Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Classical Decadence

Greg Sandow has an on-going discussion on his site about the future of classical music. One of the things he is constantly stressing is that classical performers have to think creatively about their careers; they have to be more entrepreneurial. Here is a recent post with a great letter from a conductor taking just this approach.

I was just watching a documentary on ancient Sparta which ended with the comment that what ultimately caused the fall of Sparta was its inability to adapt its social structure to changing circumstance. We classical musicians might ponder this as well. Like the ancient Spartans, faced with challenges, we are tempted to hold even more firmly to the old ways of doing things--right to the bitter end! Here is an article on the Colorado Symphony that illustrates the kinds of problems that are faced by long-established institutions.

I have often been critical of some of the aesthetic results we might be driven to from time to time. I am reluctant to 'save' Mozart by subjecting him to a disco beat. But it is very clear that things like business models and union rules have to be re-thought from the ground up. Greg deserves a lot of praise for working hard on thinking through these kinds of problems.

I keep to the view that we have to stay in touch with the fundamental aesthetic principles as well, though. I really don't think that the problems with classical music are inherent in the music itself. True, most audiences will continue to be hesitant to accept the more experimental kinds of music, but that has always been true. What also remains true is that at the end of the day, aesthetic quality is what should build audiences over the long term. After all, classical music can be very exciting indeed:

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