Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Alleged Death of Classical Music

Please comment on the decline of Classical music listeners in our society and what, if anything, can be done to reverse the trend.”  No, this is not the subject of an essay required for admission to a school of music.  It is a question posed on LinkedIn recently and discussed con spiritu online.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reported death of classical music has been greatly exaggerated.  

I got revved up on the subject and wrote the following.

Will people be playing and listening to Lady Gaga in 20 - 40 years from now? Many people love and listen to music by dead European musicians such as Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, and many, many more today, and people will continue listening to their music and loving it long after Lady Gaga and her ilk pass from the public eye and ear.

I agree with the music teachers who emphasized the importance of getting classical music to kids when they are young and impressionable. My parents listened to classical music around the house all the time when I was a kid. We didn't have much money, so the only live performances of classical music I heard during my childhood were sponsored by a local brewery. I think that live outreach concerts of classical music for people who would not hear it otherwise are very important.

Classical music does not need to be dumbed down for kids to understand it. I'm old enough to remember listening to and loving Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. I was excited when they were re-released on video and DVD, although I could not afford to buy them until just a few years ago. I still listen to them over and over, love them, and keep learning from them.

BTW, I love listening to and playing, when I can, music by the Beatles, Bill Monroe, the Tannahill Weavers, Ravi Shankar, and more. I play and teach classical and other styles of music, and I can attest that there is a surplus of prejudice on all sides.

Let's not forget that Lang Lang -- the great, young, Asian born and raised, master of classical music by dead European composers -- was first turned on to classical music by a Tom and Jerry cartoon with music by Liszt.

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