We often lament about the disappearance of culture in the West. The opera has been replaced by cheap, mass-produced Hollywood movies, classical music is often scorned among the younger generations, while art has become more a form of self-expression, if not a psychological tool, than a gift considered divine. This is for the most part true, yet the picture, if we look at it more closely, is not so bleak.
Just consider cinema, for example. Much of what we would consider Classical music is today part of cinema. Musical themes of many great movies, as well as their composers, would certainly have worked for opera in the 19th century. I am not a musicologist, and cannot judge the quality of these compositions, yet it must be recognized that music as an art–not as entertainment–has not entirely disappeared. Cinema itself, similarly, has produced great works that deserve to join the ranks of great operas. Cinema is in many respects the descendent of opera; it is perhaps for this reason that the French call it “the seventh art.” And there are still of course Classical works composed as such.
These are just a few examples with cinema, but it is also the case with art and literature. Even large entertainment chain stores–even them–have a classical and literature component in their stores. The main issue at stake is that culture has been blanketed and covered–but not destroyed–by ‘mass culture.’ Culture is a creative process, a creativity that comes as a material expression of our society’s expectations and highest ideals. In that sense it is both a conscious and an unconscious proscess of creativity. With mass culture, which really is not culture but merely entertainment and consumption, this process is redirected, and destroyed, in the search for a consuming audience. Despite this creativity has not perished, it has “adapted” to less visibility. Let us hope that it has not also resignated itself to this fate.