Highs and Lows

Robert Greenberg says that classical music was written by working class people because rich people didn’t have to write music.

Chamber Music Monterey Bay punctuates its 50th year with a talk by world-renowned speaker and musicologist Robert Greenberg. And it’s going to be a treat.

His talk will be about Beethoven, infusing warm blood into the imposing deity he’s been turned into (Beethoven wasn’t much of a looker, says Greenberg). But it will likely also take a panoramic and microscopic view of this thing we call classical music.

“The word ‘classical’ has a specific meaning that relates to ancient Greece,” he says. “The implication is something is better, something elite, something special. In the case of classical music, something European. And I hate that whole trip. It creates a barrier.”

All music, he says, is for all people, given the right invitation. Which is how he describes his job. He writes books on the subject, lectures in the Great Courses series on it, serves as music historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances (which presents chamber music, recitals, dance and jazz music) He teaches, plays, composes, lives and breathes music.

He talks eloquently about music as “a language… that coordinates activities and creates a greater mind for the tribe.” He talks angrily about how its enemies will “destroy the NEH, these bastards.”

Greenberg is an intellectual dynamo from the tough streets of New Jersey. He aims to recharge our ideas and emotions about this thing we call classical music.

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