I don't usually post on the strange and/or baffling things I overhear in public. But maybe I should: it happens every 20 minutes. Here goes.
As I trudged my way out of Union Station this morning, there were a couple of buskers playing Pachelbel's Canon in D. I use the word 'busker' with reservations, since these folks were legit musicians as opposed to a guy in orange footy pajamas playing a Casio.
Anyhoo, one of the two twentysomething girls behind me seemed quite taken with the music. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Girl 1: Oh my god! That's one of my favourite classical songs!
Girl 2: That's...uh, Canon, right?
Girl 1: Yeah, Canon in D. I love it. I also really love that song by the...what are they called...Transylvanian Orchestra? Triberian Orchestra? Anyway, the one that goes [imitates the Carol of the Bells] Ding-ding-a-ding Ding-ding-a-ding...
Girl 2: Yeah, that's a good one.
In the space of exactly 23 seconds I went from being vaguely impressed that these girls could accurately name Canon in D in a subway station, to amused that they couldn't remember the name of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to quietly bemused at the sheer insanity underlying this conversation. To recap: this girl's two favourite 'classical' songs are Pachelbel's Canon, a Baroque chamber piece written in 1680, and the Carol of the Bells played by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, essentially a progressive metal band who primarily cover Christmas carols. The fact these two songs occupy the same category in this women's brain is fascinating. It suggests either a spectacular ability to hold to contradictory ideas a la Orwell's doublethink, or a definition of 'classical' music that is so expansive to be totally meaningless.
This raises an important question: how is it possible to have a very specific piece of knowledge about classical music (what Canon in D sounds like), yet have no real conception of what 'classical' music is? Or, does information have any meaning outside of context?
Clearly (clearly!) not.