who killed classical music?

Sasha and I had a fascinating conversation on the drive back from Kalamazoo this evening, after a long day spent with my family and a short time spent with my friend/former neighbour/tax man (the pain was much less than anticipated, by a factor of ten!)

So anyway, we were driving back, and the discussion came round to classical music, and why it was nowhere. I offered up the theory that it was too hidebound, Sasha asserted that modern classical was too much of an elite form, priding itself on the fact that the 'uneducated' can't appreciate it, and this had a negative effect on the genre as a whole. I added that the fact that radio consolidation had led to a lot less classical stations. Sasha asserted that classical music, like Latin several decades ago, was already dead, but hadn't stopped twitching yet, and that if they didn't do something it would disappear altogether.

So, anybody out there have any thoughts on this?

Bryan commented:
Are you guys thinking of classical music performance, composition of new works, or both?
on Mon Feb 12 07:11:26 2007

David commented:
Performance, I would say. My comments mostly sprung from the fact that most people seem to enjoy a classical concert, yet not very many of them go, and not that often. But I would think composition necessarily follows - if the pool of people going to performances keeps shrinking, how long can schools keep music departments going?
on Mon Feb 12 07:37:47 2007

Derek (Erb) commented:
I'm afraid this must be an American perception of classical performance. I have no idea personally as to the health of classical performance as an art or spectacle in America. However here in Europe classical music and orchestras, as well as opera and ballet, are still doing strong and their performance schedules are generally sold out for their entire seasons. Wait too long to get tickets to a classical music performance in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin or some other such European capital and there just are none left or you'll be left in standing room only for several long hours.

Classical music is doing quite well in Europe and has not been perceived as even slighly dwindling

Jazz on the other hand...

on Mon Feb 12 08:58:40 2007

Heidi commented:
I don't know if you're keeping your analysis close to the 'live performance' standard, but it strikes me that the largest forum for the recording (of both new and old pieces) and composition of classical music is the movies. Certainly the sound takes third stage to visuals and dialogue most of the time, but we're talking hundreds of hours of performance to which millions of people listen (consciously or no). John Williams (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars), Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings), Hans Zimmer(Thin Red Line, The Lion King, Gladiator, Rain Man, tons of others), Ennio Morricone (Lolita [97], Cinema Paradiso, themes in dozens of movies) .... Randy Newman (Toy Story/2, Monster's Inc.), Rachel Portman (Cider House Rules, Emma, Chocolat)? They aren't exactly wearing wigs and playing the harpsichord, but they have a real and enduring audience.
on Mon Feb 12 11:24:33 2007

Andrew commented:
I think everyone is missing the largest source of older classical music influence in modern day America - cartoons. I don't know about ya'll, but until i started doing theatre, most of my classical music recognition came from looney tune and merry melodies. Even as recently as animaniacs, tiny toons, etc have used classical music, though often with a manic twist. I'm not sure about new compositions, as cartoons don't normally have that kind of budget, but they certainly have a long history of reusing the classics.
on Mon Feb 12 13:14:55 2007

sasha commented:
I should perhaps speak for myself on this debate, since actually I disagree with David's original premise (that classical music performance is not accessible to the masses). It is as true of America as of Europe that classical performances are generally sold out, but it is equally true that if you run through the dial, there will not be any classical music being played on the radio. My point was that elitism has made modern classical (as opposed to historical classical) music inaccessible, and that this can turn people off. Although it is wonderful that people still perform Shakespeare, it would be a mistake for authors to start writing only plays that were not comprehensible to the general public. That said, I think Heidi's point is well taken, but generally movie pieces don't get performed (except by high school bands (don't make me tell you about marching to the theme song from Jurassic Park), or maybe at the academy awards). Perhaps what we are really talking about here is the elitism of live performance?
on Mon Feb 12 14:39:31 2007

Derek (Erb) commented:
Elitism of Live Performance of Classical Music
Now this is a different subject and I totally agree with Sasha. The fact that classical performances are sold out throughout Europe does not take away from the fact that it costs an absolute fortune to buy a ticket for one of these performances and they are performed in the most elite of establishments within any city. It's quite daunting for the young or less-well-off who may wish to see a performance but are frightened away by the price and the pomp and circumstance.

However here in France we have quite a few classical radio stations which one comes across on the FM bandwave, such as Radio Classique, but the bigger question is who listens to radio these days? My teenage kids certainly don't...

on Tue Feb 13 04:15:47 2007

Shelby commented:
This has nothing to do with classical music, but I just had to add that conversations like these are one of the things I love the most with my life partner :).
on Wed Feb 14 01:42:02 2007

Erik commented:
I wonder if part of the reason may be due to the economics. Children and teens may be exposed to classical music while growing up through music classes in school (when they are still offered), private lessons, and parents who listen to it. However, because so-called "popular" music is such a larger industry, with wider exposure both in stores and on the radio, it is rarely heard outside these venues. Once the kids become adults, they may never hear classical again unless they seek it out (or it is the background in a movie, like Heidi mentioned). I've heard similar arguments to why soccer has a fairly low status in the U.S. as a professional sport, despite it being the most-played sport among the youth - it's not economically viable since it lacks sponsorship and stars (though perhaps Beckham will change that). Classical also has no "stars" as the modern age sees them to attract attention.
on Wed Feb 14 06:35:51 2007

David commented:
A few comments, uh, on the comments:

First, I think Heidi is absolutely correct that classical music is being produced and brought to the masses via hollywood. However, most often although this music is certainly intended to produce a mood, it rarely stands very well without the images it was meant to accompany. And when it is with the images, it is usually best when it is invisible (I must credit one of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings for bringing this to my attention - we were watching the commentary last night and that comment caught my attention).

I actually think what I was referring to, in my mind, at least, was more a point Sasha addressed in route to making another point - modern classical music seems to be designed only for a select group, and certainly doesn't seem to be generating the massive listening that it would need to become immortal. In that respect I think the films may be doing a much better job. However, those pieces are generally not performed live. Do we need to look to Andrew Lloyd Webber for popular modern classical?

on Sat Feb 17 22:36:57 2007

holly commented:
I may be getting in on this a little bit late, but here in California we have several classical stations on the radio. I'm not sure where this fits into your theory, but maybe it is a blue state phenomina. Maybe it is a trend of intellectual elitism, but then it becomes available to the masses through the media anyway.
on Mon Feb 26 20:53:16 2007

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