Oct. 21: Classical, Beer, and a Chat

By Brian McCreath

Last week, I ran across a blog entry that tackled the always relevant question of the relevance of classical music.  The context was the Toronto subway system's use of classical music as a way to keep teenagers from hanging out in train stations, but it was broadened out by Colin Eatock at 3quarksdaily to pose the question of where classical music fits in in today's society.  A few comments came in, which you can read as part of the original post, and here are some highlights:

Sara wrote that classical music should "stop trying to market itself;  just make it available, let it pervade the environment, and those who want to appreciate it will come to it."  So maybe using classical as something people encounter in a subway is a good thing, even if the intent is a bit questionable?

Robert wrote that the placement (marginalization?) of classical music today "is a decision that has been taken and that lovers of classical music have largely accepted."  Which makes me wonder what any particular individual can do to NOT accept that decision.  How can lovers of classical music activate and change the way the music is perceived in our society?

Finally, Ruth, wrote that it's about context, and that a big problem is "formal setting of classical concerts, formal behavior required despite changed social mores, for ex., applause between movements scorned ('hold down that enthusiasm please') [is] all offputting in today's culture of informality and audience involvement."

Well, now comes a study of younger listeners (which you can read about at the London Evening Standard) that suggests something like what Ruth is getting at:  that 24-36 year old listeners want a casual setting, maybe with a beer to relax with, and they want to be addressed from the stage, i.e. brought into the conversation.

Personally I can see both sides of this:  I see a lot of value in staying silent during an extraordinary performance, partly to enhance my own experience, but also out of sheer respect for the experience of others.  On the other hand, if an especially explosive movement ends, it does feel pretty bizarre at times for an entire hall to sit on their hands.  As for talking from the stage and having a beer at the concert, I'm all for it!

What's your take?  Comment below to get in on the discussion.
(photo:  Easter brew in Prague, April 2010)

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