Audiences flock to 'difficult' contemporary classical music

February 3, 2012 at 01:23 AM · Apparently "contemporary classical" is getting big audiences, see the guardian article:

wonder what this means for violinist? more work? more migraines? ...

Replies (6)

February 3, 2012 at 06:45 AM · "contemporary classical" is such an oxymoronic mouthful as a label, but anyway we seem to be stuck with it as such for the moment, unless there's a movement to abbreviate it e.g. con-class, etc....

February 8, 2012 at 03:22 PM · I don't like the label contemporary classical either, not my choice of words, that was the title of the article, does anyone actually like it?

February 8, 2012 at 06:25 PM · New music is often "difficult". Shostakovitch almost lost his life because a symphony was considered "not appropriate" by the authorities. Stravinski's Rite of Spring was boo-ed and people walked out of its premiere performance. Auer refused to play one of Tshaikovsky's concertos because it was "un-playable". Some people 'get it' when new pieces are performed, and some people take 20 or 50 years to understand.

Cheaper, electronic distribution of music has allowed composers to reach a larger number of people who enjoy new music, hence larger audiences. This is good for music, good for musicians, and good for audiences that enjoy new music. If you don't, then don't go, but don't whine either.

February 9, 2012 at 09:56 AM · New music is often "difficult"....

Are you sure that it's not the audience who is "difficult" ?

I remember seeing a documentary where Stravinsky was talking about the Rite premiere, "these ignorant people" he said, sounded like they were rather..well, difficult. Of course at the end of the day they made a lot of noise, were anonymous unlike Stravinsky so he gets stuck with the "difficult" label.

I suppose my point might be that what is necessarily difficult about something that hasn't been heard before?

February 9, 2012 at 04:54 PM · Nigel,

It comes down to a combination of both. The key idea is pattern recognition. Mostly, our brains love pattern recognition - its so much easier. We actually have separate parts of the brain devoted only to pattern recognition. When new music (or images, or food, or people, or whatever) appear, our brains have to work harder. Some people like that, some don't. So its both the new music and the person, when the audio signal hits the "haven't heard this before" pattern neuron.

February 13, 2012 at 06:20 PM · Interesting stuff Mike, but with terms such as "mostly" and "some people" it poses even more questions. Are we a divided race, the automatons and the free-thinkers? For the moment it seems that the automatons would be a vast majority.

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