Oct. 8: What's Wrong With Classical?

By Brian McCreath

It's a topic that comes up from time to time, but I just ran across a fresh perspective on the decline/marginalization/neglect (take your pick) of classical music.  Colin Eatock, the blogger of 3quarksdaily, pivots off the phenomenon of civic authorities using classical music pumped through PA systems in subways and the like to fend off the gathering of the riff raff.  He goes on to summarize (in a frighteningly authentic way) many of the feelings of "younger" people about classical music and reasons for resistance to it.  (Helpfully, he makes sure to define "younger" as including people well into their fifties who grew up on the Stones and the Dead.)  And finally, he's got a couple of ideas to kickstart a reversal of the trend.

I think Colin's on to a lot of what's going on.  He calls on everyone involved in classical music - presenters, musicians, promoters, educators, audience - to move past class distinctions that exclude those who might otherwise take to classical music.  And beyond that, classical music, according to Colin, needs to "finally get over the idea that it’s not merely different from, but opposed to, other musics: that classical music and no other kind is 'timeless,' 'universal' and 'great.' ... If classical music today finds itself isolated on the wrong side of a cultural Berlin Wall, it’s a wall that it built itself. We need to demolish that wall, if we are to convince the world at large that classical music should and does have a place in the contemporary world."

I really don't have any problem with any of that, but, especially after hearing James Levine conduct Mahler's Second Symphony last night (which you, too, can hear on Saturday night right here at 99.5 All Classical;  and by the way, check out Benjamin Zander's guided tour of the symphony - almost as inspiring as the music itself), I would also mention something else that Colin points out:  "Ultimately, classical music is what it is, and its survival depends upon some portion of the population accepting it – and embracing it – on its own terms."

Crossing a cultural divide to be more accessible while maintaining a respect for the core characteristics of the artform itself.  Sounds good, and that's what we aspire to here at 99.5 All Classical.

What do you think?  Leave a comment at the bottom of the page if you like.

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