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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