The Trouble With Classical -

The Trouble With Classical


After noticing the increased use of classical music as a young-people repellent — in libraries, in subway stations, in the Manulife Centre in Toronto where I seem to hear Haydn every time I go in — Colin Eatock writes a good piece about the various problems classical music has in attracting new audiences.

I would have to put the lack of viable new music at the top of the list. Imagine if the television airwaves were dominated by shows that were created before most of the viewers were born. Even people like me, who love the old as much as (and sometimes more than) the new, accept that it’s the new stuff that connects with people, and speaks to what they are going through today. This is as true of an abstract form like music as it is of a concrete form like literature. In Mozart’s time, people expected current, up-to-date music in modern styles to dominate the programs; even older music often had to be brought up-to-date to be accepted, which is why Mozart was hired to re-orchestrate Handel’s Messiah for a contemporary audience. Even today, concerts of modern “serious” music, even avant-garde and uncommercial music, frequently attract a lot of young listeners. It’s hard to create a musical culture without a healthy amount of music that’s “today.”

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The Trouble With Classical

  1. I think you'd get the same effect if you played all Tibetan chants, or all bagpipes or whatever. Too much of the same thing.

    I prefer world fusion music.

  2. In Ottawa in the underpass between the National Press Theatre and the Rideau Centre they play latin-jazz to ward off kids and panhandlers etc.

    • Yes, I sent the first Youtube link to the marketing office at the Canadian Opera Company last March, remarking how I thought that a "surprise" like that in the st. Lawrence market here in Toronto might get a few more people to go to the opera to try it out, or at least intrigue people. But I did not get a reply…

      • Sad.

        I've seen these 'flash theatre' things from all over the world…..sudden song and dance routines in airports, the stock exchange…. and opera seems to have taken to outdoor markets.

        I think it's wonderful….opera as part of everyday life….classical music could do the same. It was part of our lives as kids…in TV shows and cartoons….but has sadly disappeared.

        The joy on those faces!

  3. Its an interesting article Jaime, but are you sure you haven't got it backwards, or at least inside out? Are there not a lot of composers out there offering new works that get plaid once, and then never again? Does this generation just suck? I ask as someone very ignorant of the state of new classical music. There are a lot of great composers whose work is part of the standard fare from the twentieth century, if not the last part of it.
    My question would be, why does no one grant modern composers the opportunity of a few listens? Would we know a great new composer if one hit us in the face? Do you really imagine that such a person could bring masses of youth to classical concerts?

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