During a practice session with a twenty-seven-year-old filling in for his father as tennis coach, I heard him use the verb see instead of the traditional hear to refer to his attendance at a classical music concert (“I saw [rather than heard] Garrick Ohlsson at Carnegie Hall.”) It should be noted that this was uttered by a classical musician with a master’s degree in music theory studying for a second one in conducting. Given that the utterance’s reference (to a concert performance and venue) excluded merely listening to a recording, it is significant that a member of the younger generation chose to elevate seeing over hearing.

This example of rehierarchization of the two senses involved in the speech of  younger speakers could be multiplied manyfold. It testifies yet again (see earlier posts) to the inroads of popular culture (specifically, rock and jazz) into the sphere of classical music, audiences for which are, alas, graying apace. Moreover, as a cultural datum evidenced by language use, it tends to support the widespread valorization of seeing over hearing whatever the domain, in a culture that has long prized exhibitionism.