Why do people say they can't regularly listen to concerts?

March 17, 2011 at 01:15 AM ·

I've had many people tell me that they recently went to a Symphony Concert and had a great time, but they couldn't sit and listen to that sort of music on a regular basis.  Why do you think that is?  Is Classical Music becoming a dying art?

---Ann Marie

Replies (21)

March 17, 2011 at 06:10 AM ·

The words that stood out to me in your post were that "they couldn't sit and listen to that sort of music on a regular basis."

I wonder if they actually could listen more if they didn't have to sit and listen.  I listen to this music day after day, but I can't sit and listen, either.  My schedule keeps me from doing so.  Still, I get a lot out of the music as it plays while I'm cleaning, being the chef, sorting old paper records.

Even before preschool, I was listening to this kind of music at home, thanks to my parents' sound system.  My parents didn't ram the music down my throat.  I liked it and sought it out.  By contrast, my big brother, a good trumpet player and ragtime piano whiz, showed little or no interest in classical music.  Same home life, same upbringing -- but different musical tastes.

I don't think classical music is a dying art, but the traditional delivery methods -- e.g., concert hall and recital room -- have plenty of competition these days: community concerts, CDs, radio, satellite, You Tube, synthesizers.

Then, too, a lot of live performances go on at night; and I am, oh, so NOT a night person.

March 17, 2011 at 08:06 AM ·

Most people are now entertained/addicted to hotter forms of media than symphony concerts.

March 17, 2011 at 10:59 AM ·

I'd like to see more concert halls experiment with allowing the audience to drink and eat in the hall during the performance.   I recently went to a concert where it appeared that one was able to bring in drinks and icecreams and it was one of the most attentive and enthusiastic audiences I've observed at a classical concert for quite some time.  People really looked as if they were actually enjoying themselves!

As a musician, quite honestly the sound of clinking glasses and munching is no worse than the inevitable mobile phone...  and let's not forget that this was the normal mode of enjoying a concert for many, many years until we became so inhibited in our behaviour that listening to music had to be like sitting in a university library - quiet as mice.

March 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM ·

The Boston Pops has eating and drinking, with tables, etc. But I don't think having that everywhere all the time is something I'd like to see. But I think it's more of a matter of people who say that not being seriously interested in such music, even though they might like it once in a while. I could say the same thing about some styes of music.

Now as for me, i rarely attend concerts - especially violin concerts. If they're good, I'm jealous; if they're bad, I'm bored. ;-) (old saying!)

March 17, 2011 at 01:46 PM ·

Raphael, you too proud rooster lol...

I know you are most likely joking but for those who are not,

As an amateur who would have loved to be a pro, I would have every reason to be jealous!  But I see it in another way... When it's possible, I love to go to the most "top notch" events to learn the most top notch knowledge I can from the experience. : )     

I especially enjoy masterclasses and practicing at the music faculty... It can be incredibly positive if seen as in that way

The reason why I can't go often to symphony concerts is school, school and.... school : (

March 17, 2011 at 02:47 PM ·

The OP has posted a rhetorical q. Therefore this thread shall be deemed open. There is nothing off-topic.

Some people play bridge. Other people play strip poker. Some play both.

Same with music. Nothing to do with the state of classical music. I could ask the same question with respect to rap, or what is now popularly known as "hip-hop" even though it has nothing to do with gritty urban life anymore..."some people go to rap concerts and say they can't really take it for more than 10 minutes." Or with heavy metal, "I love listening to slipknot--for 30 seconds. I went to a concert, but I won't do it very often."

Does this mean that heavy metal and rap are dying?


March 17, 2011 at 02:48 PM ·

 >I've had many people tell me that they recently went to a Symphony Concert and had a great time, but they couldn't sit and listen to that sort of music on a regular basis.

I feel the same way about watching sports on TV. And for some people, that's their life, on the wknds and/or during playoff season.

Personal tastes. What brings a glad lurch into your heart. Poetry readings - that's another one that some ppl just really get into, and I'd get soooooo bored. Or do it once every few years and call it "charming but not my thing regularly." I, personally, savor my 6 subscription nights each symphony season - I so look forward to it and enjoy every minute of it. I'm a purist. I would HATE going to a concert where people were chomping or slurping drinks, and that sort of casual thing would surely invite a buzz of low conversation, to boot. The distractions would send me over the edge. That said, I believe it is a GREAT thing for a symphony hall to consider what must be done in the 21st century and have "casual night" or multi-media events in order to woo new blood. But I hope it would never take over the "real" symphony experience. That would creep me out.

As for "is classical music a dying art?" Of course it is! It's been dying for decades! Maybe one could even say centuries! And you know what? It will continue on in this state of arrested decay, most likely, because many of us will refuse to let it die further, at the same time the much of the world will refuse to consider it in comparison to today's digital entertainment options. I think we will be battling the same question 50 years from now, 100 years from now. I sure intend to do my part in arguing in its favor, tho!

March 17, 2011 at 02:50 PM ·

 >Some people play bridge. Other people play strip poker. Some play both.

I myself recommend strip bridge.  ; )

March 17, 2011 at 08:24 PM ·

da da da


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March 17, 2011 at 08:38 PM ·

I think classical music...to be fully appreciated...requires more background knowledge than does modern pop or other 'easier' music.  It takes a lot of time and effort to acquire that background knowledge.

I know if we're playing something obscure for our community orchestra performances, I look up the composer...buy a recording. etc.  For example, we're playing Goldmark's Rustic Wedding this spring.  No one I asked (casually) had heard of it.  I already appreciate it more now than I did the first time we looked at it.

My husband - not a classical music fan...but who doesn't mind coming to our concerts and going to the occasional 'other' concert, really enjoys when the conductor or another spokesperson does an introduction to the piece too...he can then settle back and listen with a greater feeling of enjoyment knowing a little bit of what he's listening to.


March 17, 2011 at 11:05 PM ·

"My husband - not a classical music fan...but who doesn't mind coming to our concerts and going to the occasional 'other' concert, really enjoys when the conductor or another spokesperson does an introduction to the piece too...he can then settle back and listen with a greater feeling of enjoyment knowing a little bit of what he's listening to."

When the situation supports it, I like talking to the audience to give them some idea about the piece, and to help them feel more connected to me and the music, and not intimidated or alienated at all.

March 18, 2011 at 01:27 PM ·

Enjoying classical music requires *ZERO* study and *ZERO* intellectual gymnastics.

Classical music is just as visceral as any popular music.

When I was a wee lad, and I heard Shubert's 8th, I was hooked. And the other side of that tape was Beethoven's 5th. Even more hooked.

To this day, I often have NO IDEA who composed what I am listening to. I ofrten get confused about when a composer was alive. I don't really give a #$#$# about the monikers "romantic" or "baroque" etc. Of course I can tell the period of music itself pretty well--but I get that messed up, too, sometimes. The other day I thought I was listening to Beethoven, but it turned out to be Mozart.


Like I said, some people like strip poker. :-)

March 18, 2011 at 01:52 PM ·

 don, it is like saying that if i enjoy driving a car, then i should learn more what is under the hood, or if i play violin, i should try to make a violin to fully appreciate the violin experience.

for some folks, that will work very well, but for others, like bill said, it is what it is.  just go with the flow and leave the beauty untouched.

to some, looking from a distance is the most beautiful experience.  to others, it is most satisfying to take it apart and put it back.

ps,,,what is a carbonator again? :)

March 18, 2011 at 02:39 PM ·

I agree...'some' people will react postively to classical music with no specific knowledge of it at all...but I imagine those people are a very small minority.  The majority of us do better with more background information.

I love the question (forgot who asked it, it's from an art history background):

"Do you know what you like, or do you like what you know?"


March 18, 2011 at 03:30 PM ·

If the majority required background information in order to enjoy classical music, then classical would be dead and gone already.

The idea that you have to take "music appreciation" in order to enjoy the sounds of Vivaldi, or Brahms, or even, say, Shostakovitch? The latter influenced every 20th century film score composer...


Every activity that I have been involved in that required "background information" to enjoy, is on life support. And I don't mean like you classical "snobs" will make out about classical music being on life support. I mean, practically gone, and there are *no* white knight rich benefactors....

How many ham radio operators do you see around today? How do you appreciate EME contacts? "Wow, I managed a short-skip sporadic E contact at 250 miles on 28 MHz!"  Exactly. You have no friggin' idea what I am talking about.

However if you put on a recording of Beethoven's 5th and say, "did you hear that power?!" You will get a "Yes!" No education required :-)

March 18, 2011 at 03:36 PM ·

Hihi Don!

de N3LPX

March 18, 2011 at 04:06 PM ·

I think there is an entirely different aspect of 'can't sit and listen.'

In the current times, people are multitasking to the point that anything that has the expectation of undivided attention is more daunting. People don't focus their attention for longer periods with regularity.
One approach may be to have shorter programs, but two adjacent ones (tickets for both become the entire evening program). I don't know if it has been tried, and it may be a bit of a challenge to work out, but it may be an idea.

March 18, 2011 at 04:47 PM ·

 but don, believe it not, to many people, classical music is indeed casual amusement/entertainment.  in fact, i wish more people think so and therefore they will come out to concerts more often.  perhaps a few will decide after the concert to look into further, about coming to another concert, about buying a cd, about reading more about the artists, about encouraging a nephew to pick up the violin in school,,,about getting one on ebay and trying it, about coming to v.com to ask questions:)  hey, why not?  isn't this how the world goes around with everyone doing something?

in fact, many patrons/donors are not necessarily sophisticated music lovers.  they may just want to dress up:):)

but that is better than they go out of their way to drive classical music out of the reach for everyone, right?

if classical music is a commodity, isn't the case where we try to increase the market share and reach as many folks as we can?  


March 18, 2011 at 05:02 PM ·

Frankly, I think the only reason classical music isn't dead and gone (based on what the majority listen to) is due to its use in movie and TV...

So listening to classical music in conjuntion with visual imagery still works for people.  Just sitting and listening to classical music for the sheer enjoyment of the music (without knowing a thing about it) doesn't...

March 18, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

If the melodic line is really beautiful and the player really soulful, everyone one will like it (classical background or not) imho

Per example: Vitali Chaconne, Mendelshon Concerto, Bach Double, Vivaldi Spring etc.


Background is maybe more important if the music is more modern, more dissonant, less easy to understand (ex: full of virtuosity but not a clear melodic line)  That is maybe just my impression? 

March 18, 2011 at 05:41 PM ·

 don,  i tend to agree with that line of thinking.  if a company has couple projects of large size and investment and if they are not doing well, they don't just sit at that size and try again.  they will probably try at a smaller size, until they figure out the trend.

so i think orchestra with a community root and lower overhead makes better sense.  in fact, it is so much easier to "drag" someone into a classical concert hall if she has a cousin's friend's uncle playing in it.  she probably does not mind driving 5 mins to pay 20 dollars for it if it is made clear that part of the proceed goes to some local y or charity.  so every concert has a theme that is community related.  

perhaps to raffle off a toaster to make it apparently cheesy:)  

nah, not toaster.  apple co product:)

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