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Author Topic: The death of classical music  (Read 20325 times)

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Larry Rinkel

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #180 on: June 06, 2007, 06:04:13 PM »
Classical music is dead (or nearly so) because of the dearth of popular, living composers. There is no popular element in what modern composers produce, and they have virtually no desire to please popular sentiment. Indeed, these are qualifications necessary for them to ever be considered "serious" in the first place. Ultimately the problem lies with the artistic deadend the genre has reached and with the composers. The neglect is fully earned.

Here's the fundemental problem: The fact that the genre we know as classical music is entirely sustained by past masterpieces. Until living composers--through their music--inspire the classical audiences to place the same faith in the modern output as they do in the classics--we will always be lamenting the Death of Classical Music.

This is along my line of thinking, but with a significant difference, in that I am not willing to put the entire blame for our present impasse on composers. A composer is under no obligation to please his or her audience; in fact throughout history the composers who have survived have been the most demanding and original voices, those who most followed their inner ears and imagination (Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, the later Verdi, Debussy, Stravinsky, etc.). Eventually through repeated exposure, the idioms of these composers have become familiar to audiences and absorbed. But composers who write primarily to please (such as Cimarosa, Paisiello, Meyerbeer, Adam, etc.) eventually are forgotten or played far less because there's less substance in their work to sustain repeated listening.

Several events occurred simultaneously in the early 20th century that have led to the current impasse: for one, the musical idiom, primarily as developed by Schoenberg and his followers, and later by composers such as Boulez and Stockhausen, became more complex and forbidding than ever at precisely the same time that a canon of accepted works was falling into place. At the same time, largely due to the phonograph, composers from the past became more available than ever to listeners, often in multiple excellent performances of the same work. As a result, music has turned into a museum, where each listener can experience his own selection of masterpieces at the flick of a button, and if he doesn't like Carter or Ligeti, he can put on Tosca or the Ring.

There is another, in my view undesirable, offshoot of the easy availability of recordings, and that is the decline in amateur music making. Households 100+ years ago generally owned a piano, and at least one member of the family played. Symphonic works were learned not from recordings but from playing 4-hand arrangements. By contrast the music consumer of today experiences music in a more passive way, and is less familiar with the materials of the musical language. This situation needs to be rectified as much as the crisis between composers and listeners.

I don't blame audiences for not accepting the more advanced music any more than I blame composers for composing it. But this particular impasse remains, and turns inside out the older norm of a musical culture that (as in popular music today) had been sustained primarily throughout history by new creations. To that degree, there definitely is a problem, but it's not one that can be solved by composers writing "what the audience wants" - as any composer with a strong, original voice runs the risk of not being accepted immediately.

But at the same time, I'm not convinced that classical music is "dead," whatever that means. Most likely in fact there are more people throughout the world who take an interest in classical music than ever before. (Any performance of the Eroica in New York or London will be experienced by hundreds, maybe thousands of people, any of whom can buy as many recordings of this work as they want. When Beethoven premiered the work around 1805, only a couple of dozen aristocrats heard the symphony in a nobleman's palace.) For example, the spread of recordings has led to greater interest in Western classical music in parts of Asia - apparently not so much in India, but probably most of all in the major cities of China and Japan. There are upward and downward trends here and there, just as in the stock market, but overall the likelihood is that classical music is more available to and more listened by more people than ever. Opera, for example, is doing quite well, certainly better than ballet, though on the other hand neither classical music nor ballet is approaching the current popularity of art museums - where one is not chained down to a seat and can walk around, concentrating on the paintings one most likes.

But there's a certain satisfaction arising from the self-pitying complaint that "classical music is dead or dying"; one feels at once a member of a beleaguered minority and a member of a chosen elite.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 03:49:08 AM by Larry Rinkel »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #181 on: June 07, 2007, 02:02:57 AM »
What was so wrong about chatting during the spoken parts? In fact, its a perfect time to discuss what they just heard!

What's wrong is that it is pure bad manners. Personally I can't stand it when people chat during a film, let alone a concert on an opera. The occasional whispered comment to one's partner might be ok, but some people behave as if they were at home watching tv. These days, when I want to see a film, I wait til it's popularity has died down and go to an afternoon performance which is likely to be less well attended.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 02:10:51 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Mozart

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #182 on: June 07, 2007, 03:14:01 AM »
What's wrong is that it is pure bad manners. Personally I can't stand it when people chat during a film, let alone a concert on an opera. The occasional whispered comment to one's partner might be ok, but some people behave as if they were at home watching tv. These days, when I want to see a film, I wait til it's popularity has died down and go to an afternoon performance which is likely to be less well attended.
A film and a theater piece are way different! Go see a movie in Mexico, people will have cell phone conversations at full volume in always packed theaters and not give a crap. But during spoken parts after an aria in a theater? A whisper to the person next to you? You should know the story to an opera before attending... Yet the same person will applause after the first part of Carmen's overture. I find that much more rude.

karlhenning

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #183 on: June 07, 2007, 03:49:19 AM »
Classical music is dead (or nearly so) because of the dearth of popular, living composers. There is no popular element in what modern composers produce, and they have virtually no desire to please popular sentiment. Indeed, these are qualifications necessary for them to ever be considered "serious" in the first place. Ultimately the problem lies with the artistic deadend the genre has reached and with the composers. The neglect is fully earned.

You never use a finer grade of brush, I take it?

Scriptavolant

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #184 on: June 07, 2007, 03:56:02 AM »
There is no popular element in what modern composers produce, and they have virtually no desire to please popular sentiment.
 

What a piece of luck!

karlhenning

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #185 on: June 07, 2007, 04:09:35 AM »
Might one argue that classical music is alive and well ... in the form of film scores?

One might try  8)

There is good stuff that goes on in many a soundtrack;  I just find that [ great stand-alone music ] is quite a small subset of [ good soundtrackage ]

Two of the broader issues are:

1.  Large musical structure is not (cannot be) the concern of most film-composers, for most films;  what matters is the structure of the film, and the music is sonic dressing.  On the one hand, that is not the "fault" of the film composers, it is simply the turf;  on the other, since that is the pitch where the film-composers do all (or far the greater part) of their playing, environment becomes artistic destiny . . . .

2.  Not exactly the equal-but-opposite thing, though a 'corollary flipside' if you like:  since the music 'belongs' to the film, in many (by no means all) cases the listener's affection for the music is 'entangled' with the visual/dramatic experience of the film.  People of my acquaintance who have not seen the films under advisement, have either been at Symphony for, or listened to a radio broadcast of, a Pops concert which featured a "suite" of music from this or that film, and without that referential peg to which to attach the music, the latter struck them as singular characterless and impoverished.  Obviously, this is not the case of all music written for film (I'd listened to Shostakovich's music for Hamlet many times before seeing Kozintsev's film in its entirety, e.g.)

One illustration, from recent repeat viewing:  Dances with Wolves.  We had seen enough of this broadcast on cable, to much like the movie, and for me to consider that I should like to see the full 'director's cut' without commercial breaks extending the viewing experience into infinity.

The music for the movie is very fine, serves the movie with excellence.  The movie itself creates a wonderful long arc;  I think it's four hours very well rewarded.

John Barry's music is not an epic creation of its own;  it is basically five or six 16- or 32-measure 'songlets', each of them lovely and well shaped, and of a character which serves the movie wonderfully . . . but it's not a symphony.  One could argue whether the Vaughan Williams Seventh is 'really' a symphony, but at least, there is actually "a symphony's worth" of material.

Mind you, it is not John Barry's "fault" that he 'doesn't compare' with Vaughan Williams on this head;  Barry did exactly what his task demanded of him, and he did it with excellence (some of the material seems a little 'thin' for the orchestration, but it's a small orchestra, anyway).

But if that sort of task means 'classical music is still alive', then it strikes me as a kind of hospice . . . .

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #186 on: June 07, 2007, 12:15:53 PM »
A film and a theater piece are way different! Go see a movie in Mexico, people will have cell phone conversations at full volume in always packed theaters and not give a crap. But during spoken parts after an aria in a theater? A whisper to the person next to you? You should know the story to an opera before attending... Yet the same person will applause after the first part of Carmen's overture. I find that much more rude.

Sorry, but you have completely lost me. In one post, you seem to be suggesting that it is ok to speak during the spoken parts after an aria and in the above post, are agreeing that it is not. Personally I don't think it is ok, as I thought I'd suggested with my anaology of the cinema. In fact, I'd prefer it if the audience could keep their mouths shut while anything is happening on stage, or on the screen. Thanks for the waring about Mexico. I won't be going to see any films there.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 12:17:41 PM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Mozart

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #187 on: June 07, 2007, 01:29:27 PM »
Sorry, but you have completely lost me. In one post, you seem to be suggesting that it is ok to speak during the spoken parts after an aria and in the above post, are agreeing that it is not. Personally I don't think it is ok, as I thought I'd suggested with my anaology of the cinema. In fact, I'd prefer it if the audience could keep their mouths shut while anything is happening on stage, or on the screen. Thanks for the waring about Mexico. I won't be going to see any films there.

Well I was trying to say, when watching a movie silence is more important than at a live theater during the dialogged parts.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #188 on: June 07, 2007, 01:34:32 PM »
Well I was trying to say, when watching a movie silence is more important than at a live theater during the dialogged parts.

Whereas I still think it unforgiveable.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #189 on: June 08, 2007, 09:56:02 AM »
As a coda to this whole discussion, and an illustration of what I was talking about, I happened to be watching the 6.30 London news this evening - an item about the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall. Whom did they find to interview about the refit, and the improvement, if any, to the notoriously dead Festival Hall acoustics? Well not Sir Simon Rattle, or any other conductor, nor even an instrumentalist; someone as popular, and populist, as Nigel Kennedy, for instance. No. They interviewed a somewhat nonplussed Jarvis Cocker, who, to his credit, confessed that it made little difference to rock musicans, but that, as far as he knew, classical musicians were happier with the results.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Florestan

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #190 on: June 08, 2007, 10:47:29 AM »
As a coda to this whole discussion, and an illustration of what I was talking about, I happened to be watching the 6.30 London news this evening - an item about the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall. Whom did they find to interview about the refit, and the improvement, if any, to the notoriously dead Festival Hall acoustics? Well not Sir Simon Rattle, or any other conductor, nor even an instrumentalist; someone as popular, and populist, as Nigel Kennedy, for instance. No. They interviewed a somewhat nonplussed Jarvis Cocker, who, to his credit, confessed that it made little difference to rock musicans, but that, as far as he knew, classical musicians were happier with the results.

Quod erat demonstrandum.
Music expresses that which cannot be said and upon which it is impossible to remain silent.” --- Victor Hugo

Offline matticus

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #191 on: June 08, 2007, 11:19:57 AM »
There is no popular element in what modern composers produce, and they have virtually no desire to please popular sentiment.

Do you not actually listen to contemporary music, or read interviews with its composers? It's practically de rigeur to quote pop styles and assert how important it is to please the public if you want any high-profile performances these days, particularly in the US.

karlhenning

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #192 on: June 08, 2007, 11:21:32 AM »
Lisa needs spectacles

Steve

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #193 on: June 08, 2007, 11:42:46 AM »
Whereas I still think it unforgiveable.

It's important to differentiate, though, between a casual whispered comment, and an entire spoken conversation. The fomer can be tolerable, provided that it is brief. Carrying a spoken coversation at normal volume at any point in an opera would be insufferable.

karlhenning

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #194 on: June 08, 2007, 11:43:33 AM »
Depends on the opera, surely?  0:)

Offline matticus

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #195 on: June 08, 2007, 11:44:26 AM »
Quote from: Grant Cooper
I have been building, perhaps too patiently for some tastes, a case for our audience that, just because they have not heard of a composer, it does not mean to say that they cannot enjoy the music.

Honestly, why would anyone even bother 'saving' classical music if it were for people with this kind of mentality.

Can anyone really believe that Shostakovich and Mahler, and HIP, represent 'risky' programming to any kind of 21st century audience? Is this not merely a desperate attempt to rationalise the worst unartistic laziness, conservatism and stagnation?

I'm not trying to put the blame on Grant Cooper, whoever he is, I just find it gobsmacking that he's so craven he can write a two page article without ever discussing what the actual problem is -- which seems to be that the WVSO far is more interested in funding a 'prestigious' performance space than providing its listeners with a full range of music (imagine how much variety $8 million could buy you!). In other words, the financial pressures he's under are largely unrelated to artistic concerns. This seems so natural to him all he can do is blather about how "Music is sound, and if one invests in music, then one invests in sound."

Offline matticus

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #196 on: June 08, 2007, 11:44:53 AM »
Lisa needs spectacles

And hearing aids perhaps

karlhenning

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #197 on: June 08, 2007, 11:45:22 AM »
Carrying a spoken coversation at normal volume at any point in an opera would be insufferable.

There was the character in Wilde's book, who adored Wagner, because one could carry on a spoken conversation at normal volume without disturbing anyone else . . . .

Offline matticus

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #198 on: June 08, 2007, 11:53:36 AM »
Also, having glanced over the WVSO website, I can't help noticing that Cooper doesn't seem to have any aversion to performing contemporary music when it's written by... himself.

Steve

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Re: The death of classical music
« Reply #199 on: June 08, 2007, 11:55:08 AM »
Depends on the opera, surely?  0:)

I would say so. Interrupt Zauberflote, during one of the many exchanges, and won't get a peep out of me; interrupt
a Verdi opera, and prepare to meet fury!  ;D

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