It is supremely closed-minded to throw away Homer and Mozart and Augustine.
Professor, music historian and composer Robert Greenberg once received a letter from a musician urging him to give up the traditional and classical repertoire in favor of more modern music. The primary reason? To remain relevant to audiences today. In a course lecture on opera, Greenberg replies:
If we as a culture, as a civilization, cannot understand and appreciate and assimilate as our own the crystalline life-force and truth in the best art of our past, what does it say about us here today? Is Mozart’s extraordinary insight into the human condition irrelevant to us because it was a product of imperialistic Europe? Or are some of us today just culturally and intellectually unworthy of it?
The constant push toward remaining relevant comes from a desire to communicate with people or draw people in by accommodating to current tastes, trends and fashions. In order to speak to people who speak a different language, it is necessary to learn that language. So it seems necessary to learn and know the fashions and trends of the culture in order to speak with them.
So it becomes a question of what is relevant to the people in our culture. In other words, what is applicable or meaningful to them? But there is a difference between what they think is applicable and meaningful and what is objectively applicable and meaningful. Professor Greenberg refers to the “crystalline life-force and truth” and “insight into the human condition.” These are things that don’t depend on taste but are true in and of themselves to all humans in every age; they form the foundation for the language we all speak. Human nature has not changed — only human tastes. The nature of the human person, as a rational animal, as a being made for truth and goodness and beauty, is the same now as it was in the time of Mozart, Aquinas, Plato and Homer.
It is true that the relevance of the classics in literature, philosophy and art does not belong to our age. It did not belong to the ages in which they were produced. Their relevance does not belong to any particular age because they are relevant to all ages. Truth and goodness and beauty are not timeless because they belong to no time but because they belong to all time.
It is human nature to desire truth, goodness and beauty, and those are relevant to all humans in every culture, in every country, in every age.
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