Well, it’s the 11th day of Christmas by my medieval calendar, so I can get in another two posts on this before Christmas officially ends. And, purely by coincidence, it’s more medieval Christmas music, but from countries other than Germany. Actually, there are only a couple of them—France, Italy, the low countries, England—that’s pretty much it. There’s surprisingly little from Spain, at least that’s been recorded. One explanation is that there isn’t that much of it, largely because much has been lost. Another, and more likely, explanation is that when Moors and Jews were expelled from Spain in1492, they took their music with them—and much of it resurfaced elsewhere, particularly in Italy. The Catholic Church wasn’t particularly interested in multiculturalism at that time—quite the reverse, in fact.
Pulitzer- and Emmy-winner William Henry‘s famous polemic, In Defense of Elitism (1994), argues that societies can be ranked along a spectrum with “egalitarianism” on one end and “elitism” on the other. He concludes that America, to its detriment, has slid too far in the direction of egalitarianism, and in the process that it has abandoned the elitist impulse that made it great (and that is necessary for any great culture). While Henry’s analysis is flawed in spots (and, thanks to the excesses of the Bush years, there are some other places that could use updating), he brilliantly succeeds in his ultimate goal: crank-starting a much-needed debate about the proper place of elitism in a “democratic” society.
Along the way he spends a good deal of time defining what he means by “egalitarianism” and “elitism.” Continue reading →