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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Sep-18 > Lend me your ears

Lend me your ears

For Roger Scruton the western classical tradition reigns supreme over modern music. But, as Ivan Hewett argues, other harmonies are available
Music as an Art by Roger Scruton (Bloomsbury, £25)

There are many ways to write a philosophy of music—but two in particular stand out. One way is to approach music with the curious ear of the ethnomusicologist open to all the varieties of music around the world. This critic sees them as embedded in specific forms of life—and only really comprehensible when viewed within them—and so is careful not to treat any musical culture as a yardstick against which to measure the others. The other way, now seriously out of fashion, is to regard western forms of music, especially the classical tradition, as central to what music is, or ought to be, or could be. The problem with this approach is that other forms of music are inevitably found wanting when compared with these majestic works. All that matters, for this kind of critic, is the inner state of the solitary listener, communing with a long-dead composer genius.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Roger Scruton’s new book Music as an Art falls into the latter category. Scruton is a doughty defender of western classical music, a stance which is of a piece with his doughty defence of conservative values in general. His rage against musical modernism is very like his rage against architectural modernism. It’s rooted in his belief that evolution is always better than revolution, and that the wisdom of ages is better than the fashion of the moment. For Scruton it is our task to conserve the culture bequeathed to us and pass it on to the next generations. We owe a debt to the dead as much as to the unborn.

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In Prospect's September issue: Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords, Israeli politician and former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and journalist Donald Macintyre explore how the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict has diminished, with Burg arguing that a one-state solution is the only way forward. Jane Martinson visited the offices of the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper—Metro—to find out how it has risen to the top. Adam Tooze charts the ups and downs of the euro and argues that decisions made by the ECB have hampered the currency during its first 20 years in existence. Elsewhere in the issue: Michael Blastland suggests that early diagnosis isn’t all it’s made out to be and that many people have endured unnecessary suffering in an attempt to live longer. Wendy Ide examines the life and work of director David Lynch as she reviews his new memoir, which offers a glimpse behind the curtain.