Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Greg Sandow reports back from what sounds like a great conference at DePauw University, and says this:
For three days, everyone seemed to agree that classical music, as we know it today, has run its course. That's heady stuff for any music school. I'm sure some people disagreed, but the presentations -- including a lively one by composer Erich Stem, who runs a new-music record label at Indiana University -- all kept saying this.
That's a bit different from "the sky is falling!classical music is dying," eh?

Still, I think he is probably overstating the case. I await the kinds of changes that would signal that "classical music, as we know it today, has run its course." I'd really like to see Greg define that, of course!


Henry Holland said...

I'm sorry, but I think Greg Sandow's bleatings are lame. L.a.m.e. Lame-ass, so lame that lame is going to have to be re-defined.

First off, he's fatally compromised by making money from telling classical musical institutions how to navigate the 21st century. I know you like him, but I see "conflict of interest" all over what he writes.

Then he keeps nattering on about how "the sky is falling" --you had it right the first time, of course!-- but he's got no empirical proof for that. It was hilarious to see a couple of studies about a year ago that concert attendance is up, ticket revenue is up *in general* across the board in the US etc. Of course, because of government subsidy, Europe and Asia is a different matter (sorry for excluding other geographical locations, I've not seen any analysis of their situations) in terms of the dicussion of their health.

The vibe I get so often is this: "OMG! OMG! 22 year-olds aren't going to Thursday night subscription concerts at the New York Philharmonic (another pet peeve: the discussion is overwhelmingly East Coast, even Manhattan, biased), the industry is collapsing!".

There's an ageist bias shot through so many of their arguments. I'm 48 now, not on Social Security yet, but too old to be a hipster, and the way me and my contemporaries patronage is discounted because of an accident of birth is insulting.

As to the link, so classical students improvise. Big deal! When is that ever going to be applied outside of small group works in small spaces? That's about as revelatory as saying "OMG! a jazz player can read a complex written-out score".

He bleats about a new music concert of a Messiaen piece (written in 1941), a Piazzolla piece (written in the 60's I think, I couldn't find any concrete info after a few minutes of Googling) and a Part piece (from 1978). *THAT'S* new music, pieces that are 66, 40ish and 29 years old? What the heck? There's totally a bias against the European post-war avant-garde and their followers in the whole American discussion of "new music". So many of the ideas that get Sandow and his ilk excited are simply not translatable to anything but small ensembles. I wait for one of them to explain how a full-on symphony orchestra of, say, 80 players, is going to perform outside of the usual concert hall scenario.

I'm biased, I don't give a fig about chamber music or small ensemble works (I'm of the "If it's good enough for 80 players, why not score the piece for a 110" school), but it's hilarious to read the breathless commentary when Matt Haimovitz plays Bach in a dive bar, as if that's even remotely transferable to bigger groups.

The only part I agree with is in general outline is that programming needs to be a lot more inventive than overture > concerto > intermission > big symphony.

I'm so bored with this whole "death of classical music" thing. Sure, there's issues and challenges, as there always has been, but the idea that people sitting in specific-built halls listening to the music of the period of roughly Bach to Brahms is going to end within even our grandkids lifetimes is absurd.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is delicious. Can I put it up as its own blog posting? I agree with almost everything you say - I love chamber music. ;-)

rootlesscosmo said...

Sandow's vague claim is unassailable, not because it captures the truth, but because it doesn't actually mean much. Everything, as we know it today, has run its course. Time marches on. Ho hum.