In James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, “The Last of the Mohicans,” the last members of an Indian tribe are killed in a battle during the French and Indian wars of the late 1700’s. Since then, the title of Cooper’s book has been used to describe any vanishing cultural or social group. Here, I apply it to the diminishing group of classical music lovers in the world.
I was talking today with an old friend, someone I have known for many years. He’s a very intelligent guy, college educated, but his interests in life are somewhat narrow. Travel, politics and gardening about covers it. His interest in the arts is pretty much limited to country western music.
Anyway, we were talking, and somehow, I don’t remember the context, I brought up the subject of Bach.
I said, “You know who Johann Sebastian Bach is, right?”
Hesitantly, not wanting to offend me, or maybe expose his own ignorance, he admitted that he didn’t have a clue, had never heard of him.
I was stunned. How could anybody live in the United States, go to school, grow up and go to college, have a long professional career, and never hear of J. S. Bach? I was about to launch into that, and then thought better of it. What would be the point? I would only offend him, and he still would not understand why I was making such a fuss about it. So I let it pass.
But it started me thinking. Would he have recognized the names of Beethoven, Mozart or Brahms? Certainly not Mendelssohn or Schubert, let alone Dvorak, Berlioz or Scarlatti. How many people in our country have absolutely no knowledge of the rich heritage of classical music?
And then it hit me that I am living in a little bubble that is populated with passionate music lovers, and that WE are the exception, the anomaly in our society. Most people do not know the beauty and fascinating complexity of classical music…and since they do not know what they are missing, they are perfectly happy in their ignorance.
Are we the “Last of the Classical Mohicans,” and when we are gone, all that music will be lost…and not even missed? Will there still be classical music in a hundred years?
Isn’t that a startling…and depressing…thought?