Is Slipped Disc the Breitbart of classical music?

Is Slipped Disc the Breitbart of classical music?


norman lebrecht

June 29, 2018

The question is raised bilingually risk week on VAN, the irreverent classical magazine:

Ist Slipped Disc das Breitbart der Klassik? Oder die einzige Plattform, die über klassische Musik so schreibt, wie innerhalb der Szene über sie gesprochen wird? Jeff Brown traf den Gründer Norman Lebrecht in Berlin.

You can read our interview in English here.

In German here.

Some differences between Slipped Disc and Breitbart:

1 Slipped Disc is not funded by Texan billionaires.

2 Slipped Disc does not support the far right, alt right, new right, or any other kind of right, except human rights.

3 Slipped Disc deplores Trump.

4 Er, whatever.

Thanks, VAN!


  • Mr. Eatler says:


    • Lynn says:


      Musicology articles are DREADFUL these days. And I don’t use all-caps lightly. They say just about nothing.

      Anyway, I have always been somewhat at odds with highly specialised academic discourse or PhD talk and the arts. The arts are the product of the widest range of human emotion, and have nothing specifically to do with academia.

      • John Borstlap says:

        One of the human emotions which forms part of that wide range, is the need for reffection, and,the wish to know exactly what is there, its history, its cultural context, etc. etc. etc. Art is not just some candy in the commercial shopping mall.

    • Tony Sanderson says:

      I appreciate the way you keep us up to date with the news. Keep it up Norman and team!

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    To be fair, there are rather a lot of right-wing commenters bandying around completely unfounded conspiracy theories on Slippedisc…

  • C Porumbescu says:

    It’s been particularly fun to observe the squeals of outrage over on Twitter from US campus musicologists. Nothing more delightful than watching people whose whole job is to find and interpret subtext encountering genuine irony, mischief, sarcasm, and the linguistic practices of an entirely different culture and profession – and reacting with thumping, self-important literalism.

    Great article, and it’s dead right: SD is still “the only publication to write about classical music the same way people in the industry speak about it in private”. Indignant reactions from within the industry are the rage of Caliban at seeing his own face in a mirror. (Musicologists, of course, rarely have even the remotest connection with the industry). It’s interesting that some of the exact people who recently expressed shock and outrage on social media over the industry’s long silence over J.Levine are exactly the people who cry foul and mock NL every time SD reveals an unpleasant truth. Why did no-one speak out? Err, guys, it was in “When The Music Stops” two decades ago and you dismissed it as gossip, probably with a smug little ad-hominem (“the Normanity!”) on the side.

    Bravo, and keep on sticking it to the bores, the liars, the tenured and the self-important!

  • Tamino says:

    “2 Slipped Disc does not support the far right, alt right, new right, or any other kind of right, except human rights.”

    …exceptions apply to the treatment of anything German or Russian, which Slipped Disc engages in a relentless crusade against, not shying from using inhumane, racist and degrading language.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Some people seem to think that the alt right are fans of Putin. But all the double bluffing is rather tiresome.

  • Karen says:

    Ah, you missed the point, Norman. Sometimes you are described as the Breitbart of classical music because you strongly remind one (me, in any case) of Steve Bannon, with that “anti-establishment” stance and the unique talent to draw clicks shared by both of you.

  • NN says:

    To be fair, it was not the VAN magazine who compared SD with Breitbart. In fact they wrote just the following: “Though the site has been described as the Breitbart of classical music [link:, it might be more accurate to compare it to the now-defunct Gawker. It can be nosy, nasty, and flat-out wrong, and yet, to the consternation of many, it is at times required reading.”

  • Caravaggio says:

    Nice interview

  • John Borstlap says:

    To get an impression of the nature of VAN, this passage seems to be revealing:

    VAN: Are we talking about the music of all composers, or the music of all cultures?

    NL: All the musics of different cultures. I do not believe all musics are equal. Do you?

    VAN: Yes, I do. I definitely don’t believe that classical music is better than, say, gamelan music.

    NL: I’m open to many kinds of music. I love gamelan, Arabic music, pop and rock music, classical music and what we used to call “light music.” I’m absolutely promiscuous in my musical tastes. But I do know the difference between the sophistication and refinement of a page of Richard Strauss or Pierre Boulez, and an improvised non-score for varied percussion instruments. And if you’re going to tell me that banging dustbin lids has the same cultural value as a Brahms symphony, I would say, “I’m out of here.”


    So, the populist view that the worst that can happen to you, is some awareness that there might be something more developed than you, which would provoke entirely undeserved inferiority feelings and would open-up the awful perspective of the need to work a bit on your cultural awareness, to be more fully human. The subtext is: away with the better achievements of humanity, and let’s be happy in the gutter.

    it may be helpful to remember that an important nazi officer said in the thirties: ‘Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver!’

    • Brettermeier says:

      “It may be helpful to check quotes before quoting them.” Famous quote by some Russian composer in his fifties.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I checked this quote but it is from some entirely unknown Schwäbische author from the early 19th century of which nothing can be found.

  • Michael says:

    The reference to Breitbart appears to have been made in response to SD calling for “pity” for James Levine on his 75th birthday. Thus, the reference was not due to SD resembling Breitbart on anything political, as Mr. Lebrecht’s counter suggests, but due to general distastefulness. The frequent crudeness in the commentary doesn’t help shake the comparison either (the people here trashing Breitbart and its readers may not be so different from them). Which is not to say SD isn’t informative and often the first place one hears about inside information. But that too is true of Breitbart.

  • Bruce says:

    “[A]s soon as somebody notifies me of an error, I correct it.”

    Almost snorted coffee out of my nose at that one 🙂

  • Olassus says:

    This picture reminds me of my doctor.

  • Michael Smith says:

    Another difference is that everybody reads Slipped Disc.

    • Michael says:

      Not true. I work at the Met Opera and a number of my colleagues will not read this site.

      • Doug says:

        I’ve worked in the arts for years performer-manager and ALL my friends read Breitbart.

        • Bill says:

          Well, that may just be a reflection on your friends. For some people, “all my friends watch Fox News (or read Breitbart)” would be true statements, for example. It shouldn’t be taken to show that everyone does those things, however.

          Many of my musician friends refuse to give NL even a single click.

          • Brian says:

            Please. Everybody in the classical music field reads Slipped Disc, whether they care to admit it or not.

            The Breitbart comparison is accurate only insofar as the comments here seem to attract a fair number of right-wing readers – an anomaly in a field where most skew fairly liberal and tolerant.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Almost all of the inhabitants of the village here read SD and gather in the pub after 5 to discuss the comments, often ending in fist fights and screaming housewives. I can’t go to the drugstore undisguised any longer, and at least twice a month we get a small crowd at the gate with banners when JB has posted something crazy again. Sometimes it gets on my nerves! There are mornings I can only get in disguised in a bourka.


      • barry guerrero says:

        . . . partly because of all the really ‘nice’ things I’ve said about the Met?

  • Alvaro says:

    Controversial language to draw clicks, regardless of the news

    Vicious attacks to opponents, driven by personal vendettas

    Horrible user interface, both on mobile and desktop

    Driven by old conservative ideals & a criticism of the current status quo

    Narcissistic editors, acting “mafia style” with selected few collaborators

    Audience composed of conservative, alt right

    Claims to tell you “the truth” and is anti establishment

    Carries personal agendas

    Editor is an old white man with scratchy beard.


    • Sir Kitt says:

      Spot on.

    • Michael says:

      I would say the audience is politically mixed. Can’t say I recall anything alt-right being said though. The group is sometimes crude, but I’ve never read anything on this site hateful of a particular group of people. Other than musicologists.

      • Jim says:

        Have you read any post relating to hip hop and the (not so) thinly veiled racism in the comments?

        • John Borstlap says:

          Rejecting hiphop does not mean that the author is, for that reason, an altright, reactionary extremist. It is an old entirely misconceived idea that rejecting something that is obvioulsy populist and primitive, must mean ‘conservatism’. And then, what does ‘conservatism’ mean? Is NL conservative because he does not think that banging dustbin lids has the same cultural value as a Brahms symphony?

          The most conservative professions are, fortunately, surgery and dentistry. And they make use of the most advanced equipment. One could consider the insights that make obvious value distinctions the equipment of an intelligent mind.

          • Jim says:

            Hmm rejecting outright a whole (African American) genre while (correct me if I’m wrong) having only a cursory understanding of it and calling it “primitive” (a loaded term of there every was one) IS racist. Let’s call a spade a spade. (And I won’t even get into the disgusting language used by Tamino).

          • John Borstlap says:

            To Jim; sorry but you are wrong, on all accounts. Example; there is these days much talk in the USA about ‘This is America’ by ‘Childish Gambino’, a video which is discussed as if it were a serious Work of Art, with ‘analyses’ of ‘hidden messages’ that demonstrate its social awareness, as if it wanted to show how bad the country is for blacks, suffering as they do from all the prejudices etc. etc. etc….. The rude violent scenes in the video are supposed to demonstrate the wrongs of society, as if they are vehicles of PC idealism. But the violence in the video is perpetrated by the (black) protagonist, so the entire thing can be read as the most primitive confirmation of the worst prejudices. It is cultivating the worst possible instincts of primitive people, of any skin colour or of any culture or of any political commitment. So, a self-defeating product of racism and nihilism, and as a cultural product willfully primitive (i.e. severely underdeveloped – its ‘sophistication’ is of the technical and commercial kind)

            Maybe a bit more reading would help? and a bit better understanding of what the notion of ‘racism’ means?


          • Jim says:

            I’ll just point out that, in an effort to make your point you make a frankly farcical assessment of one hip hop video (are you trying to show how much you know about hip hop?). Are we supposed to take that ludicrous interpretation of This is America and generalize and pre judge an entire genre? I regret bringing up this subject – it’s like arguing with a brick wall and frankly it says a lot more about the people who so readily dismiss art that is foreign to them with weak”reasoning” to back themselves up. You would fit in just right on any white supremacist dark web forum with assignments like yours.

        • Tamino says:

          Hip hop is just retarded. Now I said it. I’m a political classical liberal.

        • Sue says:

          With a bit of luck you’ll find something offensive in EVERYTHING you read and hear. Then you’ll feel a whole lot better about your own low resolution ideological thinking.

          • Pianofortissimo says:

            Hip-hop is ofensive.

          • John Borstlap says:

            To Pianofortissimo: be careful, in no time you are labelled a white suprematist responsible for all the blacks killed in your name. You should honor the barbarians, to prevent from being persecuted by them. Nothing angers them so much as holding a mirror up to them.

          • Jim says:

            Such a bizarre comment from JB. I almost hope you continue to comment on this subject – every new post you write just makes even more clear how much of a racist lunatic you are.

          • Pianofortissimo says:

            To Jim,
            A ‘music’ genre that celebrates misogyny, rape, crime, homophobia, drugs, murder, disrespect for the law, criminal lifestyle etc… is offensive, and should me offensive especially for people of color since that ‘music’ genre is associated with them (who wants to be seem as guilty by association?).

            To JB,
            Thank you for your comment. You are right in the same way people were right in being silent after the Reichstag burning of 1934.

          • Pianofortissimo says:

            And by the way: hip-hop, rap & Co are no longer a ‘music’ genre of people of color: there are many outrageous groups producing those texts who are all white. But the association to people of color is still dominating.

            And by the way again: white supremacists are usually stupid people who do not listen to Classical Music.

    • barry guerrero says:

      Well, whatever it is, hip-hop (or perhaps just straight rap) isn’t music. It’s rhyme with beats, with an obsession with fast triplet rhythms – as though hammering a point to death somehow makes it more factual. The only music within it, as far as I can tell, is when they sample already existing music. Even if all the rap in the world were made by white guys from Norway, it still wouldn’t appeal to me. In that sense, I’m truly color blind. The Beastie Boys don’t move my needle any more than Run DMC.

      • Jim says:

        “Even if all the rap in the world were made by white guys from Norway,” What on earth is that supposed to mean?

        • Sue says:

          Norway is rapidly turning black, Ethiopian, Syrian…any nationality your care to name. I heard Dr. Eric Weistein talking about “diversity” only 36 hours ago. He talked about ‘good’ diversity – freedom of speech and diversity of opinion (so sadly lacking today) – and ‘bad diversity’. This is how he described the latter with regard to immigration; (paraphrasing) some people come from countries which drive on the right hand side of the road and some who drive on the left. They’ve been welcomed into Western countries and told they can continue doing that!!!

          And Dr. Weinstein identifies as from the Left.

          • John Borstlap says:

            We have two big cars here, a British one and a continental one. When we go for a continental premiere I’ll be driving because I have voted for brexit and the tories, and feel most comfortable on the right side. When we have a British premiere it is our leftish cook who’s driving, she has all the wrong ideas about everything, and thinks if the whole world had chosen the left side Trump would have had no chance and we would still have India. Once she was ill and I had to go all the way to Manchester and almost caused accidents twice.


  • Doug says:

    5. Norman has not (yet) been assassinated KGB-style with umbrella tip loaded with succinylcholine ordered by George Soros.

  • DW says:

    Lebrecht’s VAN interview has clearly upset a certain blogger who soft-peddles Islamism/Jihadism and views Islam as a whole with rose-tinted glasses due to his fascination with Sufism. Well done, Norman.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    [Insert a description of your personal pet complaint about Slippedisc]

    And yet…. we all keep coming back!

    • Don Vito Corleone says:

      “Keep your friends close…and your enemies closer.”

    • mr oakmountain says:

      Spot on!

    • barry guerrero says:

      That’s because Norman is the ‘shock jock’, TMZ and Howard Stern of classical music . . . well, sort of. Let’s settle for provocateur; and I, for one, love it because many classical music people have no sense of humor. In addition, the nonsensical stuff I spout out on a daily basis is no worse than the nonsense everyone else frequently pours out. We’re bozos on this bus. Rejoice.

  • Sue says:

    To much idle chat and not enough Chatterbox!! Chill people.