I know what's wrong with classical music

November 10, 2006 at 06:08 AM · I know whats wrong with classical music.Whats wrong with classical music is not marketing or that audiences are not sophisticated wnough for it, the problem with classical music is that No.1 The old days when performers where also composers are gone No.2 The days when performers improvised when playing a piece written by another composer by adding their own cadenzas etc are olso gone. No.3 performers today most notably violinists are two sterile with there playing,its like they are two afraid to attack their instrument,in my opinion violinists should be violin slayers as well as violin players No.4 Some violinists as well as the classical music industry are not open to new ideas,in my opinion the classical music industry today does not allow creativity and freshness as in jazz,rock pop and hip hop. No.5 Composers today should start composing real music and by real music I don't mean the old 17th century wiggish stuff,but I also don't mean music that seems like someone filled a balloon with musical notes threw it at a blank canvas and thats the score, random notes scattered across the score that when played sound like absolute s**t. In order for classical music to get back on its feet it needs to allow more creativity and freshness and bring back the days of Paganinni and Vivaldi,Bach,Beethoven and Mozart. And if Classical music does this then maybe the pop music industry will stop putting out the garbage its putting out,and the world will be listening to great music once again.

Replies (77)

November 10, 2006 at 02:38 AM · sorry for the spelling error i was writing fast.

November 10, 2006 at 06:38 AM · You know what? You brought up some good points. I, too, wish that today's performers were also composing and being sources of creativity. And perhaps I wouldn't word it the same, but I like the part you wrote about slaying the violin. I feel that way a lot. Problem is, when I slay, it often makes bad sounds come out. I think I need more tranquility in my sound, actually. At least that's what my teacher said. But if I can't be tranquil, then I'll just go rip on some Bartok or something. Excuse me, I ramble...

I love the balloon illustration. Did you make that up?

November 10, 2006 at 07:03 AM · But they like it that way...

November 10, 2006 at 06:44 AM · Are you sure you are not trying to fix something that is not broken?

November 10, 2006 at 07:07 AM · I liked the balloon allegory too... I think I heard something similar about Mozart having shredded his work or notes or something, and throwing it on the floor--and whalah!.

I'm not well versed enough to comment a lot, but I do know that like, in Stravinsky and stuff, I find enjoyment, but it seems like things went bizzare past that?

And I was checking out the artist who the commedy post was talking about, and it was very intense, but like other modern composers lost me pretty quickly--which wasn't difficult to do;). ..

There is something true in the definition of culture, that when a medium has lost it's connections with the present that it becomes antiquated. And also it seems true that based on that, that music is a reflection of the present--thus the challenges for things like the symphonic, chamber, and string quartet types of forms. When Hendrix is playing Star Bangled Banner backwards on an electric guitar, and Joplin is rasping lovely wordage to Bobby McGee, what's a composer/conductor s'pose to do?

Again, Bartok comes to mind for some reason. If his themes were impregnated with folkish symbols and meanings that seems simple enough. But in an immediate world where Vienna is New York, and at the same time, it's understandable why what seems to me cacaphony comes from the mind of a composer. And I thought I was overwhelmed with vibrato.

It seems like though revolutionary each in their own way, that those like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart were carrying forward 'living' traditions that were poignant in the present for those who listened. Well, just as Irish monks protected sacred writings whether they meant to or not during the dark ages, there's nothing really wrong with classicist classical viewpoints in my mind. It isn't broke.

Just take Stravinsky and impregnate his music with Bach rather than the joyful peasant, and new classical forms that might be a little more lucid 'might' evolve.

I can't wait to listen to Stravinsky's Partitas.


November 10, 2006 at 07:05 AM · Bringing music back to people might be a good idea. Lars Vogt, a pianist here, created a project named Rhapsody in school, where about 50 artists (like J. Fischer, C. Tetzlaff, I. Faust - just to name some of the violinists) visit schools before concerts and talk to the kids, play for them and with them, let them try their instruments etc.. Those kids were the only one, who ever had the chance to hear Tetzlaff playing "We will rock you" in D. Some of the kids feedbacks on the site are real highlights ("He was looking like a normal man, but after he played, I changed my opinion.") and good answers for this thread.

Simon Rattle does the same with the Berlin Philharmonics Project Zukunft@BPhil, visiting schools, showing them, that classical music do not necessarily have to be sterile or a silly rite done in tails. Rattle produced e. g. performances of Sacre, fire bird etc. with Berlin pupils consisting of 25 nations and the Philharmonics. They never danced before, they never heard the name Stravinsky before.

Maybe the ivory tower isn't the right place for music. Bad acoustics there.

November 10, 2006 at 08:41 AM · Mischa, the links were awesome... You could see even through the photos, the kids engagement in what was going on.... Impressive. al

Also, I think that in a chaotic world, that efforts like those have far more value than meets the eye. I wrote on the humanistic and social impacts of the miniturization of technology in college, and well, this has already become too boring, but... just trust me...


November 10, 2006 at 09:08 AM · Hello,

I think we must have greater variation in classical music...as a performer I compose but I try to make a programm as rich as possible f.E. I add a classical sonate (fe RAvel) then a virtuosic piece (fe Scherzo tarantelle wieniawski) followed by some modern pieces (Hexapoda russell bennett, partita barkauskas, fantaisie gorecki, piece of my own), then I try to have some jazz (sonate of Keith Jarrett) and at the end almost always a tango of piazzolla....I think this variety works....What is also wrong with classical music? We don't learn anymore I think...Following me we must look around and see what happens we can learn so much of the POP music (for Bussiness and professionality), ..........If we want to be succesfull we must listen to the audience his needs we are the servants off the audiance

I think :)

Sorry for all the spellingmistakes

November 10, 2006 at 09:29 AM · "learning from POP industry" has brought all major classical recording labels to financial ruin...It just doesn't work that way. My question is this though: when was it, that time, when classical music actually WAS "on its feet"? Back when there was no pop, so it seemed like more people were listening to classical? I think not. I think people that listen to pop now are people that couldn't read a 100 years ago, and couldn't ever think of going into a concert hall. As regards "freshness" in music, that is lacking in hip-hop, jazz and rock as well. The original acts are underground ones, which you shall SEEK to hear. Hasn't it always been that way?


November 10, 2006 at 09:11 AM · I'd like to see a return to the days when art was more important than qualifications or certificates or pedigrees or officialdom, or petty, inartistic one-upmanship.

November 10, 2006 at 12:03 PM · hate to say it...societies have modernized, living standard improved, everything becomes easily accessible and thus people have degenerated... we are marching back to the sea.

people with music start to look for quick fix as well. if you want to talk about love, show breats, butts and say love 100 times on big screen for people to understand. anything requiring thinking and imagination will be a tough sale. you need label, nosepulling, in your facing, give it to me, feed me...now.

they don't want to taste the flavor. dump the bucket in the mouth and preferably set it on fire.

care for chess? nah. lets go shoot up the queen on the computer instead. want some violin music? don't ask unless you are prepared to get hurt.

people have changed, classical music has not. to win the popular vote, you have to make a call, a call, of all people, classical musicians are the least prepared to make.

if you have been conditioned to be prim and proper, to use metronome to play in the beat, it is one heck of a struggle to break free.

it is a personal thingy...is it worth it to you?

November 10, 2006 at 12:54 PM · I always tell people that life would have been a lot different if Mozart and Beethoven had had televisions instead of quills and manuscript paper. Classical music used to be the entertainment that pop music and movies are now. I'm probably being cynical, but teaching strings in the public schools has shown me that kids today...at least the kids that come to me for strings...have very little attention spans and their tolerance for music that actually requires thought and consideration is very limited. I make it a point to listen to music for the first ten minutes of our 90 minute classes. I tell them that as strings students they need to listen to string (orchestral) music. I tell them that to not listen to such music would be like a professional basketball player never watching a basketball game. It is sad to see that after the first minute and a half most of them have zoned out and are shuffling papers or trying to read a note, etc. Even if I give them things to listen for before listening they still zone out. Yet, as an experiment, if I put on the latest Brittney Spears song or something from the Pussycat Dolls, most of them can sing every word and have no problem paying attention. We all know that the music contained in Brittney Spears or the PCD's is really not anything compared to the music of Mozart, but it certainly requires less thought and attention. In my opinion, the reason that classical music is not as popular or accessible to people today is not because their is a problem with classical music...there is a problem with the people. Obviously this is a blanket statement which can't apply to everyone...but I find many of the kids I teach to be musically and culturally ignorant. As a general rule the parents of these students are also musically and culturally ignorant. Its a downward spiralling cycle. Is there hope? Well, I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't think there was...but it certainly is a sometimes insurmountable task.

November 10, 2006 at 01:11 PM · but if i know the class is going to be 90 mins,,,

November 10, 2006 at 01:20 PM · "Classical music used to be the entertainment that pop music and movies are now."

Is this really true?

I think it is an over-generalization. A considerable portion of what we call classical was really only played for elite audiences, yes? I really don't have a crystal ball so I'm just stirring the pot.

On the other side, traditional or popoular or peasant or folk music has always been around. Popular music wasn't invented by the "record companies" rather it was exploited by them. So it seems to me that we muddy our perception by grouping old church music, old stuff of many sorts, into "classical" along with Beethoven, Bach, Mozart etc and then with 20th century types as well.

In other words, the "classical" genre isn't a genre at all. Not in the least. It is a totally artificial and rather useless concept.

November 10, 2006 at 01:23 PM · I agree with Thomas. I do think we need to re-train and re-invigorate our culture. Studies have shown how unhealthy an influence on our kids all the TV watching can be. It really is an epidemic. ...And such utter garbage is being absorbed by their minds every day!

A good start to healing our culture would be to LIMIT to TV viewing. Help our kids find other, more creative (ways that use their minds and imaginations) things to do.

November 10, 2006 at 01:24 PM · I'm not sure classical music is "broken," either. In modern times, a lot of great symphonic music is being written for movies and TV and widely listened to by "pop" audiences. I wouldn't be that surprised if, two hundred years from now, John Williams was remembered as the greatest composer of the late 20th century.

November 10, 2006 at 01:25 PM · Wot Ilya and Bilbo sed! :)

As Mark Twain cabled from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." I think the same can be said of classical music. I'd also note that there is still plenty of music being composed, but you do have to seek it out.


November 10, 2006 at 01:33 PM · Toni may be reacting to what he perceives as a stifling situation of repeatedly playing the "same old stuff" and then composing more music that is the "same old stuff."

See, it is all rather complicated.

On the one hand, a symphony orchestra is an "acoustic instrument grouip." To that end, you can do all sorts of different music with that group.

On the other hand, "classical" music (see my post immediately above for discussion of this) uses the "symphony orchestra" more than any other "genre" except movie scores, the latter being typically 'derivative" of either romantic period music, or of Shostakovitch, or some bizarre mixture.

A violin soloist is a special case. In fact there are violin soloists who do not specialize in "classical" but it is absurd to expect one who plays Tchaik etc to also be a composer, unless that is what that particular person wants to do. Frankly it is an individual choice, and the fact is that there is an audience for the well-worn repertoire, and a growing audience for new uses of the acoustic instruments. It is changing. That is a fact. But "Toni" shoudn't really worry about the future of "classical" music. It will be taken care of by those who love it, warts and all. Which is why I support WMNR.

November 10, 2006 at 01:28 PM · Well, when you consider the forms of entertainment available to people in that day and age, their music choices were somewhat limited. Its not like they could go to Border's and buy the latest Gorilla's cd. Granted, the masses of the poor and hungry couldn't necessarilly go to the Opera every Friday, but the music played in those opera houses trickled down, so to speak. The average "kid" didn't buy a cheap electric guitar in the pawn shop and start playing power chords in his spare time. If anything, he bought a violin and learned to play that. So, I still contend that classical music served as the music entertainment of that day and that today it has been supplanted by television and movies. Many kids don't care and think it is "totally lame" to play a "strings" instrument. I contend that this is due to musical and cultural ignorance.

November 10, 2006 at 01:58 PM · This article might also be of interest. :)


November 10, 2006 at 03:20 PM · I find that people who claim to know nothing about classical music (the majority of the people I know, even the people who go to concerts) tend to question their opinions and reactions to concerts. Some of these people, over the years, have confided to me that they didn't like a particular performance or piece, even though the audience seemed to love it and give it a standing ovation. Their reasons have always been valid, and once they were in an unthreatening situation, like a private conversation with a friend, they could feel better about their participation in the whole concert experience.

I also think that it is important to give novice listeners guidelines (like "pay attention to the oboe in the first movement of Beethoven 5" or something like that). I think that a bit of personal information about composers is helpful as well, because novice listeners are approaching a piece of music as a person-to-person relationship. Good program notes are always worth the effort.

There are a whole bunch of composers around today who write music that is really "musical" in the ideal sense of the word. Some of these composers are getting their music played a lot, and some of the best performances can be heard in university student and faculty recitals, many of which have free admission. One such composer is Eric Ewazen, who abandoned atonality years ago and writes wonderful music that speaks to a lot of people on many different levels.

I believe that this is the music that will survive, not film scores by John Williams, which are really not much fun to play after the first read. It is the music that is played by people who devote time and care to it that will continue to survive. Look at the major repertoire for the violin. It is the stuff that is interesting to practice that stays in the repertoire.



November 10, 2006 at 04:04 PM · The issue has been discussed on other threads, but if a person is happy listening to his or her favorite pop music of whatever sort, why start listening to classical? It's always tough to sell someone a product where the need for the product isn't perceived. The catch 22 is that you can't see the benefit in classical unless you first have some appreciation of the music; and you can't appreciate the music without first seeing some benefit to get you to listen.

I get the impression that in at least some European and Asian countries they are having more success in this area than here in the U.S., so maybe our musical pedagogues should start paying close attention to what's being done in Finland, Japan, etc.

November 10, 2006 at 06:43 PM · Mitchell,

It's not so much the pedagogue as it is the parents at home and what they choose to do or not to with their kids.

I agree with Ilya.

BTW, the label of "classical" came so much later.

In the days of Mozart, his contemporaries did not call their music classical. It was the music of their day. And he was playing concerts for the Kings and Queens.

Today, one has so many choices.

And the way kids get exposed to classical music is very much in film and video game industry.

It also helps immensely if the education system includes it in their curriculum (but then it is a question of budget and politics).

In many countries abroad, they have embraced classical music as part of their culture (long ago), and in many of these countries it is state subsidised. Classical music is very much a part of their public school system. Almost every other town in Germany for example has an orchestra.

November 10, 2006 at 06:19 PM · BTW, we have been discussing classical music on another thread, you might be interested:

Here are some Commonly Misunderstood Musical Terms:

Order of Sharps: What a wimp gets at the bar.

Perfect Pitch: something at a Baseball game

Bass: no Baseball game would be complete without them, since you have to run to them and around them.

Mixolydian: a Greek Gay Bar where they play "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen (which happens to be in the Mixolydian Mode).

Ionian Mode: is the gain or loss of electrons.

Dorian Mode: an English made waste coat worn by Eleanor Rigby (incidentally made famous by the Beatles who composed this famous tune in the Dorian Mode).

Aeolian Mode: getting to second base on a first date :)

Development Section: something after the first date.

Coda: breaking up is hard to do but all's well that ends!

Modes: Just like there are many flavors of ice cream, so there are many different "flavors" of Fashion.

Conductor: The man who punches your ticket on Amtrack.

Cut Time: Parole.

Passing Tone: Often heard near the baked beans at family barbecues.

Portamento: A foreign country you've always wanted to visit.

Relative Major: A cousin in the Marine Corps.

Relative Minor: A girlfriend.

Ritard: There's one in every Family.

Tempo: Good choice for a used car.

Transpositions: Men who wear dresses.

Perhaps we should start "A Prairie Home Companion to Music Anthropology" thread????!!!

November 10, 2006 at 06:45 PM · I personally think that one of the biggest contributors of what most of us consider trashy culture and music is MTV. It is amazing how many young people watch it all day long. I see kids dressing and speaking like complete freaks and wonder why they do that, and realize it is mostly MTV. Same goes for the music. I think what gets the most exposure is what gets listened to the most. It is just like in advertising (I think). Because these days parents don't usually educate their kids in their tastes of music and how to act etc, they do everything they see on tv including listening to brain-killing music and acting like hooligans.

I sound like an old man.

November 10, 2006 at 07:05 PM · TV is advertising. MTV is TV.

The best stuff on TV are the ads. Screw the shows. Except maybe watching Steve wrestle crocs.

Geico. Volvo. Some great funny stuff.

I didn't have a proper television system for 5 years. This fall, moved into a house with cable. Bit of a challenge keeping the kiddies away from it. I can see where the weak-willed just give up.

The only things worse than TV are these absurdly pompous pratts posting on message boards all day full of misinformation and feigned expertise.

November 10, 2006 at 06:57 PM · You must admit that "Classical" music is looked upon by kids as being stuffy and boring. Hey, hey, no shooting the messenger here, I'm just reporting the way it is.

In part, we need to grab the kids in Kindergarten and keep them interested. Once they get older they would rather die than be seen listening to classical. How can you compete with girls "singing," and I use that term loosely, with everything hanging out and spewing words that we adults can only guess at the meaning. Then you have guys performing in the same group yelling, screaming, etc, with their trousers hanging below their butts pumping and grabbing their crotches and looking like he11. While that is going on thousands of people in the audience screaming for more. My friends, that's almost impossible to compete against. Except for getting their interest up early I have no ideas.

At our Town and Country Symphony our audience is composed of older folks and parents with their young kids. A few middle agers here and there.

I wonder if you can combine a modern rock group with a symphony orchestra to generate attendance and interest?

Somehow it is us who have to change somewhat if we want to stay afloat. We can't MAKE the younger generation attend the concerts, we have to entice them.

November 10, 2006 at 07:11 PM · Enosh,

I think there is a lot of truth to that though.

Nevertheless - ""Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid." - Frank Zappa

Vive la Difference

November 10, 2006 at 07:33 PM · Anyone who thinks "classical music" was the popular form at any time in history has been grossly mislead by their highschool band teacher.

Classical music requires an appreciation for a certain aesthetic. If you cannot get someone into an art gallery, it would probably be difficult to make them listen to a Mozart sonata.

November 10, 2006 at 07:44 PM · Aw heck, the average Joe listens to classical music all of the time.

-as long as there's a Hollywood blockbuster movie to go along with it.

November 10, 2006 at 07:46 PM · Toni,

I will say that I applaud that you've evolved in your thinking and given us more insight into your thought process.

Don't listen to Ilya, he's too busy playing with his 6 Porches to make any sensible comments.

November 10, 2006 at 08:24 PM · Pieter, you can ALWAYS get people into an art gallery. Just offer free wine and cheese :)

November 10, 2006 at 08:21 PM · I admit I couldn't read 100 years ago...

November 10, 2006 at 08:25 PM · How about this as a theme to promote classical (or whatever we're calling it now) music:

"Enjoying serious music is hard work."

Hmm, on second thought, maybe not.

November 10, 2006 at 08:55 PM · Somebody else said it better already.

If you want to "promote" it to the next generation, you have to include it in their childhood lives without being overbearing, or trite, or cute etc. It just needs to be there, needs to be appreciated.

Do as I do. I take my children to concerts. I've had a 5 year old to see the entire Orchestra concert at SUNY Purchase. She loved it. Joshua Bell played, but so did a Nay player and great singers. We do all sorts of concerts. We go to free ones and costly ones, folk music, egyptian music, Mexican music, Andean, Pakistani, Indian, American Indian, you name it. Oh and Bluegrass festival complete with camping. The kids love it!

Include music in their lives from toddlerhood. Do Little People's Music or Music with Margot or Kindermusic or whatever. Sing to your children. Give them instruments to play on. We have literally more instruments than a well-equipped elementary school music program. Whistles, shakers, tambourines, drums, claves, bells, triangles, cymbals, recorders, end-blown bamboo flutes, pennywhistles, concertinas, harmonicas, ocarinas, fiddles, banjos, guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, piano, slide whistles, train whistles, ratchets, spoons, dotura, ektara, gourds, goat hoofs, glockenspieles, xylophone...I've left out others.

Not all kids love music, but many do. If you make it part of their lives, they become open to hearing classical as well as other music geners. As they grow older, they will always carry that with them.

November 10, 2006 at 08:59 PM · classical music has never been, is not, and never shall be popular on a mass level.

there is the idea that classical was the pop of its day. NO. in mozart's time he lamented over and over again that he had to write shallow divertimentos for the upper class to dance to. his operas were written mostly to make money for himself and spread his name. his symphonies and chamber music are where his true heart lay.

beethoven's entire career and compositional style was deliberately designed to p*ss these same party people off. in a modern time, the divertimento listeners of mozart and beethoven's day would translate to the jocks and party girls in boca raton who attend trance dj festivals, and beethoven wanted nothing to do with them.

in tchaikovsky's time the pop artists were the strauss family and the #1 hits were fantasies created on opera highlights. i doubt many casual music fans of that time knew or cared about the brahms concerto.

in more modern times, ravel debussy and gershwin were known to incorporate ragtime and jazz into their music in the hopes of gaining the type of popular acceptance that jelly roll morton, duke ellington, and fletcher henderson had. however, it was not to be and classical musicians soon abandoned their quest to reach the jazz audience.

today there is the idea of rock audiences playing free improv, but bands such as sonic youth and radiohead lose fans by the truckload when they stop writing 3 minute pop songs and delve into modern classical ideas.

there is nothing wrong with pop. there is nothing wrong with classical. we are talking about two different fields and two different musical destinies.

if there is anything wrong with classical, it's the shrink in benefactor capital to keep the classical music machine going.

November 10, 2006 at 08:58 PM · We have a vibrant classical music station which, being in essentially the richest state in the country (Connecticut) can get private support for 100% of its budget. WMNR.

Of course this won't work in places where the airtime is too expensive and the middle class is too flustered or poor or poor and flustered.

It shows that in fact there is "grass roots" support for classical. Just be aware that it is small and wonderful compared to Big Money Pop. Good things come in small packages.

November 10, 2006 at 09:01 PM · Bilbo, sounds like you're doing a fantastic job with your kids. I congratulate you.


November 10, 2006 at 09:16 PM · Aw heck, the average Joe listens to classical music all of the time.

-as long as there's a Hollywood blockbuster movie to go along with it.

...or a cartoon.

November 10, 2006 at 09:27 PM · Do you want to kill Bugs Bunny? You know what that did to Elmer Fudd.

November 10, 2006 at 10:25 PM · I strongly agree with what a lot of people said here, that kids need to get introduced to classical music while they're still in grade school. Again I have to mention what Zoltan Kodaly did in Hungary, to this day music is a fundamental part of school curriculums there and classical music is very much alive and well. We need something like that over here.

I also heartily agree with Toni that it would be terrific if we had composer-performers and performer-composers again. Ahhhh, for the days of Liszt, Chopin, Wieniawski and Paganini!

November 10, 2006 at 10:40 PM · I want to be one of Bilbo's kids! al

November 10, 2006 at 11:01 PM · One factor that contributes to the short attention span is that we are now surrounded by "music". One of my (many) pet peeves is pop music in Appleby's et al (informal, pub-like). I think before radio, then TV etc, music was special. You had to make an effort to hear it. And you didn't hear the best performances over and over. You also didn't hear artifically perfect performances.

The music audience probably obeys Sturgeon's Law: 80% of anything is cr*p. You will never get the majority to like it, any more than the majority will ever appreciate modern jazz.

The only hope is to expose everybody and encourage those who show an interest. And continue to encourage funding.

November 12, 2006 at 01:58 AM · There is one other factor here. I believe we are living in an era in which everything (and I do mean everything) is evaluated by the speed with which we get it or do it. Everything has to be instantaneous and in a sound-bite format. If it's not short and quick, it's boring or not good enough.

Well, classical music is certainly not an "instantaneous" art. Yes, you pay attention to what is happening in the moment. But what is happening in the moment gets spread out over time. You get to hear a grand structure, and it takes a concentrated effort to really hear it.

The Sibelius Violin Concerto has always been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid. But it took years for me to realize that there is that one main long theme in the second movement, to hear it as one long theme (rather than as beautiful and connected but isolated motifs), and to realize that it is played only twice. Once I really grasped it as the one long melody it is, my appreciation and understanding of the piece was magnified a hundredfold.

That kind of concentrated, extended experience and attention really isn't the way our children today experience music (or the other arts or life). And that's one reason they're missing out on one of the most unique and moving art forms ever creating by the human mind and heart.

So now that we've solved that problem....Little Johnny was doing terrible in his math classes. He didn't study and he got lousy grades. His teachers took him to different tutors and counselors, but nothing helped. Finally they enrolled him in an excellent Catholic school. Within the first week, he was doing his homework and his math grades quickly became the best in his class. When they asked him why, he said, "The first day of class, when I walked in and saw that huge plus sign and that guy hanging from it, I knew these teachers meant business."

:) Sandy

November 12, 2006 at 05:24 AM · I still want to be one of Bilbo's kids!.

I tend to think that besides having already said it isn't broken, I think it might be a good time for classical music. Yes, I love rock too, but that's not the point.

Just as classical probably didn't reach the masses in the past, not only could it not because of lack of mediums, but it was geographically isolated as well. A trip to Vienna meant at least a year.

And those people who listened to classical, those elites to the extent that's really true, did they 'really' have an appreciatation of what Mahler did with the length and breadth of the movements? I think probably no more than today really.

One of the coolest classes I took in High School was music appreciation, which focused almost entirely on classical music. Just as the popularization of education limited academic achievement a hundred (more like 200) years ago, the reverse has become true today. And that just creates an entire range of possibilities to not only underwrite the classical form, but to make it even better than before. This is already proven in the evolution of symphony halls.

So, the emphasis might better be placed, as many have noted, on educating from the ground up rather than trying to jump the fence through/towards other genres. Imagine a day when the string section can be in Boston, and the woodwinds in London or something.

The point is not in being stuck in tradition--it had become a 'culture' already; and, our inability to realize just what that really means is probably the problem more than any lost abilities or depth.

Already for instance, hard rock from the 70's became unable to reinvent itself, and that certainly didn't happen over 300 years. Aerosmith's rebirth simply was not Aerosmith. But with hundreds of years of tradition, culture or not, is a pretty stable foundation on which to stand, and from which to build.

And each of the periods have given something distinctive to that period, whether Baroque, or whatever that was not part of some logical evolution based on the period before. But these sub-forms were more based on the broader realities of isolation and tradition becoming. The point at which each became parts of classical culture, I'm not sure of .

The march of 'everyman' towards egalitarian defined freedom gave birth to some degree in modern expressions of classical such as Stravinsky and so forth. Just as words were reaching the minds of the masses, so was music, and it's opposite dynamics. I think people become confused that this somehow began tearing down the imaginary walls between tradition that really wasn't continuous, and various traditions that had survived.

Finally, I think it is false logic that obscures classical tradition, and classical progressivism. And in this oversight truly progressive classicist thinkers would wish to review the traditions that did survive, and apply modern realities in perpetuating them in a purist sense. At the same time, mourning the loss of the Paganini's will not likely be placated or found up my hollow, though equally enviable abilities exist there.

The depth of authorship of the greats were as equally influenced by the paradox of the isolation of the past, and just as rock cannot reinvent self, the past is the past. I can just see Paganini today using cut and paste.

Yet when we study trigonometry, do we really care who or what discovered second derivatives? No.

But we certainly learn to get through our programs, and many even enjoy the math for it's own sake. This enjoyment of things stable over time, will be important in the future, I think more so than ever.

I wrote all this so I could say:

....Little Johnny was doing terrible in his math classes. He didn't study and he got lousy grades. His teachers took him to different tutors and counselors, but nothing helped. Finally they enrolled him in an excellent Catholic school. Within the first week, he was doing his homework and his math grades quickly became the best in his class. When they asked him why, he said, "The first day of class, when I walked in and saw that huge plus sign and that guy hanging from it, I knew these teachers meant business."


November 12, 2006 at 04:37 AM · Interesting. I've heard some of the same issues discussed at traditional jazz festivals. Their audiences are getting older (and some think smaller), and both musicians and fans are worried. I've often reflected on the comparison with classical music.

Like most of life's problems, the causes are probably complex. One that I have NOT seen discussed here is the nature of the music itself, especially its complexity (this has been obliquely alluded to in some posts above). There is more to various forms of musical art than just melody, there is the beauty of the structure itself (that's the route by which I came to appreciate the Bartok string quartets). That is not immediately accessible, but requires education to the art form (applies to both trad jazz and classical music). The same applies to performance; there is a considerable learning curve in both musical genres before one can become an effective participant and performer.

I'll venture a proposition here and see if anyone responds: no art form with a complex structure will ever be wildly popular. Please understand I am not being elitest, here: I see no reason why either classical music or trad jazz are "beyond" anyone. But at least some education is required, and in a society which perpetually starves its arts programs in the public schools, and does not provide many arts opportunities outside school (except for lucky kids with parents like Bilbo), MTV has inadvertently become a key arts educator. I guess what I'm saying is that if every child went to the High School of Music and Art, Toni (I forget his real name) wouldn't have to ask his question. There's a lot more to be said here, but I'd better quit.

November 12, 2006 at 05:53 AM · But Toni's point is getting lost in all this. Read what he wrote at the start again.

Classical music is in trouble, and unless attitudes amongst its practitioners/supporters start to change, it will be in a very grave situation rather soon. Well, I'm writing things from my point of view, but to me it does seem that there is a problem.

The status quo favors a sterile approach. The modern world has become oversensitive to criticism. One cuts out as much 'waywardness' and unorthodoxy from the performance as possible, so as to avoid the possibility of criticism. Incorrect accents or rhythms? Cut them out. The result is that the music is too clean and tasteless. It all sounds the same. You don't use orthodox technique? My God, you must be a very poor musician.

I listened to Huberman yesterday on a cd, playing Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Sounded weird at first. But his playing drew me in and before long I was loving it. I was entertained.

Classical did, at times, approach a popular level. Huberman, Paganini and Ysaye were almost pop legends. They walked out onto the stage and it was really something. Symphony conductors also, not so long ago, could be like rock stars, too. One guy in London used to only conduct Beethoven with white gloves, brought to him on a silver plate. Pretty stupid, sure, but the audience loved it.

Bring a bit of theatre back into classical and, at all levels, from little kid learners through to professionals, encourage people to go there own way more. Orthodoxy kills art, and, ultimately, entertainment.

November 12, 2006 at 06:07 AM · This discussion has been very interesting. Thanks for posting, Toni. I agree with your points, especially with #5. I think classical music only has itself to blame for why it's now supposedly music for the nerds and the hoity-toity. Music by young composers (including both the not-yet-dead and the under-30) is definitely out there, but the general public doesn't know how to find it. The classical music industry also doesn't reach out to the general public as much as it could, and when it does, what's presented is the same old Mozart, Bach, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with those composers, or that I dislike them, but that doesn't change the public's impressions of them.

I'm not saying that outreach concerts featuring music with tin cans and lots of tone clusters should be held (that seems to be the general idea of what avant-garde music is), but there needs to be more emphasis on the music of the composers of today, especially the younger ones if kids are the target. After all, young appeals to the young.

November 12, 2006 at 03:33 PM · 1. One way "classical music" has shot itself in the foot is that the performance standard has gotten "too high", with perfect recordings, often tweaked and enhanced to the point that live musicians can't match it.

2. One problem not really created by classical musicians is the constant exposure to "music". Imagine when there was no recording, radio or TV. Many people played music at home or with friends. They had a musician's appreciation for the skill and complexity. And going to hear professionals was a real treat, to be savored before, during and after.

Bond et al are trying to bring a glamorous presentation to classical. But I also agree that both classical and jazz take some education.

November 12, 2006 at 08:02 PM · Again, I don't buy the idea of conductors as rock stars. Yes, maybe to rich white people, but to the masses, I don't think there's ever been anyone who fulfills this role.

First of all, most halls only hold between 1 and 3 thousand. Rockstars at the height of the stadium rock era were playing at Nascar race tracks to 80 to 100,000 people, not to mention that they have multiple platinum selling albums.

November 12, 2006 at 10:58 PM · "1. One way "classical music" has shot itself in the foot is that the performance standard has gotten "too high", with perfect recordings, often tweaked and enhanced to the point that live musicians can't match it."

I think pop music is more perfect and more unmatchable live. But that doesn't stop people from going to pop concerts.

November 12, 2006 at 11:32 PM · It's harder to get a whole orchestra to lip sync the Jupitor.

You're right, they do. I think it's easier to reproduce the recorded sound of an electronic group. Also, we're comparing a discriminating audience with an indiscriminate one.

November 12, 2006 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

Toni said

> the problem with classical music is that No.1 The old days when performers where also composers are gone No.2 The days when performers improvised when playing a piece written by another composer by adding their own cadenzas etc are olso gone. No.3 performers today most notably violinists are two sterile with there playing,its like they are two afraid to attack their instrument,in my opinion violinists should be violin slayers as well as violin players No.4 Some violinists as well as the classical music industry are not open to new ideas,in my opinion the classical music industry today does not allow creativity and freshness as in jazz,rock pop and hip hop. No.5 Composers today should start composing real music and by real music I don't mean the old 17th century wiggish stuff,but I also don't mean music that seems like someone filled a balloon with musical notes threw it at a blank canvas and thats the score, random notes scattered across the score that when played sound like absolute s**t

Some interesting points, some of which have been disucsse d in some detail on this list with much greater clarty than I can offer.

What really strikes me is that thes e positions assume too much in advance. Most advance d players have to undergo quite strict discipline in terms of aural training, theory and yes basic composition . A deep knowledge of harmony, muscial style and how scores fucntion is necessary to be a top rank player. Do these player s have time to sit down and compose? not as a rule. Did it really make much differnece to the playing of Kreilser , Ysaye, Heifet et al. Probably quite a lotbut I still think that is overstated. I also think the claim that all the great players were composers is highly inaccurate. Nor is the issue of arrangements addressed. Thus the point here is both unproven and over generalized.

The point about improvisation is well taken. But note that more and more players are doing this and doing it well in cadnezas and the like. Again, I would challenge theview that `all` the great player sof the past could do this. Every generation has its superstars and then a gene pool of lesser players who are brilliant as artisans.

The slayer versus player argument simply does not stand up. Today@s player s are using a greta deal more physivcal strength because of stirngs and the demands of concert halls. There is no shortage of macho players or those injecting huge amounts of weight into the isntrument. There is a great dela more knowledge more generally available about how to get the maximum from an instrument. Anything more is just crude and poor technique to boot. There may be less of a tendency to use a style involving very rapid bow speeds, compare the way Heifetz played with the deep drawn out sound of Hahn, but this kind of bashing the insturment p@oint is not really rooted in any thoughtful analysis of what players actually do.And again, the comment is making assumptions about the past that don`t stand up. A pussy is a pussy, whichever generation they are piddling around in.

Creativity and frshness is reasonable but the point has been asked and answered many times. Why blame the rank and file player who may be bursting with repressed creativity? As long as managment and money makers decide to keep on trucking along the same lines the majority of players cannot do that much about it.Do you think we can control how many times we do the tchaik symph in the same season when wehave families ot feed?

There are good composrs out there today. There are also piles of banal baroque and classicla scores sprea d across the universe which equally deserve the botty detritus label you determidly attach to every living composer...



November 13, 2006 at 01:10 AM · Are we allowed to say pussy here? haha. Anyway I agree with what Buri said on his response on bashing the instrument. To me, what Toni says is the opposite. There are more people today that bash on the instrument than there were before, and that's not a good thing.

November 13, 2006 at 01:19 AM · By the way the person that started this threat is me Lewis Toni's 16 year old son.

November 13, 2006 at 01:24 AM · I hear ya--guess who now has material for a term paper Lewis, and it isn't I!.

November 13, 2006 at 01:30 AM · Greetings

No need to `threaten` people ;)

(Check your Buri style typo Toni.)



November 28, 2006 at 10:38 PM · All arts, including music, express what is occurring in society. And what is happening in society today is increasing speed, decreasing attention spans, and increasing efficiency in everything, especially if it makes money. Consequently, popular music today reflects that.

The reason all of us on violinist.com who love classical music do so is because it expresses things that are fundamental to humanity. This is what makes classical music so incredibly satisfying.

Society today is increasingly growing away from those things that are fundamental to true happiness. These include fresh water, fresh air, enjoying nature, communicating in a rich way with others, physical and interpersonal closeness. These are all things that take time.

Classical music takes time. Sandor Vegh used to say in masterclasses I went to in Lenk, Switzerland, "In the world, time is money. In music, time is not money - give time!!" He was referring to how often musicians today would rush through phrases, or tend not to complete them, or take a breath at the end of them.

We could dumb down classical music and make it more attractive and accessible to the general populace, like popular music, but that would take away from its intrinsic beauty. It also, in many cases, would possibly not be capable of achieving the type of music that is perfectly designed to communicate to those with shorter attention spans, i.e. electronic music.

I think that dumbing down classical music may be a way of destroying it, not preserving it. (?) It would only highlight its shortcomings to electronic music.

At the same time, those of us who love classical music are shrinking in numbers. And classical music is doing a poorer job of reflecting society. As an amateur, I can have the luxury of saying that I choose to take the high road and play chamber music concerts for free. If the audience doesn't like it, don't come. In the meantime I attempt to play and perform at the highest level that I can.

For the professional musician, I wish I knew the answer. I hope that people eventually get back to the roots of what is truly satisfying. And, as Sandor Vegh implied, what is truly satisfying takes time.


Yes, call me a musical snob - I admit it. Other opinions?


I remember going to concerts at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest in 1995 and thinking they were more like sporting events than the "wiggish" concerts in the U.S. There was a palpable buzz before the performers came on stage and the audience gave their applause to the degree that they enjoyed the performance. Does this level of sophistication in concerts still occur in Budapest today? Can someone confirm or deny this?

November 28, 2006 at 10:39 PM · Greetings,

Terry, agree with everythign you say except one thing ;). You suggest that concomitant with everything speeding up is an increase in efficiency. I venture to suggest that this is not so much of the time. For example, the multinational agribusiness claims that todays huge monocrop farming methods are more efficiennt than small farms that work in tandem with nature. This has repeatedly been shown not to be the case. The most damning evidnce being the drop in food production and the devastating loss of decent livelihoods of third world farmers who have had the `green revolution` foisted on them.

Cargill pioners CFCs and we suffer devastation caused by global warming that destroys cities and we call it efifciency?

Or take a drive on the Claifornia Freeway or whatever. How many hoiurs do you spend sitting in your SUV spewing out fumes? Not you personally...

We pay and pay again for so called effcieny and never look at the hidden costs or the devastion of our world. Its so far removed fronm the idea that modern life is efifcient its laughable,



November 28, 2006 at 11:45 PM · Buri, I see your point.

Government sets the environment by which business operates. Sometimes government allows certain things to occur which can maximize short term profits, at long term expense. (BTW, the following is a derivative of economist's Milton Friedman perspective, god rest his soul)

From the perspective of the business that is jeopardizing the land by monocrop farming, the farming is efficient. After the land is wasted and the profits collected, the business moves on. That is government’s fault, and that is inefficient.

From the perspective of the engineers that design freeways in California, what they do is efficient. The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) allocates funds for building roads. They don’t allocate funds for railroads.

Should the FHWA funds be allocated instead to the railroads? In my opinion, yes they should. Is this inefficient? - yes.

Why does government allow these things? Because it is efficient to the politicos. What they need is votes. And they calculate exactly what is the best approach toward getting those votes. Building a road instead of a railroad is generally more efficient to a politician seeking votes. When densities increase in the U.S., perhaps this will shift.

Whose fault is it that politicians are performing misguided deeds. Mostly ours, at least in the United States. If we voted more intelligently, then we wouldn't have a lot of these inefficient practices.

What the world needs to address a lot of its problems is longer term thinking.

Then maybe some of the longterm inefficient practices you mention wouldn't occur...and classical music would be attractive again.

Other thoughts?

November 28, 2006 at 11:59 PM · Greetings,

its interesting that the Chairman of BP was selected by Time recently as one of the people has significantly contributed to saving the environment (or something like that) in the 20th century (he probably listens Bach in his spare time). At least some busniesses are recognizing it makes economic sense to work with the earth, as it were,



November 29, 2006 at 06:36 AM · Okay, I'm really tired and too lazy to read this entire discussion.

how does classcial music get back on its feet? I think the answer is exposure. Most of my friends are predominantly not classical music listeners, but I thought that they could be...given the chance. I was right! They really liked the classical music CD i burned for them. Favorites were: Praeludium and Allegro, Theme from Schindler's list, O Mio Babbino Caro, Banjo and Fiddle, 4 Seasons: Autumn III, Molly on the Shore, Meditation from Thaïs... I can't remember the others, but htere were more.

Bottom line: It's definitely possible!

November 29, 2006 at 02:28 PM · I think the main problem is, especially in the States, classical music has gotten a reputation for being snobby, elitist, "wiggish", I dunno, maybe even the exclusive domain of the latte-sipping, sushi-nibbling, New-York-Times-reading, Volvo-driving loony leftists that we all hear so much about. :) I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the bad reputation that modern music has gotten (not entirely unjustified...) for being ugly, weird and unapproachable. Also a lot of it is probably some sort of misplaced populism ("Brahms is out of touch with mainstream America!"), but another part of the problem, I think, is that compared with some place like Germany or Czech Republic or France, we really don't have a long, rich tradition in classical music like they do. Of course we have lots of fantastic musicians and composers, but our situation really can't compare to those places where music has been a big, integral part of national culture and tradition for centuries.

November 29, 2006 at 03:05 PM · I also agree with Terry's comments about dumbing down. We are the victims of cultural relativism - political correctness now means that everybody's opinion is as good as everyone else's, irrespective of whether or not they know anything about the subject. This form of political correctness seems to be a global phenomenon and classical music has suffered along with many other aspects of culture. In the UK it has resulted in the BBC, which used to be a beacon of responsible high-quality public service broadcasting, continually lowering its standards (as far as TV is concerned) in an attempt to play the ratings game with the commercial channels. Once viewing numbers becomes the key performance indicator, quality is inevitably sacrificed. BBC TV used to broadcast concerts, even sometimes of 'difficult' music, but these days apart from a few Promenade concerts, classical music has all but disappeared from the main TV channels. What we get instead is such wall-to-wall rubbish that is hardly worth owning a TV. (Fortunately the radio continues to broadcast quality music.)

To Buri's comments about businesses saving the environment, I think it is fair to say that these days there are a lot of companies that have, either voluntarily or as a result of some PR scandal, seen that they have responsibilities beyond purely making profit. What I do when I am not playing my violin is work (at Cambridge University) on programmes for helping business leaders cope with the challenges of sustainable development. This involves dialogues both with governments and with NGOs and we now have a huge network of people around the world who are committed to making a difference. Whether there are enough of them and whether they will act quickly and decisively enough is of course another question.

November 29, 2006 at 03:24 PM · I agree with Maura and Sheila about the media. The hyper-competitive media environment leads even serious outlets like the BBC and the New York Times to pretend to be everyone's "best friend." The phony populism infects the coverage of the arts as well as everything else.

Of course one can still find excellent arts coverage, but it gets mixed in with stuff that years ago would never have been in the arts pages.

November 30, 2006 at 03:44 AM · There is a malaise affecting the intellectual and artistic world. It is a product of the loss of real meaning. We are evolved pond scum, the products of chance. Thats it. Such underlying feeling or thought weakens the strength of purpose of a society. Same thing happened to Rome. They exhausted themselves in trivia and silliness. Eventually a stronger and more virile people ran them over.

Our ability to discern meaning has been weakened. This has had a bad effect on art. Hopefully we'll smarten up.

November 30, 2006 at 05:48 AM · Greetings,

I prefer to see myself as evolved prune juice,



November 30, 2006 at 06:30 AM · That's the spirit!

Actually, what an interesting concept. Choose the least likely idea from this list:

1. Evolved totally by dumb chance from pond scum. There is no ultimate meaning.

2. Created by God. Something to do with love.

3. Seeded by wierdo aliens for some wacko evolutionary reason known only to them.

4. Evolved out of prune juice. Distributors in prunes profit enormously.

All seem equally plausible. Faith must then decide I suppose.

November 30, 2006 at 06:30 AM · Exposure, yes. Isn't that part of the reason so many of us spend hours in community orchestras?

November 30, 2006 at 03:07 PM · Count me in with the prunes. My parents' trees haven't been pruned in years and we can't get enough apples to make a pie. Quite disturbing.

November 30, 2006 at 04:01 PM · Jon, I think our society's problems have less to do with the theory of evolution than with poorly-executed capitalism gone all bloated and stupid. Also like Rome: they had gotten decadent, indifferent, materialistic, greedy and cynical---and then Attila sacked them.

November 30, 2006 at 04:13 PM · Bless you, Maura. You are Hungarian first, last and always!

November 30, 2006 at 04:34 PM · Köszönöm szépen! :) Attila can take his time though, I wouldn't mind...

November 30, 2006 at 04:30 PM · I guess, at least in Latinamerica, classical music is reborn, as say Simon Rattle, i just saw in Mexico a sell out Perlman perfomance (10 K), mostly young people, in Venezuela with 25 millions of people, 500 k kids are in youth orchestra system,products like Gustavo Dudamel in short time will be know in the entire world, interesting know why big music corporantions invest in classical.

November 30, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Capitalism isn't the problem, it's laziness and the lack of education.

November 30, 2006 at 04:42 PM · Education:


November 30, 2006 at 10:20 PM · You're all sacked!

Attila le Prune

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