Breakthrough: Football star sits on French music jury

Breakthrough: Football star sits on French music jury


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2017

The World Cup-winning footballer Lilian Thuram is a member of the jury of the first France Musique competition for amateur musicians.

Thuram, 45, is head of an anti-racist foundation called Démos which works with the Philharmonie de Paris to bring children from disadvantaged areas into the concert hall. He loves all forms of music.

From this 2014 interview:

Quand j’étais enfant j’adorais la musique classique mais je n’osais pas en parler. J’habitais dans une cité et je me disais que je n’allais peut-être pas être compris, donc je me taisais. Donc oui, il faut vulgariser la musique classique, c’est une évidence. Il faut même vulgariser toutes les musiques…. Dimanche je vais d’ailleurs à la Philharmonie de Paris, j’aime beaucoup ce lieu. Je m’adapte à tous les codes. Et d’ailleurs il n’y a pas une seule forme de musique classique ! C’est comme les gens qui disent ‘je n’aime pas lire’, ça n’a pas de sens : tout dépend ce que vous lisez, il faut aller vers ce qui vous intéresse. Dire ‘je n’aime pas la musique’ n’a pas de sens non plus, il y a plusieurs types de musiques, et pour le classique c’est pareil, il y a des compositeurs différents, des histoires différentes. C’est pourquoi il faut la vulgariser pour que les gens prennent conscience de cette diversité.


photo (c) Vincent N’Guyen/Fondation Lilian Thuram

Thuram, the most capped player in the history of French football, made no secret of his cultural interests. Did anyone ever see Wayne Rooney at the Hallé?


  • Ann Nomynous says:

    I think he’s only 45, not 55.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I’m all in for diversity. But what do we mean by that term?

    This man does not love classical music at all, he wants to ‘vulgarize’ it, to make it appear ‘equal’ to all other types of music. But what does that mean? If you have a short look at all other types of music, you cannot perceive any common denominator except the most base one, and it cannot provide any standard of excellence or professionalism.

    If a well-meaning man loves a beautiful woman but prefers her to dress as a prostitute, does he really love her? No, he loves his own idea about her. So it is with classical music: you have to understand and to appreciate it for what it is, not for what you want it to be.

    • Jonathon says:

      How on earth can you come to that conclusion from what he said. ‘Vulgariser’ means to make accessible, to bring within everyone’s reach. What is wrong with that? Perhaps you’ve misunderstood his use of the word ‘vulgariser’, and as a result passed a somewhat harsh and arrogant judgement on him?

      • John Borstlap says:

        My dictionary says: ‘vulgariser’ = to vulgarize, to make popular. That seems clear enough. To make accessible is something else: ‘faire accessible’.

        Words do mean things.

  • John Borstlap says:

    On rereading the post, I get again the strong impression that this man wants every type of music, any music, be seen exclusively in the context of diversity, as a whole of different types of music of which every one is only defined by its own standards without comparison to other types of music. Like goods are presented in a super market, so to speak. In such a grey sea of equality, Beethoven or Bach are equal to Mick Jagger or Madonna. That could not be the intention of getting young people interested in classical music. Also french-speaking people can get the meaning of their own language wrong in such context.

    If someone thinks there is no real distinction in terms of meaning (not to speak of quality) between Madonna and Mozart, that it is merely a difference of type and nothing more, such person does not understand what classical music, as a genre, is.

    There is no contradiction between diversity and distinction; you can advocate elitism for everybody, as accessibility also is not contradictory to diversity. It is not all just a matter of subjective taste.

    • jaypee says:

      “On rereading the post, I get again the strong impression that this man wants every type of music, any music”

      No, he doesn’t. And my first language is French.
      Stick to bashing modern music, that’s what you’re good at.
      And, btw, Thuram is probably doing more for classical music than you’ll ever do with your constantly arrogant comments. It’s people like you who are responsible for classical music’s snotty reputation.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I understand your frustration but you are wrong.

        Pointing towards difference in terms of distinctions is not arrogant, whatever one’s first language is. The more I think about it, the more it is clear that the nature of the genre is not understood by this footballer, which is OK, but it may be better if such people don’t talk about it and just do their thing, in this case: trying to get young people interested in classical music. I bet that any teenager who is finally seduced to sit through a Bruckner symphony will be quite surprised that it sounds so different from heavy metal, in spite of the hammering scherzi. It is an often entirely misunderstood point – you don’t sell something based upon a lie without consequences. The German musicologist Holger Noltze recently wrote a book about this: ‘Die leichtigkeitslüge’, explaining that falfifying classical music to make it accessible to innocent youngsters is not working. It destroys the chances of building new audiences. If we want classical music to survive the wave of populism and ignorance that currently tries to flush all that is culturally valuable into the toilet of the ‘liberated masses’, then we should understand that it is education and correct information which will be the only way to build such audiences. And if this only works for a minority, so be it; classical music has never been a thing for the masses. It is for people who have reached a certain level of emotional and mental development. The socialist idea of accessibility is something very different from the egalitarian world view in which nothing has any intrinsic value.

        • Robert Holmén says:

          Are you reading the quote at the top of the page? Hoping no one else does?

          All Thuram is saying is that because many people don’t have exposure to classical music they don’t know there are many “diverse” kinds of classical music.

          “…there isn’t only one kind of classical music” he says and “…there are different composers”.

          People may have heard one piece, not liked it and, having heard little else, imagined they would not like any of it.

          His idea is that by getting more people exposed to it they may find the segment they like.

          He’s not talking about changing it or “falfifying” it to meet their tastes or any of the other dark cultural conspiracies you are spinning.

          • John Borstlap says:

            ‘His idea is that by getting more people exposed to it they may find the segment they like.’ I can only agree with that.

        • Ellingtonia says:

          When you were taught written English, did anyone explain the concept of using paragraphs in lengthy pieces of writing?

          • John Borstlap says:

            We are complaining about that already for a couple of years, but in vain. It gives us a lot of extra (unpaid) work. Namely, he talks in the same way. When these student groups come here and take notes, much too loyal to the presentation, we have to insert the spaces on their iPads to make the flow crear, both linguistically and mentally.


  • Wai kit leung says:

    I am just curious: donthe commenters green know who Lilian Thuram is/was? (I do)

  • John Borstlap says:

    There is a difference between the linguistical meaning and the intention of this man. It may be helpful to quote what a friend of mine, a well-known and brilliant french musician, has to say on the matter:

    ‘En anglais vulgarized est très péjoratif et signifie dégradé, dépravé. En français il reprend son étymologie, vulgos, en grec, qui signifie le peuple.’ So, according to context, ‘vulgariser’ was not meant to make things vulgar, but to make them accessible to as many people as posiible.

    But the egalitarian world view in the background is clear. ‘…… si une personne aussi peu cultivée est à a tête d’une organisation anti raciste aussi importante, c’est que l’anti racisme n’est plus une vertu, mais est devenu un système au service d’un pseudo humanisme dont le but est de détruire tout sens critique chez les consommateurs de bonheur que le monde occidental fabrique.’

    I think that settles it beyond dispute.

    • Jonathon says:

      I think the only thing that it settles beyond dispute is the depth of your ignorance and your arrogance. The ‘organisation anti raciste aussi importante’ is his organisation! He is not some celebrity appointed to be the head, he founded it! If it is such an important organisation, (as your well known, and brilliant french musician friend claims) then it is so for one reason, his work! His fight against racism and discrimination has been ongoing since his playing days, and long may it continue.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Calm down, it is not for the first time in world history that people have different opinions. One can rightly fight racism and still suffer from an egalitarian world view and it was the latter that I criticized. For the rest, I think it is laudible that this man set-up such organisation especially in France that will be strongly needed; but that a football star is needed to make young people conscious of the existence of something like classical music, NB in a cultured country like France with its impressive cultural history also in classical music, demonstrates the problem of egalitarianism. If a member of the Académie Française would do the very same thing, teenagers would be put-off.