I am very troubled by misinformation, and when that misinformation is dissemination through lack of understanding and education, I feel it falls upon the public to correct that which is false. This is especially true when it appears in the form of a news-broadcast. Below are my responses to a TV-2 segment titled; "The Death of Classical Music?" which I felt warranted some comment. The critique is not meant as a detraction against those responsible for the broadcast, it is simply directed at the broadcast itself.
Classical music has had a steady decline in the past decade. Major record labels have gone from pumping out hundreds of records a year to a mere 2 dozen. TV-2 reporter Jeannette Reyes tells us what may be killing Classical music.
Like many things posted on the internet, this statement is presented as fact without citing any sources whatsoever. For the sake of discussion, however; let us assume that record companies are indeed cutting down on their proliferation of “classical” music CDs (the report makes no effort in defining what exactly “classical” music is). Did the writer even consider the numerous possibilities that might have contributed to this “fact?” For example; if we are discussing “classical” music in its broadest sense, we would usually say that it is western (predominantly European) art music produced between 1600 at its earliest to roughly 1940-1950 with the final abandonment of “tonality.” This represents a finite amount of material, if record companies were producing hundreds of albums a year, simple arithmetic will inform us that it wouldn’t take very long to have the entire cannon of material at the disposal of listeners everywhere. New interpretations are always welcome, however; I feel a cogent argument could be made against having 500-plus recordings of the Well Tempered Clavir. Another simple explanation is that all record companies, not just classical labels, have produced fewer and fewer albums. Part of this has to do with digital media being so prevalent making sites like YouTube a very popular refuge for classical music lovers, who want to see playing as well as simply hearing. It doesn’t seem as if any consideration went into the introduction of this at all.
Mozart, Chopin and Debussy have all long passed away. But their music did anything but. until [sic] now.
I’m not even sure where to start with this sentence. The horribly cliché and redundant intro aside, it is simply not true. The camera pans away to show the Alfred Masterwork editions of the aforementioned composers – I can tell you confidently, as an instructor of piano, that these books are selling just fine. I will not state so brazenly that music education in the United States is any place where it should be. I personally feel that the public schools should have music, dance, drama, and art at least every other day, or better yet, part of the core curriculum. But the fact that people so readily recognize the names of these individuals speaks to their enduring popularity. I would also like to interject that the audio heard during this intro is Beethoven and not Mozart, Chopin or Debussy.
Many musicians believe the glory days of classical music may soon be over. Music Professor Dr. Jerry Wong believes Classical music is having difficulty fitting into today's fast-pace lifestyle.
It is very common for musicians playing older styles of music to lament the changing times, this can be traced through music history as long as the record exists. During the days of Palestrina there were intense debate over the usurpation of counterpoint over the simpler chant forms, this culminated in the Council of Trent (where counterpoint was thankfully saved). Another example was the outcry against the early Baroque opera’s use of recitative, now a mainstay of formal opera. True, times are changing, but times have always been changing.
Orchestras are trying to catch up to the changing times to fill up empty concert halls but with 75 percent of the countrys [sic] top orchestras posting a deficit in 2002 it seems to be failing miserably.
It isn’t just orchestras that are failing miserably, many organizations, people and companies are struggling financially – I don’t understand why arts groups, and particularly orchestras are singled out. But what is more problematic; is again, the author seems to know nothing about the history of western classical music, and it’s a shame too. If she had some awareness to the way this music was originally funded she would understand that historically (with the exception of Romantic Italian opera) the attending public has never really been called upon to be the primary source of revenue. In its development, it was the obligation of the ruling princes or other aristocracy to see that composers and performers were funded. Even still, most city orchestras receive some state/government support as well as private donations. If there is less money in circulation, then it stands to reason there would be less tax revenue and also less liberal giving on the part of the wealthy elite.
SOME ORCHESTRAS HAVE SHORTENED THEIR PIECES AND INTRODUCED WHATS CALLED CLASSICAL LITE OR CASUAL CLASSICS FOR THOSE WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE GENRE. BUT MANY ORCHESTRAS REFUSE TO DO THIS AND MAYBE THEY DONT [sic] HAVE TO BECAUSE OF A PROGRAM HERE AT KENT STATE CALLED THE TEACHING INSTITUTE PROGRAM. WHICH MAKES YOUNG KIDS AWARE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC EARLY ON.
What a bizarre segue.
He believes the future of classical music may lie in our children.
This statement is completely erroneous. The future of everything related to our species lie in our children. Again, the writer has composed something that is superfluous and redundant, not to mention overly pedantic as it assumes profundity where none exists.
THE YOUNG KIDS AND GETTING MUSIC INTO THE SCHOOLS, GETTING THEM TO STUDY IT. BUT IF THE KIDS GET INTO THE MUSIC THEN IF THEY SEE A PIANO RECITAL THAT THEY MIGHT WANT TO GO AND CHECK OUT. YOU KNOW, IT GETS PEOPLE INTO THE CONCERT HALL. IT'S THE AWARENESS. UMM AND THAT'S HOW IT'S GOING TO SURVIVE.
As this is a quote, I won’t be too harsh in my critique. I will go so far as to say I am very pleased with Kent State’s commitment to exposing young people to western art music - however; what they ignore is an aspect of cultural relevance. European western classical music, as much as we Americans would like to think otherwise, is somewhat culturally removed from our society. It would be very difficult to engage children in understanding this music unless there were some reinforcement in the home or elsewhere. A silly notion to have, indeed, would be that simple exposure to Mozart, Debussy or Bach will institute a desire for life-long orchestral attendance, which is what the broadcast insinuates.
Either way, classical music must make the decision to either reinvent itself or face the grim reality of becoming a part of history.
Again, the ignorance of the writer to the history or developments of western classical music is staggering, which I suppose, could be some argument in and of itself for increased music education in public schools. Classical music has reinvented itself with every generation. This is why composers no longer write in ancient organum, using neumes. It is why the imperfect consonance came to be favored by the British and later the French leading finally to the revolution of harmony. It is why tonality was expanded to include dissonance as a descriptive element in music and finally, it is why tonality was abandoned all together. Modern composers draw from electronics, from distant cultures, from the distant past and an imagined future – they are always (the good ones, anyway) attempting to produce something new and of merit. I will also add, that everything which happened in the past is "a part of history" and therefore seems an odd way to say what I can only assume is supposed to imply; "without a future."
For TV-2 News, Im [sic] Jeannette Reyes
Although Classical music is losing its popularity in the states, it has become a popular genre in countries like China, India and Japan.
All in all, the most problematic aspect of this piece is its overarching assumptions and blanket oversimplification of the issue of musical taste and patronage in the United States. In the final analysis we must also face the fact that we are moving further and further away from the time-period in which these composers produced. No one is terribly lamenting of the fact that ancient Greek theatrical chants are not regularly performed and attended by the masses. The reason for this is that its interest to us is really, strictly historical. Ancient Greek theatrical chants bear virtually no cultural relevance to our current lives. And this is really the point, more than any other – if the wealthy are unwilling to support orchestras, and if taxpayers are likewise unwilling to be the patrons of western classical music, then perhaps we might conclude that European art music has lived through its usefulness in the United States. A sad and tragic ending to be sure, but life teaches us that things are impermanent. But this end, has nothing whatsoever to do with western classical music’s ability to “reinvent itself” – whatever that means – it is simply at an end of its life cycle.