture

Posted on: May 23, 2018

“At the corner of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays,” writes Theodore Gioia in Thursday’s (5/17) Los Angeles Review of Books. “A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes.… Night and day, Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi rain down from Burger King rooftops onto empty streets.… The playlist has been selected to repel sidewalk listeners—specifically, the mid-Market homeless who once congregated outside the restaurant doors.… Weaponized classical music is just the next step in the commodification of the genre. Today, most young people encounter classical music not as a popular art form but as a class signifier, a set of tropes in a larger system of encoded communication that commercial enterprises have exploited to remap our societal associations with orchestral sound…. In the mass-media era, the general public primarily experiences classical music through detached snippets of larger pieces extracted to lend their symbolic power to a commercial agenda…. Such a sound-bite culture negates the definitive value of classical composition: the extended development of complex musical themes … and it is exactly this nuanced appreciation that quote-clipping nullifies.”

Posted May 23, 2018