Cover image for Who needs classical music? : cultural choice and musical value
Who needs classical music? : cultural choice and musical value
Johnson, Julian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
140 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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ML3800 .J64 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Johnson maintains that music is more than just "a matter of taste": while some music provides entertainment, or serves as background noise, other music functions as art. He argues that classical music retains its distinct value in today's society because it works in different ways from most of the other music that surrounds us.

Author Notes

Julian Johnson was educated at the University of Cambridge, Dartington College of the Arts, and the University of Sussex, and is currently a lecturer in music at the University of Oxford. Johnson is well known for his work on music aesthetics and the relation of music to society. He is also a composer

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Building on the philosophical preoccupations of Theodore Adorno in Aesthetic Theory (1984; new trans./ed., CH, Sep'97) and Introduction to the Sociology of Music (CH, Feb'77), Johnson (Univ. of Oxford, UK) here considers the place of classical music in contemporary society, arguing that it remains distinctive because it functions differently from popular music. He cites Bach's choral music, Beethoven's piano sonatas, Brahms's symphonies, etc., which, in contrast to popular music (the Beatles, Duke Ellington), he finds to be more "redemptive," giving back to the listener "a sense of ... absolute value that a relativist society denies." In the six chapters that follow, Johnson offers a sophisticated yet accessible defense of classical music's value, arguing that it lies in being something in and of itself--and therefore essentially ethical. In view of the relatively sparse attention Johnson gives to (a very few examples of) popular music, the reader might justifiably conclude that the author's preference has less to do with the intrinsic values of each genre than with his greater familiarity with classical music. Johnson does not stop to offer foot- or endnotes, but he includes a selected bibliography and a full index. Tepidly recommended for music libraries at any level. M. Meckna Texas Christian University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
Chapter 1. Musical Valuesp. 10
Chapter 2. Uses and Abusesp. 33
Chapter 3. Music As Artp. 51
Chapter 4. Understanding Musicp. 72
Chapter 5. The Old, the New, and the Contemporaryp. 91
Chapter 6. Cultural Choicesp. 111
Bibliographyp. 131
Indexp. 133