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Topic: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

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  1. #1

    A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Friends...
    ...Snorlax dons his flame-retardant suit and makes the following statements...

    Roots of the Classical: the Popular Origins of Western Music, by Peter Van der Merwe (OUP)

    An interesting, and perhaps more upbeat, view of the future of classical music can be found here . I agree with it wholeheartedly.
    I have long been at odds with my many of my colleagues with ".edu" email addresses on this issue--they have a mindset that musical artistry and audience appeal are mutually exclusive. They refuse to engage an audience during a "recital," and they write and play pieces because they can.

    Many composers and performers are, in effect, subsidized by their salary at an educational institution. That removes any sense of responsibility to an audience and allows them to write/play whatever they see fit. As a result, the community turned in on itself and wrote pieces for its members to play in college recital halls.

    I also do not share the view that "responding to market forces" will turn us into a nation of KISS fans or lead us into some other lowest common denominator.

    The formula for success today demands that performers ACKNOWLEDGE and RESPECT an audience rather than exhibiting disdain for it or treat it as a bunch of cretins who simply don't understand. The ensembles who "get" this concept are chamber groups such as Canadian Brass, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Dallas Brass, (see a pattern here?yes, I'm a brass player), a few other string groups, and soloists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Nigel Kennedy, etc.

    The article writer describes the situation well: (Please read the entire article at the link above!!)


    The upshot (of modernism) was a deliberate renunciation of popularity. The audience that mattered to modernists (even the many who saw themselves as socialists) ceased to be the general public and increasingly became other composers and the intellectual, often university-based, establishment that claimed to validate the new music, not least through its influence over state patronage. Any failure of the music to become popular was ascribed not to the composer's lack of communication but the public's lack of understanding. Not surprisingly, the public looked elsewhere, to what we are right to call, and right to admire for being, popular music. This embrace started in the early 20th century with ragtime and jazz and reached its apex with rock'n'roll, whose great years belong to that same period, 1955-80, when modernism ruled in the academy. Today, public taste and knowledge are more eclectic than ever. The news that Oasis are to be part of the GCSE music syllabus reflects that, as does Radio 3's march into world music.

    To me, the key statements are:
    1. the statement about composers' focus going from the public to one another
    2. the statement about why they thought the music wasn't popular--it was the audience's fault...and
    3. The coincidence of the rise of "modernism in the academy" with the "great years" of rock'n'roll and the rise of popular music...1955-80 or so

    In marketing terms (my .edu address resides in a department of Business Administration), the recent demise of classical music is to a large extent attributable to what I'd call a "product orientation" in the music and the people who create and perform it. The composer or performer is saying "it's all about meeeeeeee, look at meeeeee, look at what I can do." In the "real world" such an orientation is an invitation to failure in the long term. That failure is now being seen in the so-called demise of classical music.

    Despite this negativity, the author and the article writer see a break in this system and feel that it has the potential to bode well for classical music and people who perform it. I share this optimism and repeat my mantra that audience friendliness and musical artistry are NOT mutually exclusive.

    OTHER THOUGHTS:
    1. I know FULL WELL that not EVERY composer in the .edu environment is a self-centered, audience-hostile intellectual snob. I work FOR and WITH many who are not, and I am grateful for it every time I pick up my instrument. But many who ARE that way do a disservice to their students and to music as they serve themselves.

    2. The great power of libraries such as GPO is that they can allow BOTH "camps" to put their work out to the public and/or to one another. There seems to be more and easier interchange of musical ideas now, which can only bode well for the future of music. Additionally, libraries such as GPO allow more people to become involved in music, which also bodes well for the future. Libraries facilitate the process of constant introspection composers need as well as the constant feedback they need from their own ears as well as from others' ears.

    3. My hypothesis is now that a lot of the resistence to sound libraries and music technology in the academic world is that they BREAK THE MONOPOLY AND CONTROL of the intellectual elites over students by allowing composers to discover their own musical voices. Instead of rejoicing in their students' discovery, representing true learning and development, the supposed goal of teaching--they resent the loss of control and lament the fact that the world is revolving a bit less around them.

    Well, read the article and buy the book. Mine's on order, but I sorta knew about van der Merwe anyway (who sez finance professors ain't cultured?)

    As I say...the flame-retardant suit is on tight here at Chez Snorlax.

    Right now I gotta PRACTICE for some gigs tomorrow...some CHALLENGING music for me and my comrades to play that's really gonna please our audience. (Yes, there is a euphonium duet on the program tomorrow...written by Joseph Turrin, if you know that name!!)

    Go read the article!!! Then buy the book!!!

    Jim

    PS--If I survive this "chapter 1" unscarred, I will go on to chapter 2: The "death wish" that many people in conservatories hold, why they hold it, and why they won't do anything about it, and the cost to society of their failure to do anything about it...all this is an outgrowth of some realizations I came to in trying to do some "career coaching" many years ago.
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  2. #2

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Jim,

    interesting information!

    Post this in the thread "The Death of Classical Music?"
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  3. #3

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    I love it! Thanks for the link to the article! I just want to say... exactly! It was actually exciting to read the article.

    My library has the book (the library's gotta be the best thing about this university, they've got everything (except enough shelves) ). I'll check out tomorrow since it has peaked my interests... it's listed as $65 on Amazon.com, which is a bit expensive... Of course, university presses are always pretty expensive.

    Ah.... good stuff.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  4. #4

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Quote Originally Posted by germancomponist
    Jim,

    interesting information!

    Post this in the thread "The Death of Classical Music?"
    Yes...I find this very interesting as "Gedankenfutter" for us. It goes directly to the reasons we compose or play music...People may agree or disagree about the author's hypothesis, but it is a discussion worth having...what better place to have this discussion than here, where the intelligence level is so high!!

    Actually, I posted it as a kind of response to the thread you mentioned about the death of classical music...maybe I will direct people to here from there.

    I will not be able to speak with you on chat tomorrow...I will be playing my euphonium with my brass choir at chat time tomorrow!

    All the best...
    Jim

    PS--unfortunately not in German as far as I know. I don't know if an Afrikaans version exists either (author is S. African). I know enough Dutch to make (some) sense of Afrikaans. Afrikaans is "only" two or so steps away from German, though...German==>Dutch=====>Afrikaans
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Well, you can take most modern composer's vinyl records and play them backward to hear a message from satan.


    I'm sorry, i don't know why i do that.


    Very good post, Snorlax. Interesting insights, and i think it may be hitting many nails right on the head. I agree to a degree, also think pop culture has, in some cases, inculcated an irrational disdain for classical. I could maybe cite the quest for toppling all that is old by the post-modern deconstructionist arm of the neo-marxists, because I think old evolves into new quite nicely and more completely without their hostile interjection and meddling, but i sent my suit out to the cleaners so i won't mention that now.

  6. #6

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Jim,

    I wish you much success tomorrow!

    Best

    Gunther
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  7. #7

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax
    The formula for success today demands that performers ACKNOWLEDGE and RESPECT an audience rather than exhibiting disdain for it or treat it as a bunch of cretins who simply don't understand.
    You obviously haven't met many "popular music" musicians. They typically have egos the size of Texas and the more popular ones often intensely dislike their fans. You wouldn't believe the absurd "god complex" that even a little bit of fame gives hack musicians. It even effects people who are merely local scene gods in some lame backwoods town.

    I've never met a "serious music" composer or performer with that kind of attitude. I've met a few with big heads, of course, but nothing even remotely in the same league as the typical unskilled rock band bassist.

    Trust me. I've been through endless bands with these shmucks, and recorded tons of them, and done live sound for tons of them. Never again!

  8. #8

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    This article is rather optomistic. In reality, people are probably going to end up hooking into World Of Warcraft via a brain-jack terminal, and kept alive via feeding tubes.

  9. #9

    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    I agree with everything he says. But his extremely optimistic and hopeful (if naive) conclusion is too vague and flowery.

    "The need to create something beautiful that excites the public and goes beyond its experience is too strong to be frustrated indefinitely. It would just be nice to think it might resume in our lifetime."

    I would argue that the public is getting all it needs (or thinks it needs) from movies, TV, Video Games, and some beefed up productions like broadway, skating shows and Cirque de Soleil.

    What does he expect? A groundswell movement where people reject all of this and return to the concert hall?
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: A Rebirth of Classical Music? And a possible Explanation for its "Death"

    it may not yet be a groundswell, but does look like or sound like a revival is underway, and through compund interest should eventually grow into a groundswell, as more youth are exposed to it through their parents, Imo.

    I think it is good time for the major and minor symphony orchestras to start adding new composers to their repertoire, to at least devote a percentage of it to that consistantly. I don't think there is any shortage of those who qualify, their are many at this forum, and at other forums as well. Sosnowski http://davidsosnowski.com/ is amoung several here, Hetoryn over at the VSL forum is one of several there, iTunes classifies all his as New Age but Forest Home, which is quite beautiful, is classical. I can hear some Dilius and some John Barry infuences in it and possibly a few other infuences, but it's original and more Hetoreyn than those i mentioned.

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