A musician friend once joked that the definition of “highbrow” is hearing Rossini’s WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE and *not* thinking of The Lone Ranger. It’s meant to be a humorous observation, of course, and not a judgement. His joke popped into my head while listening to Maurice Ravel’s BOLERO recently. I was instantly transported back to my first job as a teenager working the box office at our local movie theater. The film 10 with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek was showing and although I barely remember a thing about the movie itself, I vividly remember that BOLERO was the running theme throughout.
Many people associate certain music with the cartoons they watched as children, or with TV commercials. Is that “lowbrow”? I don’t think so. I think it’s a GOOD thing when people are exposed to classical music in any context. I have a degree in music, and have been listening to and performing classical music for decades, and many of those associations are in my head, too.
Music is a living, breathing art form, and I think its power is strengthened by extra-musical associations. Think about it: if classical music weren’t as powerful as it is, those commercial interests (Hollywood and Madison Avenue, especially) would not mine the repertory so extensively for their projects! So, if hearing Wagner’s RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES makes you want to sing “Kill the Wabbit” or hearing THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE by Dukas conjures the image of Mickey Mouse with his bucket and mop, I say enjoy it, and remember you are in excellent company!