Sounds of Alarm

Lots of alarm about “the future of classical music” on some of the blogs I read today. What occurs to me is that one of the reasons that people are so alarmed by this idea is that they don’t regard classical music as just music. It has to be kept separate and elevated, ideally in an airtight container marked “Fragile :This Way Up”.
Don’t get me wrong, classical music is extremely precious to me also, but I think its future may lie more in welcoming it into areas where it is not normally heard (for example as KCRW does on Morning Becomes Eclectic and at intervals throughout the day) than in trying to encourage a declining audience to hear (yet again) Beethoven’s Fifth, or Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
A current concept in concert programming involves interspersing traditional classics with contemporary works as a way to liven things up. However, contemporary pieces are so difficult to assess in advance (is it going to be a new and exciting masterpiece, or a contrived and incomprehensible flop?), that they do nothing to attract audiences.
Since coming to L.A. from London two years ago, I’ve been listening to a much wider variety of music than when I was a classical musician in London, and am realizing just how much I have to learn from other kinds of music. The very idea of learning from other types of music was never suggested to me as a possibility during my training. There is so much snobbism in classical music circles that such an idea has often been regarded as ridiculous. It’s always been seen much more as a mission to convert the heathen to the One True Music, namely classical, besides which all else is worthless.
So here’s to cross-fertilization… more thoughts to come…

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