classical music dying?

September 22, 2010 at 04:39 AM ·

is classical music dying out?  what can we do about it? 

Replies (58)

September 22, 2010 at 04:48 AM ·

I think rumors of its death are exaggerated, as the saying goes.  You have to hook the young kids.  I once played the Debussy Quartet for a group of elementary school kids and after we ended a movement, I actually heard one little boy whisper, "Awesome!"

September 22, 2010 at 06:12 AM ·

Exposure is the key. The more people are exposed to classical, the more interest can develop.

Sadly, there is little classical left on radio. Even presumably sophisitcated markets like Washington DC have lost several classical stations, now down to one. Live concerts are expensive, and major orchestras are not a dime a dozen.

It will only get worse. Even brick and mortar bookstores are disappearing, except for places that sell the best-cellars of the month. Books will disappear as downloaded e-books (such a disgusting concept) take over the market.

Western Civilisation is on the way out. Enjoy it while it lasts; it's rotting from within, which usually results in interesting period of decadence before collapse. Some entertainment to be found therein, no doubt.

September 22, 2010 at 06:35 AM · Dying? Where? In China there are more than 10 million people playing the violin.

September 22, 2010 at 06:47 AM ·

I made fun of classical music untill I started listening to Yngwie Malmsteen, then Chopin, Vivaldi, Paganini.... And I got hooked. Alot of people just havent been exposed to it much or to enough styles of classical music. I like the romantic period alot more than baroque. I know alot more people would like it with shorter arrangments. I like the style of opera but I cant sit thru the whole thing. Only about 10 minutes. And I always like the short 3rd movement of a violin concerto the most. But I dont think classical could ever die.

September 22, 2010 at 07:05 AM ·

to answer that, I'd say for my country, Indonesia it is quite correct,

if you play Violin here, most of the teenager considered it quite  "weird" (though they admitted it is a "wow" cool instrument), 

people here are very fond of guitar and percussion, playing it for pop genres or traditional dangdut music,

most teenagers here, considered violin as a pure classical music of which they mostly think it is a classical genre instrument ( in my opinion, it is quite correct though),  a music that do not suit "youngsters" pop music syle ( about 50 percent of the population here are teenagers),  a music that is "too high", a music that is too oldish, a music for the elderlies, etc, etc.

that's for violin.


Piano classical ?

the apple does not fall far, most people here who have achieved a considerable ABRSM grade, let say 8,

turned their direction to Jazz, although they have been trained classically, , most of them agreed that Classical Music does not offer "economical opportunity" , compared to other genres, most pianist here are hired for playing either pop or Jazz music.

very,  very view dedicated themselves to Classic, (except for teaching puposes, of course)

no need to mentioned the violinist, of course you can guess i think,


but for my self i enjoy classical music very very very much,


i don't really go well with pop music (though some are exception), although i am just 19 y.o. , perhaps because my personality are mostly melancholic ,


my friend in malaysia says the same, people there don't really like classic either,

in Singapore.....classical is still a choice (as far as i know),


that's my view from South East Asia.

perhaps in other side of the world might be different.


just my two cents as a teen who likes to observe and analyze very much.


September 22, 2010 at 07:08 AM ·

 Again I reiterate that the term "classical" is being applied to what should rightfully be acknowledged as Western Fine Art Music before the mid 20th Century.  When we start exposing younger generations to the glory that is the VAST audible cultural heritage of the Western World they will grow up with it as we did and it will not die.  

Think of it this way.  We're currently relying on the baby boomers' appreciation of music.  They grew up with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Who, Whatever....if they can appreciate it then surely we are not doomed.  The popular music from the 60s and 70s is actually good (largely).  Most pop music nowadays is garbage in comparison.  Surely we can survive these lip-syncing, autotuned hacks.

The way we keep our art alive is by putting it out into the culture where it will be heard.  If you have kids, turn on music in the car, play it in your homes.  Passion is infectious.  Share it.

September 22, 2010 at 08:52 AM ·

I believe it is so. Look at what's happening now to the younger generation. Instead of appreciating Bach, they would run to Lady GaGa. It leaves me the question of: what are they going to get from that kind of music? Nothing. 

Living in a city where classical music almost exists behind the walls of the affluent is very frustrating. It is becoming a recluse genre of music, an artifact of the bygone days.

I admire the people who take a stand to educate the masses about classical music. There is a violinist in my country who travel to far flung places to play for the indigenous people, exposing them to music they have never heard before. Imagine a Bach partita being played far away from civilization. Divine.


September 22, 2010 at 01:00 PM ·

The classical orchestral scene

Will survive like the American Dream

Cheap sweatshop production

Will insure small tots induction

To music not obscene that spawns virtuosi supreme




September 22, 2010 at 01:21 PM ·

I dont believe there is anything you can do to "make" people like a certain type of music. trends in music constantly change.  Blues,rock, country and bluegrass all had large followings and then faded, but theyre not dead. Concerts are expensive and times are hard right now but people are still listening at home, I know I am.

Classical may have to take a seat in the back with other fading genre's and rely on those who truly love it to keep the flame burning.

September 22, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

Who was it who wrote that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American Public? I suspect that the same is true of any public in any country, and always has been. Many clever people manage to convince enough of us that what is the newest and latest in "whatever" will sweep aside all that came before. This is not necessarily something that's good for the public, but rather something that will make a few individuals rich. So we spend our hours in stultifying time sinks such as Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which seeks to convince us that there's nothing so important that it can't be said too much in 40 words or less.

Go to a classical concert? Sit through an entire opera?? Play an instrument that doesn't require massive amplification??? Listen to music in full fidelity???? Aarrgh! Soooo Yesterday!!! The gusting winds of fad and foible will ever blow, but it has actually been much worse than this at times.

The period following the Baroque, basically the lifetime of J. S. Bach, is famous for the wholesale abandonment of honored musical styles. In my field, it is the time that the violin family was incomprehensibly reduced to practically two instruments, the violin and the cello. One only need recall that the copper plates engraved with Bach's "Art of the Fugue" were sold for scrap by his heirs because no one wanted to buy them.

I think if classical music can survive that, it can survive almost anything, but to do so it has to reinvent itself periodically. Our love of the history and tradition of classical music and classical instruments actually makes this very hard for us to do, but there must be a way to do it.

September 22, 2010 at 04:17 PM ·

Involve kids!

Take your kids to concerts, recitals, and always make it a 'want to' event instead of a 'have to' event. Make it part of something bigger, like a picnic or meal, etc.

Don't make it a day where you are shoving them at everything you want them to like; make certain their preferences are part of the day. Otherwise, they will group it all into 'things I love to hate', and you will alienate them from the whole list at one time!

September 22, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

It's not dying -- but the traditional delivery industry for it isn't doing so well.  Don't forget though, that the economy is in the absolute toilet, and the arts are the first thing to suffer when people are eating beans and franks.

Also, go to YouTube and search on "bach cello suite."  You will be shocked at the number of kids playing this on electric guitars and basses.  I've found rock redos of the Bach double, and one kid doing a gorgeous bass line to the Badinerie on an electric bass.  Then, there's the million and a half kids playing the Canon in D as a rock piece.

It's not dying -- as long as people are playing it, the music isn't dying.  The Victorian/Edwardian era delivery mechanisms may not be as healthy, but the music is fine.

September 22, 2010 at 04:48 PM ·

There is potential for classical music to rebound. The traditional classical instruments that are imported from China are very good and relatively inexpensive compared to  few decades ago, when they were only available at expensive specialty shops. The internet has made buying easier and more affordable.  

I agree with others' comments here, lack of exposure is an issue. I recently fowarded a youtube link of the Heifetz video playing Wieniawski Scherzo & Tarentelle to a coworker who shared it with his teenage son, and he was absolutely amazed. You can say it raised his awareness of what is possible, and has a new appreciation for an old art form.

I grew up with local New York City radio stations, and some very good classical programming. Today, there is actually far more choices when considering internet radio. If anything, there is too much to to choose from. Both the good and the bad flood the ethernet. Many average, uninspiring perfromances everywhere, but a few gems that can have a genuinely profound effect on musical awareness.

I recommend fowarding these online classical music sources to our friends and relatives-- not all at once, but send one  brief video or sound clip of an exceptional performance to someone who is not familiar with the classical genre.  Here is a good start:

or maybe this one:


Don't push them, just send them the link and ask them what they think. Nothing more, no one wants to feel pressured. Maybe...just maybe the interest in classical will come back. Its worth a try.

September 22, 2010 at 05:04 PM ·

Classical music has been labelled dead, dying, or terminally ill for literally decades. And everybody has something to say about the death.

Being in western Wisconsin I read the Minnesota Orchestra's blog, Inside the Classics, a lot, and they discuss this issue quite a bit. The more I read their blog, the more convinced I am that classical music is not dead or dying or terminally ill. If anything, it is evolving. Go to their October 17, 2008 blog where they feature a graph of life expectancy and average audience age. Both track upward at exactly the same rate. Nobody knows quite where classical music is going, but it's changing. And although it's easy to mourn, say, the loss of classical music stations, or educated reviewers, or general classical music literacy, there are also many more regional and youth orchestras than ever, and great writers popping up online, and dynamic, popular new series of lecture-concerts at many American orchestras. This is anecdotal, but in my town of 60,000, which is not renowned for its classical music scene by any means, we support a full-size symphony, a chamber orchestra, a university symphony, a youth symphony, and an adult-beginner string orchestra. There's no way we could have done that thirty years ago. Clearly as a community we've taken some steps forward. So it's definitely not all bad news.

September 22, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·

Two comments I'd like to zero in on -- they sum up my feelings on the matter:

"Classical music is not dying ….   What is really dying is the related tradition."

"The way we keep our art alive is by putting it out into the culture where it will be heard."

One trend I hope to see more of is that the performers will go where the audiences are.  I'm not talking about only the paid professionals and major symphony orchestras and international soloists, either.  If my pianist and guitarist friends and I could find the time to play informally together in some live public venues, I would gladly give the time -- free; I'm sure they would, too.  Although the demands on my time and theirs preclude this right now, I have an open mind for it when the time is right -- and the appetite for it.

Then, too, there are other avenues, thanks to technology.  Regarding our recent discussions about uploading our own audio files -- well, these have really started me thinking outside the box.  Once I can take time to set up and record -- although I can't right now -- I plan to add a separate new non-commercial page to my own Web site with the links.  I've already come up with about nine things I'd like to record -- possibly more.  Potential customers have been finding me online since 1997; I'm sure this is an addition some of them would like -- those who have the time and inclination.  No decision yet on musocity -- still mulling over that one.

I see this as just one small step, one small part I can play, to put the music where audiences can reach it.  I won't get paid for it -- but so what?  I'm doing it for the love of it.

See also Laurie's 8-6-2010 thread.

September 22, 2010 at 05:34 PM ·

i think, from the question and the garnered responses that the question addresses two concerns:

1- performance of western classical music repertoire, spanning from say early church music, palestrina, byrd...etc...all the way to modern music such as philip glass, john cage, avro part, and before them, perhaps more progressively atonal serialism..etc. yeah, there is no reason to fear for the culture of performance, lots of musicians, venues and all that.

2- the evolution of western so called classical music. i think thats the more interesting concern especially with the global advent of harmonically simplistic rythmically redundant pop music that is, in terms of what the classical language of music can offer, severely regressive. so it seems like the world of "classical music" is a bit of a sonic musuem or archive library...even more seroius composers, in such a climate, would be encouraged to utilize an existing musical syntax so as to create something marketable. i would say that such genres as jazz and what is know as "world music", namely the discovery and evolution of local ethnic vernaculars within the global paradigm of technology, recording and opportunism (for instance the opportunity to jam with musicians from other cultures to create fusion world music ..which might be utterly bland or not, case specific)...such music might be pushing the boundaries but what is known as "western classical music" i think has reached a stage of atrophy; we primarily refer to it in terms of, and as creative as these are on their own terms,  performance  and interpretation i.e recreation of their historicity.

September 22, 2010 at 06:32 PM ·

Melodius music!  I suspect you could attract a kid to classical music more easilly with the Mendelshon or Vivaldi than with Bartok...  (just examples)  Perhaps non musicians in general, not just kids...

Just my two cents...



September 22, 2010 at 07:08 PM ·

I actually think that some non-classical people actually click with Bartok more than melodic composers. I've read somewhere - and I can't remember where - that one particular performer, during an outreach concert, was surprised to see that young students were much more engaged with Bartok than with the more subdued melodic repertoire. Rachel Barton Pine often plays Paganini on rock stations, for instance - and Paganini probably wouldn't be the first composer to come to mind when you're thinking of composers to use to introduce people to classical music. But many rock musicians love it and can hear a real relationship between Paganini and what they do. It all depends on the audience.

September 22, 2010 at 10:33 PM ·


When I talk about classical music, people seem to feel like they can't relate.

But if I put it on without saying a thing--my students will dance to it and my adult friends will hum along....

September 22, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

I agree with Paganini (people like the acrobatic...). Perhaps Bartok is a bad example, sorry!  But I don't know any non musician around me who would like to listen better to something less melodious than something melodius.  Something melodius can also sound solid: Brahms Concerto per example.  A rocker would maybe like Brahms concerto too then ; ) 

But perhaps, as you said, it all depends on the audience! 


September 22, 2010 at 11:53 PM ·

We can't approach this as if we're bringing trousers and bibles to the ignorant natives, here.  There is a huge attitude of "my sh*t is stuff but your stuff is sh*t" that is highly problematic.  If you regard your audience's other favorite forms of music with utter contempt, then you regard the audience with utter contempt, and people will not pay to be looked down on.  Period.

Classical music survives if people play it, however they want.  That's what it means for it to be public domain -- it's everyone's sandbox.  Regarding one's audience with total condescension (“not worth my time”) and then expecting that same audience to regard you or your heroes with rapt awe is just not realistic.  If you despise the rest of what composes your audience's lives, then don't expect them to like you in return.

We just can't keep pushing this attitude of, "Look at that bunch of ill-mannered, stupid, uneducated morons who aren’t worth my time ... why don't they like us?"  That question answers itself.  Stop thinking that the job of classical music is to lift everyone else up to your elevated level.  You cannot try to lift someone up to your level without regarding them as beneath you.

Like Kathryn said, people can relate to the MUSIC when it's just that.  What they can't relate to is someone playing it for them and then saying, "See?  Isn't that better than the rest of the worthless trash you waste your life on, you illiterate Philistine?"

September 23, 2010 at 03:38 AM ·

Janis I agree!!! And when I was talking about a rocker, in my post, I didn't say this as pejorative. I just said that people as rockers (I like rock myself), would perhaps enjoy something that's "solid" like some things of Brahms of whaterver fits in this definition.

A classical musician is someone who works hard for his art and worth as much as any other one who works hard in his art and things!   I really see this as: someone can get initiate to classical but also initiate to rock, to jazz etc  Both parties can learn from both! 


September 23, 2010 at 04:16 AM ·

Janis, I agree, too.

At my high school in Michigan, I played lead violin for the spring musical show my senior year.  This is one of my favorite memories.  The following spring, during my first year as a violin major, the music director asked me if I could come back and help out my alma mater by playing lead violin for that year's show, too.  I accepted.

If you asked me to name the kind of ensemble playing I've enjoyed most, this is it.  I loved being with these kids -- so unpretentious, so un-stuffy.  We just bonded well, making music together and enjoying each other's company.

I was generally among the first to get to rehearsals and start tuning up and playing -- till all forces were ready.  I'd go over old material -- Mazas, Kreutzer, Corelli, Beethoven.   I would get comments from cast members like, "I don't know what you're playing, but I like it."

I was there to do a job, not ram anything down their throats.  My approach: Keep playing.  Be yourself.  Play what grabs you, what rings true to you, and it will probably grab at least some of the listeners.

September 23, 2010 at 08:32 AM ·

As long as the heavy metal freaks don't split my eardrums they can do what they like, and I can also tune my radio to another station where Haydn can make me switch it off.

September 23, 2010 at 01:42 PM ·

as of this morning, blockbuster is trading at about 5 to 6 cents per share and netflex is trading over 115 dollars per share.  years ago in college, i remember we used to rent from blockbuster.  i have yet to try netflex,  but i suppose some of you have.  in a way, by renting from netflex, you have helped to put blockbuster out of business:)

similarly, by playing acoustic classical violin, you have helped to make baroque playing less prominent and prevalent.  in a way, you have helped the trend of deviating from the violin tradition.   you use synthetic strings, you use violin accessories, ah...traitors! :)

my point?  get used to this evolutionary pressure in case your beloved current day playing style is threatened. 

i don't think classical violin is dying.  some people will always find it attractive whether it is in baroque style or current style or future style.   but its absolute and relative popularity is dropping in the current society.

since the advent of the electronic music making, acoustic classical violin has trended differently,  downward.  further, perhaps di allen can help with a historical perspective, kids 100 years ago had fewer choices when choosing a music instrument to learn or when choosing a music genre to focus on.  classical music was the popular music.  back then, it was classical vs folk music and everyone respected classical as the main stay.  imagine these days a hollywood studio would remake a flick where heifetz would play himself in the movie (titled: they shall have electronic music). 

currently, kids are bombarded with music or noises from all over.  i asked my kid this morning: do your friends in school listen to classical music?  she said yes, but only to relax (hmm, wonder why they are so wired up in the first place).  they think pop music are fun but they do listen to classical music to relax.  (my kid goes to a school where i suspect many families are very well educated).  i don't think her feedback is the norm.  to look at the american society as a whole, i bet 99% of families do not play classical music at home deliberately.  the closest they get is perhaps movie sound tracks, once in a while.

but, don't worry. the spirit of the classical music will always live on.  there will always be wise parents who would see the light 1000 miles away that classical music training is great for our kids.   i don't need to be popular, neither do my kids.  charity starts at home and we do what we can with our own kids. besides,  i think learning classical music along with my kid has been one of the most wonderful activities in the house.  it really rocks!

September 23, 2010 at 06:52 PM ·

to look at the American society as a whole, i bet 99% of families do not play classical music at home deliberately.  the closest they get is perhaps movie sound tracks, once in a while.

My circle of friends & acquaintances are rather diverse and quite a motley crew at that. Very few have classical music going on at home or in the vehicle. Most only listen to classical music of whatever it is their child is learning at school.

In his book, "Traveling Music" Neil Peart of the Canadian Progressive Rock/Metal band took a sojourn from California to Texas and back listening to an incredibly diverse genre of music Cd's recalling his childhood up to today and the music that influenced him. Among his all time favorites are the Big Band Era, Jazz, Woody Guthrie, Rock n Roll, etc., even classical music. Frank Sinatra's live recording of him at the Sands is among his all time favorite albums.  His love for such diversity, as he says, came from his family gathering around the phonograph listening to a diverse genre and music was playing during meal time!

Like reading music appreciation should be a goal for a parent to instill in their children and to make listening (even making) a part of the family setting. it should include classical music, music throughout the ages especially music that is a part of the family heritage.

September 23, 2010 at 07:50 PM ·

 Classical music can not die because it is of spirit.

September 23, 2010 at 08:03 PM ·

Just checked my local pulse: sold out symphony concert this Saturday, I've got more violin students than I've ever had, and my own recital is lined up for December, featuring the three B's.  Here where I live, you have to take on a bit of a frontier spirit when it comes to nurturing classical music in the community.  If you don't set out to make it happen, it may or may not happen.  As long as we actively seek to play classical music and find places to play for people, people will come.  Maybe it's different in other towns.  Quite frankly, there's not a whole lot else to do around here.

September 23, 2010 at 08:51 PM ·

"Like Kathryn said, people can relate to the MUSIC when it's just that.  What they can't relate to is someone playing it for them and then saying, "See?  Isn't that better than the rest of the worthless trash you waste your life on, you illiterate Philistine?""

I understand what you're saying but at the same time I think that's way exaggerated. I have never known a classical musician who had an attitude remotely like that, especially in the younger generation, where styles are cross-pollinating like crazy. And every classical musician I know listens to and loves and respects other genres of music. Just as there shouldn't be stereotypes of the uneducated unwashed masses, there also shouldn't be stereotypes of stuffy snobby classical musicians who say stuff like "illiterate Philistines." I think we can all agree on that.

September 23, 2010 at 09:15 PM ·

 I don't think it's dying!  Certainly not here in western MA.  I run a small mandolin chamber group.  We play mostly Mozart, Ravel, Bach, Vivaldi and other chamber works.  It is quite a lot of fun.

September 24, 2010 at 03:04 PM ·

 @ Emily Liz - Well said.

September 24, 2010 at 03:38 PM ·

 Regarding Gaga and Bach- i happen to have both on my ipod.  More Bach than Gaga for sure, and even the recent Vitamin String Quartet album covering her songs.  I like both and appreciate them both for what they are.  

September 24, 2010 at 08:39 PM ·

DION: "As long as the heavy metal freaks don't split my eardrums they can do what they like …."

EMILY L.: "… in the younger generation … styles are cross-pollinating like crazy.  And every classical musician I know listens to and loves and respects other genres of music."

Both comments resonate with me.  I like a lot of genres -- three that come right to mind are country, pop oldies, and Big Bands.

The music I'm hearing on satellite radio at the gym these days ranges from classic rock and oldies to contemporary -- quite a variety.  I like most of it -- some of it is really catchy.  And the trend at gyms these days seems to be: DON'T PUMP UP THE RADIO VOLUME -- although I still have earplugs ready, just in case.  A good musical background, like a good spotter, can make a good workout even better.  But I emphasize that little word background.

I lived in Boston during the 1990s and into mid-2001.  This was when Oldies 103 still gave a fair chunk of airtime to hits from the 1950s.  This is music I really go for.  The request line would be jammed for hours on Sunday evenings -- I could never get through then.  Most of the callers during those hours, it seems, had been teenagers in the 1950s -- and here I was, like the little kid trying to crash the party.

Whatever the genre, as long as even one person likes and remembers the music, it hasn't died.  For sure, the traditional delivery methods -- like the concert hall and recital hall -- don't have the near-monopoly they once did.  My philosophy on classical playing: Just be yourself.  Keep finding new ways to go where the audiences are.  Play what grabs you and touches your soul.  It will rub off.

September 24, 2010 at 08:54 PM ·

I wonder if exposure isn't the key.  Personally, it wasn't until the last few years or so that I started to develop an appreciation for, and a love of classical music.  I heard it growing up, played it learning piano and absolutely hated it.  Jump ahead fifteen years and my music includes a variety of genres including classical music (and a few artists that would make your ears bleed).  But the early exposure was crucial...even though I didn't like it at the time, later when I was looking for it, it was there.  I guess what I'm trying to say is to expose young people to it, and then give them time to grow into it.

September 25, 2010 at 12:13 AM ·

 I think another way of stating this question would be to ask, "Is classical music still a living tradition?"  I would recommend reading the writings of Heinrich Schenker in order to get a perspective on what the tradition has been like in times past.

I especially found the remarks in the second example to be pertinent to today's situation.  One cannot judge the health of classical music without historical perspective.


September 25, 2010 at 01:33 AM ·

 As regards the second part of the question about what we can do to prevent classical music from dying, I would say that we must "own" the tradition.  Here are three texts that I cannot recommend highly enough in helping one to work toward that goal:

Don't allow the title of this last work put you off.  It deals with much much more than merely the technique of playing a keyboard instrument.

Live with these books.  

September 25, 2010 at 12:35 PM ·

no problem with diverse music interests, only problem with current vocal "music"  with lyrics that is embarassing to listen to:)

September 25, 2010 at 03:28 PM ·

Concur with what is posted regarding lyrics!

September 27, 2010 at 06:47 AM ·

Even as far back as the Doobie Bros. "What a Fool Believes", the meaning of some of the lyrics escaped me. "As he rises to her apology anybody else would surely know he's watching her go"  hmmm.....but perhaps the music is what mattered most.

As for classical music dying, just take a look at El Sistema and its graduates like Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra- this was surely a shot in the arm for classical music and these young talented players sound just amazing playing classical music with unbridled passion and heart.

September 27, 2010 at 01:06 PM ·

Interesting topic!

If it is dying then the only reason is because nobody cares to introduce classical music to those other than musicians who are already interested. The only reason I like classical now is pure luck.

Before the incident (Luck) , I thought classical music is in the world of boredom and that serious and even amateur classical players were... (hard to describe) .. living a life full of boring and necessary music theory, history and with the obligation to play their instrument. It all just made me attach the attribute/title "Royalty / From a royal family" to every musician that played anything besides piano and guitar.

I dont know why but before I started loving classic and the violin, it just seemed as it is impossible to become a musician. I thought it was only available to those "special" kinds of people.

I know it sounds like rubbish to those of musical families and to those who already forgot what it feels like to be a non-musician, but honestly -- everybody who listens to lady Gaga, Justin etc, and think classical is a boring collection of random notes will think of a musician as a No-Lifer < Similar to those of gamers (But since it's 21 century, you see so called computer no-lifers too much to think that they live in a different world)

ps: I listen to all kinds of genres myself and no longer think that for a little than a year


September 27, 2010 at 02:39 PM ·

It seems to me that even as far back as when I was a kid Classical music was always given a back seat among the genres.

September 27, 2010 at 03:20 PM ·

It occurred to me that one reason for the decline in classical music in the US, which I'll categorize as being more or less evident in the age and number of people who attend classical symphony concerts, is the decline of the American middle class. As far as I can tell in history, when nations rise in prosperity they also rise in achievements in all the arts, and this seems to happen when there is a rise in the middle class. It's this class where audiences come from, so it is an essential key to the continuation of the arts. From the information available today, we're seeing the rich get richer and the poor get poorer

Changing cultural tastes have always driven classical and popular music, and the same is true today. On top of that we live in a time of rapidly changing electronic technology that leads to a kind of mass consumption we haven't seen before, one that is dumbed down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Today's younger crowd does not want to sit through a four-hour opera, which opera was the response of its day to the absence of big-screen TVs, video games, organized sports and the like, and they don't seem to care about the marvelous fidelity that technology has provided. They won't spend $25 on a single high-definition classical CD, but they will spend 99 cents apiece for 25 digital downloads of pop tunes and sometimes, much to my amazement, single movements of larger classical works. Their mp3 players are crammed with literally thousands of songs, so many that no one can possibly have time to listen to all of them more than once. But they are low-fi, cheap, and disposable (one crash wipes them all out), so no one cares.

El Sistema is a phenomenon that seems to make some interesting steps to address the relevancy of the arts. Basically, it begins by bringing in children who would probably be overlooked in this country as a fertile source for classical talent. It takes from a strata of society that doesn't have a huge amount of distracting entertainment and fills the void with violins. The government in effect becomes the middle class that provides the wherewithal to get this program functioning. No one is considered odd or unusual for playing the violin; it becomes odd and unusual if you're *not* playing. What a great idea! The benefits to that country will remain for generations.

I think we have some old lessons to relearn.

September 27, 2010 at 04:07 PM ·

I think there is a lot of truth in what you're saying Robert, but I do want to play devil's advocate for a minute...

"Their mp3 players are crammed with literally thousands of songs, so many that no one can possibly have time to listen to all of them more than once. But they are low-fi, cheap, and disposable (one crash wipes them all out), so no one cares." No, I disagree. If not being able to listen to everything regularly is an issue, why not criticize those who have hundreds of CDs, and yet don't listen to all of them regularly? I have hundreds of hours of music on my hard drive, accumulated from various sources over the last ten years (many recorded off the radio). Do I listen to all of the tracks? Well, no, but there is definitely a core of the repertoire that I do listen to frequently and that I'm very familiar with. And I would definitely care if they all disappeared. Most of them cost money, or are irreplacable as they are live concerts recorded from Internet broadcasts. That's why they are backed up three times in my instance. So I don't know that it's tremendously wise to make a generalization about those who have a lot of digital media. Most of today's young players have a large digital music collection that they care deeply about and that clearly hasn't stopped them from being really intelligent and discriminating musicians.

September 27, 2010 at 04:45 PM ·

When I talk to people about classical music, they end up thinking I'm a snob... and hey, it's the forfather to alot of great music. But if we don't appreciate other forms using our instrumental techniques it will die.

Think about it this way. Classical music is like the father that wants his child to follow in his footsteps, but all he's doing is pushing his child further and further away the more he tries to only push his view and not try to really understand what his kid is doing. If you're parent you know what I'm talking about. GOSH MOM, just let me do it! We have to show them that we're hip and cool and still haven't kicked the bucket, maybe playing some jazz violin or thrashing out to rock, so they can see that it's possible. And then once they think that's cool, say you know what's really cool... Paganini was the rock star of his day (proceeds to play caprice no.5 or no 24 insanely fast... they'll think you're a rock star.

September 27, 2010 at 05:16 PM ·

still, there is adifference between performing classical music and composing classical music (accepting that the 'classical' genre subsumes early church music, renaissance, baroque, classical, romatic, atonal, minimalist..etc). it is a different thing to say the survival of classical music performance (which seems to me the real topic here...although the topic addresses classical music survival , a more genral term i would understand)  from classical music composition. it is almost as classical has become a synonym for music that has been composed and finished and not much can be done to add to it. there are the exceptions, but they are so few (avro part, john tavener, philip glass, reich, nyman, adams,  tan dun..etc) compared to the huge pop and rock market.

but please excuse me for saying this, and i have nothing against gaga or pop music...but sometimes, people who have a good musical education should not be worried about confronting that a mass of this music, and not all of it, is just crap. the mass of mysoginist lyrics, hysterical buy-me-buy-me commercialism, redundant beats and simplistic melodies...etc.

i am not talking about snobbery, just relevance of critical opinions by educated people. of course, at the end, to each his own and we can all live side by side and do out own thing. but at least, people with a broad understanding of music should not undermine and compromise  their own ability to be critical out of fear that they will be lampooned as being snobs. this proves that this is an inferiority complex of a minority then, not a superiority complex of an elite. just be honest. i don't like gaga, there is better classical AND pop music...and yes appreciation of music is subjective, but not enough so that music gets eclipsed by totally non musical elements like bling bling and ding dong and what not.

September 27, 2010 at 05:19 PM ·

     Music can and has been also equated along with fasion (other Aesthetic Forms) and that dwelling too much on that which is antiquated hinders progress and I/We must keep moving forward. Also that one Era was a reaction to the previous and so on. It's cool to spend a week end at a renaissance fair but not live it 24x7, 365 (though I have friends that do!) this is the 21st century.

     It's also not just clasical music but aboriginal cultural ways are dying also. The Classical Culture of Indigenous Peoples....including their arts. Yet a culture, like a tree, loses it's roots it can surely die!

September 27, 2010 at 06:09 PM ·

it was said that classical music is suffering the decline of the middle class. in fact, i think the opposite is true. there has never been  more of a middle class, or more potent an understanding of middle class, in the history of the world more than now (yes, there are era-specific fluctuations, but this IS the era of the middle class) seems even rich people like the queen of england have now to pretend to be middle class sometimes in order not to seem to be an anomaly - princess diana was the invasion of royalty and upper class insolation by the middle class, Madonna is as famous as queen Elizabeth. etc. the monaco royalty are equivalent to posh spice in terms of celebrity.

so maybe classical music has suffered the particular ascendancy of the middle class and not its decline.

September 27, 2010 at 06:42 PM ·

 Traditional folk music, though, is remarkably stable over the centuries.  Irish and English instrumental folk music, for example,  run the gamut from the 17th century (or earlier) to the present day, and it might need an expert in the genre to spot that an attractive folk tune apparently from the 18th century was in fact composed only a few years ago.   Most other countries and cultures can tell similar stories about their folk music.

September 27, 2010 at 10:17 PM ·


 I am a new visitor on this website and I think it is very interesting to read your thoughts and analysis.

  It is possible to keep classical music alive. Perhaps we have to start thinking in new ways?

Many years ago I observed that audience was decreasing in concerthalls. This was during the 1970s. At the same time we got a lot of musicvideoes containing popmusic but not classical music. I am a videoproducer. I started to produce musicvideo containing classical music 5 years ago, and it was amazing to see how many visitors I got on YouTube:  . There is a lot of young people among the visitors. May be this is one way to do it?  What do you think? Go to my website,, and look at the page:"Infochannel".  What do you think? Perhaps the concerthalls are dying? To day you can have your own concerthall home by your self with a big flatscreen showing a concert in High Resolution quality. You also have the possibility to join a concert live on internet. The combination of picture and sound by making musicvideos is very interesting and probebly this is one way to get people interested in classical music?


September 28, 2010 at 12:03 AM ·

Robert true... we have too many distractions... ; )

Some of the best musicians, athletes, writers etc etc came out of places where they had not much to do except music... Not much tv, computers or school obligations to get highly educated in a non musical field.  When people don't have much to start with and have an opportunity to do a sport or art because the government sponsors enrolment in these in the hope of making a few national stars in these fields, the people don't loose anything if they try.  If these people could hinder their situation badly by taking up music seriously, I'm not sure if they would take the risk or not... 

Perhaps, in America (or similar countries) people have it in their mind that learning a classical instrument (or just getting interested in classical music) is useless (for $$$ and benefits).  Think about it, most people won't ever make a penny out of it and will pay for lessons, concerts etc.  In places like El Sistema, I suppose there is something more attracting for them in playing or listening classical music i. e. having an opportunity to have a better live (compare with what they had before playing).  Just as in the ex URSS... Music was cultural and fantastic but most of all, it was a way to improve your life and that of all your family if you were lucky ennough to have the talent to make it.  Famous musicians even pushed their kids in music (kids were sometimes relucrant to these attempts...) because they though it was the best way to make sure they'll have a good life later on. When something is associated with the possibility of having a better life, it's very attracting to give it a try... 

Maybe I'm wrong but people here don't "need" music as much as in places like El Sistema.  Except true music lovers, people won't enroll in something that won't give them a huge benifit or improve their live + that they'll have to pay for.  Perhaps this is a reason, with all the others mentionned on this thread why Classical music seems to be dying...




September 28, 2010 at 12:38 AM ·

 Classical music is "dying" for the same reason that Christianity --- which gave birth to Classical Music, BTW -- is "dying." There is "no need" for a sense of awe and wonder in a world in which Scientism, Darwinian and Marxian determinism have "solved" all problems of existence. But have they? The current financial crisis, the first of many  (US government finances are worse than those of Greece, it's just that the govt. isn't reporting the numbers honestly) just may shake the secular-hedonists view that they can dispense with that which speaks to the unknowable, including Classical Music. When the secularist view of man-as-god collapses, serious music will be among the last refuges. Arrogant politicians and rulers come and go. Beethoven and Shostakovich will last forever.

September 28, 2010 at 01:16 AM ·

Touche, Emily Liz. If I were the devil, I'd hire you as my advocate. :-)

Unfortunately, you got me thinking. :-( After I read your post, I went to my music library and counted the number of rock, jazz, and non-classical CDs I own. The number was 103, but I'll round it to 100 because there are a few duplicates in the collection. Now, assuming somewhere between 8 and 12 tracks on each CD, I own approximately ten hundred songs. Do I listen to all of them? No. Ever? Never! That's because to get the two or three songs I liked on each CD, I had buy seven or eight I didn't like. Here's the advantage of the digital track-at-a-time model. You only pay for and download the music you like.

More misfortune, though. It seems there is a vast number of people who are downloading and not paying. One person might buy the track for a dollar and then "share" his collection with a dozen of his friends, who, caught up in the spirit of generosity, each share it in turn with ten of their friends. While I don't want to tar everyone with the same brush, the rapid decline in the sales of CDs and the growing number of lawsuits filed by the music industry to stop the practice (might better try to stop a rising tide) are pretty strong evidence.

I still maintain that the vast number of downloaded songs cannot possibly be listened to, at least not in the sense of listening that I know. I think the difference is the scale. The size of my collection is a laugh these days when song capacities on some of the players are numbered not in the hundreds, but the tens of thousands. One might have earbuds on and the music playing, but if one is jogging, shopping in the supermarket, or whatever, there's no way to give that music the attention it would get if one were sitting in a concert hall or alone in one's room and actually paying attention. To me, earbudding mp3s is the new elevator music, only technology makes it possibly to be perpetually in your own elevator.

September 28, 2010 at 12:29 PM ·

As I'm reading all these responses, I'm thinking about the 1950's, when I was a teenager. That was the great golden age of the mania over the new rock music. I never cared for it. I didn't dislike it; it just didn't do as much for me as did classical music. But there was then the same question about the death of classical music.

Compared to the 1950's, classical music is certainly not dead. In terms of violinists, it seems to me that there are more really great violinists today than there have ever been. They may not be as individual as the greats were then, but today there's a wonderful violin performance you can find from almost anywhere by someone you've never heard of before.

And classical music is more integrated into our society - in movies, TV, commercials, Broadway shows, popular music, and (yes) rock. The Schuberts of yesterday are the pop composers of today.

No, I think classical music is in pretty good shape.

 However, what is not in good shape - what is in danger of becoming extinct - is the presence of a classical composer who is a true giant. Gone are composers at the exalted level of a Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Barber, Prokofiev.

Today, they all seem intent on being clever, original, and (above all) modern. The minute a genuine melody or great harmonic progression rears it's head, they run away from it. I hear so much contemporary music that starts to sound like it's going somewhere, and then - zap! - the composer says, "Oh, no, I can't do that. It's too traditional, or too romantic, or too much like Brahms." If I was a composer, I'd be fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams to write something that sounded even a little like Brahms.

And speaking of Brahms, there is that famous story about someone who came up to him and told him that the great, soaring theme in the last movement of the 1st Symphony was similar to Beethoven's Ode To Joy theme. Brahms replied, "Any fool can see that."

When Bartok's Violin Concerto (#2) was first played, one critic said that it would never replace the Brahms or Beethoven concertos. Bartok said, "Who would want to replace the Beethoven Concerto. If they had said it [Bartok's Concerto] was just as good, that would have been all right."

Where is the music that is "just as good" today? There's nothing wrong with the traditional classical music masterpieces - they will live forever. But where are the transcendent masterpieces of today? Where are the true visionary composers, the creators of music that truly gets into your blood rather than just into your ears and your intellect?


September 28, 2010 at 02:40 PM ·

Oh, Sander! You are soo-oo right! If you have not done so already, I urge you and the others here to find a copy of Henry Pleasants' book "The Agony of Modern Music." It was a very controversial book when it was published about fifty(!) years ago, and despite its dated information it remains a very well-written read. It will have you laughing and crying at the same time. The book is available in paperback from many used booksellers on the web. I think I paid a dollar for my copy.

As a luthier and the founder of an orchestra of New Family Violins, I am usually in touch with composers because I am always looking for those who might be excited about writing for a new string ensemble. I find that many are quite capable, but they view themselves as having to glean from among the musical scraps left by the great composers of the past. "It's all been done before," is a phrase I've heard frequently. I take exception to that, but I find that this has been the prevailing philosophy up until now. It really seems both a shame and a great misfortune to contemplate that there are no new musical realms to explore (Pleasants goes into this at length in his book).

My wife once remarked that the 18th century had the best violin makers, the 19th century had the best composers, and the 20th century had the best performers. She is hoping that here in the 21st century we can somehow put all those pieces together and look forward to a few new masterpieces. I'm hoping, too, but still waiting . . .

September 28, 2010 at 04:21 PM ·

Robert: In turn, thank you so much for your response. I read that book decades ago, but given your comments, it's certainly worth finding and re-reading. And, if you can find it, there is a wonderful book of anecdotes about Sir Thomas Beecham that came out in the late 1970's (I think). It's called "Beecham Stories." I've got an old copy at home somewhere. I think you'd love it; there are many examples of his criticisms of a wide range of composers. But there are many comments about performers. Example, a soprano who kept coming in late with her aria after the bass sings his death aria, said to Beecham, "It's not my fault. He dies too soon." Beecham replied, "My dear, no opera singer ever dies too soon."
:) Sandy

September 28, 2010 at 08:15 PM ·

This is a book I have to find and read!

Great Composers: Did they duck into the Musicals then the movies?

What about composers such as Rochberg, Pinkham, Higdon? Is it not so that there were composers that were not so respected in their day but years after their death they were and still are hailed as genius?

September 28, 2010 at 10:09 PM ·

Sandy (and others! :-)) let me not fail to mention another book: Slonimsky's "Lexicon of Musical Invective." It is filled with vitriol and rage against players, composers, and conductors without prejudice. It contains reviews of some really great works going back to Beethoven's time and before. A veritable textbook on the art of shooting oneself in the foot. Never has hate been so funny and in some cases so poorly applied. It will leave you limp.

September 29, 2010 at 03:16 AM ·

Regarding classical composers of our time, there are few truly great composers now, but Arvo Part certainly must be one of them. Yes, he borrows counterpoint and harmony from the past, but his music is most definitely of our time, yet full of profound wisdom. Consider the author Michel de Montaigne borrowing from his past too. There is a place in history for those who breathe new life into old ideas.

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