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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Thanks a Million Doesn't Literally Mean a Million Either

Fine dining does nothing for me. I could live contentedly on oatmeal and grapes two or three times a day for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I become the equivalent of a raging food snob in defense of my certainty that classical music is not only the best of all music but a pinnacle of Western civilization. And I bristle when it isn't treated with the respect it deserves.

I have friends who refer to any piece of classical music as a "song." I don't fault them as much as I blame the introduction of the iPod 20 years ago and the focus it established on storing music by the song. "A thousand songs in your pocket," Steve Jobs famously heralded. Even news professionals, who might be expected to know better, have fallen into the habit. Here's how KNX Radio reported the recent Grammy win by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel for their performance of Mahler's massive Eighth Symphony, known as the "Symphony of a Thousand":

Besides calling a work that clocks in at 80 to 85 minutes a "song," KNX's account reveals a lack of awareness that the symphony's nickname is a figure of speech, adding the nugget about just 340-some performers being involved in the L.A. Phil's recording. Dudamel didn't shortchange anybody; the piece is, in fact, typically presented by ensembles of approximately that number.

Okay, that's enough, food snob. Back to the oatmeal.

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