Classical music future and promotion

October 9, 2019, 5:49 AM · After all discussions on ASM and a cell-phone, i want to suggest another topic:
What we should do now, that our kids ask for x-mass tickets to ASM concert instead of Justin Biber...

I do not mean a family level, i mean the social level. And under "we" i understand all the classical musicians, who wants live and earn enough from what they are doing. And under "our kids" i understand the generation who is right now kids and teens.

Replies (24)

Edited: October 9, 2019, 8:08 PM · Since I live in the US, I'll "speak for myself." My country needs to get serious about education. Right now education is the bastard child of every state's individual budget: They want as little to do with it as possible.

What I also see is that classical music tends to be enjoyed by those who do not stop learning once they've left college. These are the people you meet at parties with whom you can have an interesting conversation about almost anything. But there are a lot of people, the majority according to my own observations, who leave college (or high school) and they "get a job" and their tastes, proclivities, world views, and general intellectual development are immediately frozen. Among those I know, if I ask them what music they like, it's whatever decade of popular music corresponded to the time in their lives when they discovered music and had enough disposable income to buy it. What's interesting is that all of their other tastes -- food for example -- are frozen in time as well. The only thing they talk about at parties is either sports, what their kids are doing, or domestic banalities like their latest landscaping project.

One of the great promises of the University education is that it creates "life-long learners" who are inspired to grow intellectually throughout their lives by reading, embracing the arts, pushing the frontiers of their chosen disciplines, and so on. But that's not what people want. They want a job that earns enough so they can have a house, two children, a fleet of gas-guzzling vehicles, and disposable income for restaurants, sports tickets, resort vacations, and (of course) guns and ammo. The only time they listen to music at all is in the car. At home the TV is on 24/7 in every room of their 4-bedroom colonial, blasting out "Desperate Housewives" and "Fox and Friends."

What the OP is talking about is what people basically value. They have no problem giving thousands of dollars to their churches or spending $75 on a football ticket. Then you go to a free recital where a brilliant local cellist and pianist perform Shostakovich and there are mostly singles and fivers in the donation basket. Not sure how you change that in a country where there are more firearms than people. My high-school history teacher, Bill Dunn, said it best: "We live in a six-pack culture."

October 9, 2019, 8:22 AM · I want to gently suggest that this discussion not devolve into a discussion of class differences, which is to some degree what Paul's comments verge on.

People like what they are exposed to. The more complex a piece of music is, the more exposure is required for appreciation. There is more consumption of recorded classical music now, as a percentage of the population, than there ever has been in the past.

Arguably, "contemporary" classical composition thrives in the film score and video game score genres. People who have never heard a symphony can readily sing the themes to any number of John Williams movies (who doesn't know multiple themes from Star Wars? the opening title themes of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Jaws? Harry Potter? Superman? ET?). People who have never heard traditional chamber music will buy the scores to Jane Austen-based movies and the like that contain Classical-era pastiches.

One of my thriving local community orchestras is exclusively devoted to playing music from video game scores.

"Pops" concerts are popular for good reason. They tend to be more casual, they tolerate wiggly kids, they play music that people love and are familiar with, and they tend to have more accessible ticket prices.

My 3-year-old son loves Vanessa-Mae because her videos are cool. He loves bassist Edgar Meyer across the range of genres that Meyer plays. He likes the local community orchestra who has a kids area in front of their stage where they don't mind if kids get up and dance.

Edited: October 9, 2019, 9:46 AM · Lydia wrote, "I want to gently suggest that this discussion not devolve into a discussion of class differences, which is to some degree what Paul's comments verge on. People like what they are exposed to."

That's why I am suggesting that our educational system needs to focus more on arts, music, and culture so that people can have this exposure at a young age. American schools should focus less on relentless testing/accountability measures and less on academic hot-housing so that kids can have their first year of college done before they even get there.

And it's not really only a matter of class. I've met plenty of professionals who seem to have grown intellectually only within their own disciplines, partly because that's really all they think about. These are the people you will never see at a recital (unless their own kids are performing), even though they claim to be serious music-lovers.

So if I'm engaging in class warfare (which criticism I'll accept), then if anything my observation is that the college-educated class doesn't seem to be any more enlightened than the high-school-educated class, and finding that surprising and perhaps disappointing, because one starts to wonder what a university education is for. When the parking lots fill up with gas-guzzling pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs for every home football game, and you realize that many if not most of those folks are our own alumni, then you really wonder what they learned except how to make money doing this or that and how to drink beer out of a Solo cup. And they say universities brain-wash their students with liberal ideals -- I wish it were true!

Edited: October 9, 2019, 11:20 AM · My father was said to be a very good classical violinist (i mean at least relative to our nationality i suppose) until his early twenties where he quit all together after a huge quarrel with my grandmother. Pursuing his main profession never to play again...

So as you can tell; me and my elder brother grew up in a house where classical music was extremely influential. While we weren't bothered by it we weren't interested in it that much either. We had our own tastes, mainly new age along with the iconic bands and figures of the 80's.

Besides that, we were occasionally coming across or meeting elder people some of them even being our school teachers who knew my father. They were asking about him, telling us how they went to his performances and admired his playing. However interesting and flattering this may sound, it wasn't just enough to tick our interest.

As years went by, music as a whole went to a direction in which i was not really happy about.
At the same time my get to go genres, bands or artists were becoming obsolete, coming of age or outright retiring all together. As music always played an important part in my life, i really felt a gap to be filled at some point in my life.

Starving for content to my interest, i said to myself "So be it, if i am having trouble finding content i will make for myself". After that i started producing electronic music as a hobby along with self teaching music theory. It has been 15 years ever since with great improvement. Just for myself though...

It went on like this until my daughter's insistance on playing the violin. With it i was reintroduced with classical music again. This time discovering endless amount of possibilities to explore. It has been 5 years and I am still enjoying while knowing i didn't even scratch the surface of what is available...

So what is the point of this wall of text?

Even though i was exposed and i must say in a very attractive way at an early age; it took years of maturity as a person, years of experience and self teaching on composing music as a hobby, more so it took my daughter to be interested in a related instrument for me to rediscover classical music.

Of course experiences may differ from person to person. But still, i have to give credit to the phrase "Acquired taste". It has some weight to it.

Finally; at this day and age where we are experiencing a shift in the concept of pr and marketing becoming capable of creating demand not necessarily existing, anything is possible. But it is up to the decision makers controlling the places of power and influence. Unfortunately considering the recent and ongoing trends or decisions; nothing seems to be changing for classical music.

But i still sincerely believe that more people will discover classical music at one point in their life keeping it healty enough and alive.

October 9, 2019, 8:07 PM · +1 to Ali K's interesting and wise words.
October 9, 2019, 10:23 PM · I believe one of my earliest exposures to Western classical music was Vivaldi's Four Seasons in the James Bond film, A View to a Kill (1985).  Sections of the Autumn and Spring concertos form the soundtrack as the Bond character attends an exclusive party given by a wealthy industrialist at his French chateau.  I enjoyed the music that I heard for the first time but I also wonder if I felt there was a connection between Vivaldi's music and the displays of opulence and prestige on the screen, a relationship that Vivaldi had never perhaps intended but the filmmakers felt free to formulate.

On a side note, I also mention Vivaldi because I am starting to read "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do" by Claude Steele.

October 9, 2019, 11:39 PM · I don't think classical music has to be as hard a taste to acquire as it is. You don't have to start with the most complex stuff, and you don't have to know a lot to feel the music. There are plenty of pieces that are instantly attention-grabbing. For me classical music as an overall genre was not an acquired taste. The more complicated pieces may have been (certainly Brahms chamber music was an acquired taste for me), but classical radio took me from minimal exposure before age 12 to being hooked almost instantly.

The one thing I think has done the most damage, at least among my early-millennial circles, is the well-meaning marketing of "relaxing" selections that have become the stereotype of all classical music. And that becomes self-perpetuating, because the market gets biased toward compilations that fit that view. No wonder people start with the preconception that classical music is boring!

Edited: October 10, 2019, 4:19 AM · I think that one of the biggest obstacles to the promotion of classical music to younger people is the length of classical works.

Pop songs for the most part are less than 5 minutes long, which allows them to be repeated 100 times a day and drilled into your head, whereby the familiarity breeds appreciation.

The average violin concerto, on the other hand, is about 30 minutes, a symphony is easily 45, opera is longer and Wagner is ...forever! How to reconcile? Not easy.

October 10, 2019, 4:55 AM · I think there should be things purposefully written for kids/young people (concertos etc.) to get them into it. Introduce the bigger stuff later on
October 10, 2019, 5:24 AM · There's lots of short Baroque and early Classical music.

After that, there are still plenty of short pieces (and movements that can be played as stand-alone pieces) that are under 10 minutes, and even quite a few under 5 minutes. Wagner's Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin is one of the most exciting orchestral pieces in the repertoire and clocks in at 3 minutes. Ippolitov-Ivanov's Procession of the Sardar runs about 4 minutes. Glinka's Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, Bernstein's Overture to Candide, and Kabalevsky's Overture to Colas Breugnon all run between 4:30 and 5:00. Most of the Brahms Hungarian Dances and Dvorak Slavonic Dances are under 5 minutes in length.

Also, I wouldn't sell kids short. My impression is that they actually start out with longer attention spans when they're kindergarten-age, and most only get accustomed to the pace of pop songs when they're 10-12. One of my orchestras plays an annual Family Concert aimed at kids aged 3-12, where about half of the concert is short pieces and solo instrument demonstrations... and the parental feedback we've gotten says we can actually play long overtures or even short symphonies and hold the kids' attention. Last season we played William Grant Still's "Afro-American" Symphony (24 minutes) in full and it went over well.

October 10, 2019, 6:23 AM · Pop songs also have to be remixed and extended for dancing to.
October 11, 2019, 2:33 AM · I personally think that young people should start with earlier music (Telemann, Bach, Haydn, Mozart). Thats how I got into classical music. I think the structures are easier to follow if you know not a lot about classical
Edited: October 11, 2019, 2:48 AM · I actually disagree completely -- I think the common practice of starting new classical listeners on earlier music is exactly why it doesn't catch on. It's too restrained. You can hear the structure more easily, but structure isn't what immediately appeals to listeners. Consider what film scores are popular: it's the ones reminiscent of the late Romantic, not the Baroque/Classical style stuff that tends to be restricted to period films.

I got interested through late Romantic music when I was 12-13, and I didn't start to really appreciate the Baroque and Classical eras until I was an adult. (And even then, I'm not a huge fan of anything earlier than late Beethoven.)

October 11, 2019, 4:55 AM · I can understand your point, I just disagree :)
October 11, 2019, 7:37 AM · As a father of two ex teens my observation is that “kids” gravitate to performers as personalities and not so much to the quality of the pop songs they sing. With all the technology available now almost anyone can be made to sing on key. Classical music does not, to tween’s and teens, involve relatable personalities - someone who they can follow on social media and go to their concerts, see them on TV or YouTube etc. Also classical music concerts are too restrained and just not fun for most teens. The negative response by classical venues to iPhones recording at concerts does not help sell the product to teens. That said, I think recording on an iPhone at a concert is just plain rude to those around you.

Classical music to become popular to the new generation needs to exalt the personalities of the performers and not the artistic quality of the classical music they play. But be careful of what you wish for - the changes necessary to attract the new generation of kids as an audience would probably be abhorrent to the current classical music fans.

October 11, 2019, 8:43 AM · Don't they mostly do that already? Joshua Bell has gotten the rock-star treatment for most of his life.
October 11, 2019, 9:18 AM · At a social level, I think the best way is through school education to make music into a serious subject accessible to all.
October 11, 2019, 3:08 PM · Lydia I agree,Bell gets “Rock star” treatment to those already well versed in classical music but nobody knew who he was when he played in the transit station on that famous video from a few years ago. Had that been Justin Bieber he would have been mobbed.

I guess an example of how to get the young into classical venues would be Lindsay Sterling as the main attraction fronted by a famous orchestra. She could probably sell out the house many times and attract a younger audience but at what cost to regulars.

As for accessibility of classical music, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon music and many other gives one free access (or nearly so) to the genre if one wants it. But not many in the younger generation want to listen to it. One supports what one likes - usually!. Nobody here is crying over the decreasing receptiveness by the younger set over other musical styles such as Jazz or Bluegrass.

October 11, 2019, 3:51 PM · Countries in Asia like Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, are loving classical music more and more. I send many violas to Asia now, and many violin makers are doing the same, it is a huge market.
October 11, 2019, 5:30 PM · I live in Massachusetts area and there are a lot of classical concerts. Instrument makers and dealers seem to be doing well here.
October 11, 2019, 9:50 PM · @Paul

“One of the great promises of the University education is that it creates "life-long learners" who are inspired to grow intellectually throughout their lives by reading, embracing the arts, pushing the frontiers of their chosen disciplines, and so on. But that's not what people want.“

Well said. Pathetic.

October 11, 2019, 9:50 PM · @Paul

“One of the great promises of the University education is that it creates "life-long learners" who are inspired to grow intellectually throughout their lives by reading, embracing the arts, pushing the frontiers of their chosen disciplines, and so on. But that's not what people want.“

Well said. Pathetic.

October 17, 2019, 4:17 PM · Maybe it's time for another revival of Disney's Fantasia (plus Fantasia 2000, which is pretty good too). I was raised on it, and it's hard to imagine someone not loving Tchaikovsky after that sort of exposure.

As for myself, I got into pop music in the '60s and '70s to the exclusion of just about everything else (although I always suspected that someday I'd get seriously into classical music). In the late '80s, I lost interest in where pop music was going. My wife-to-be turned me on to CBC radio 2, and sure enough my interest turned to classical music. At the time I found baroque music rather dry - it wasn't until I started playing violin with friends and got know Corelli pieces from the inside out that I came to truly appreciate it. For sheer passion, though, it's hard to beat the romantic period if you're trying to get someone hooked.

Musically, I now care much less about what happened in the past 5 years than what happened in the 500 years before.

October 26, 2019, 12:27 AM · " I think that one of the biggest obstacles to the promotion of classical music to younger people is the length of classical works."

I'd generalize that further to the difficulty of classical works, which is both deliberate and evolutionary, having grown over time to be more so. We should recognize the fact that it is difficult, and intentionally so, and correspondingly difficult to understand and appreciate. And that it takes practice and learning to deal with such difficulty, which is why such music is more often appreciated by those who have made an effort towards it, whether by playing themselves, or in a manner as suggested in this thread of self-education based on a presumption or belief that it is worthwhile.

So my answer to the OP's question would be that if you wish to preserve classical music, or have kids appreciate it more, teach it, or encourage and enable the young and old to learn it. Don't expect it to be as easy to appreciate as three-chord repetitions or the like.

Another distinction with popular music is with words. Of course plenty of classical music has words, but much of that is not in an accessible language, or even accessible in content, therefore also needs additional effort or learning to appreciate.

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