I have been thinking about this issue and have concluded that the real cause is the cultural narcissism of our time (the title of this book). I am more tempted to call it "malignant narcissism". I'm sure we have all met people who have no interests outside themselves, who are obsessed with what they wear, what they eat, what amuses them and have a profound disinterest in anything that doesn't seem to concern them directly. They will stop at nothing, no amount of bullying, if they perceive their direct interests are threatened.
I think that in the past the proportion of society that was like this was smaller than it is now as a host of social trends, including things like the self-esteem movement, have encouraged more people to think this way. We don't run into them too often in classical music. In thirty years of teaching I can only think of a couple of students that really manifested it. Something about having to do technique in a disciplined way and practice Bach seems to short-circuit the narcissistic habit of mind. If you have any sensitivity at all, playing Bach seems the musical equivalent of entering a great cathedral: you just know this is a lot bigger than you are!
But now, as classical audiences seem to be diminishing, there is this feeling of crisis, that we simply have to get more bums in seats. If a big swath of society are malignant narcissists, unable to appreciate anything except on their terms, then we will just have to humble ourselves. Traditionally classical musicians, performers at least, had a stance of humility before the music, but now, under the current regime of widespread malignant narcissism, it is the music itself that must be behumbled! Nothing, nothing outside the individual can be allowed to be greater or more important than the individual.
The traditional respect for the music must now be interpreted as a kind of stale elitism and must be stamped out. If the price of this is the diminishing of the music itself, well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. I love this new kind of aesthetic fascism!
How does this behumbling (a parallel construction to the other fairly recent term "beclowning") work? Greg Sandow provides us with an example in this post titled "A performance for the present day". Here is the program:
[T[he two musicians brought a sense of such intimacy and spontaneity that a listener felt more a participant than a passive recipient. Each movement of Bach’s second partita, for instance, began as if it were a completely fresh idea that happened to have struck Kuusisto as he stood by the piano. Each progressed as if he were thinking his way through it, musing on what might come next.