Should We “Grow Up” in Our Musical Tastes?

Jan Swafford, author of a new biography of Beethoven, did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit last week. He said something in this Q&A that I find surprising; even insulting.

Someone asked “My questions concern your ideas on the future of classical music. […] how do you see social media playing a role in classical music?” Mr. Swafford answered:

I keep waiting for my babyboomer generation to grow up in their musical tastes. But most of us will probably go to our graves still trying to be cool. For me: to hell with cool.

A follow-up question asked “Could you elaborate a bit more? What’s so bad about cool?”

And Mr. Swafford replied:

It’s an entirely adolescent virtue. I hope I’ve preserved some of my inner child, but otherwise I’ve grown up.

Frankly, I find his response adolescent. He’s suggesting that if our musical tastes aren’t like his, we’ve not grown up. He’s saying that if we still like music we liked when we were young, then we’ve not grown up. It’s not about “cool,” it’s about enjoying music. I listened to classical music when I was a teenager; so should I change, having “grown up?” I also listened to the Grateful Dead when I was a teenager, and am still a Deadhead; have I therefore not “grown up?”

His response comes off as terribly elitist; as though he knows what kind of music is right. He seems to be dismissing anything that might smack of “cool;” would this include, say, Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk, both of whom were considered cool in their time? It would be hard to argue that their music is “adolescent.”

And he shows another sign of his elitism later:

I’m also into Javanese gamelan, by the way.

But I guess it’s cool to like that kind of music.