Incredibly exciting time. For whom, actually?

15 May 2016

As Charles Rosen once said, “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition”. Does it mean that nothing extraordinary is happening to classical music in the meantime? Here are some reasons to doubt this.

Reason 1. Intensity of salvation

Probably, never in the history, classical music was "saved from its death” with such a scope of suggestions. Here are just a few example topics from the net:


Can Technology Save Classical Music?

Can Crowdsourcing Save Classical Music?

Can Asians save classical music? 

Can Women Save Classical Music?

Can black opera save Classical music? 

Can flash mobs save classical music?

Can the Web save classical music?

Can Concerts in Bars and Cafés Save Classical Music?

Can Less Etiquette “Save” Classical Music?

Can Twerks Save Classical Music?

Can Weed Save Classical Music?


Like much of the Internet, this could be taken lightly if a lot of serious institutions were not tackling the same issues. Have a look at Paris International Symposium (2015) “Classical Music and its audience in the digital age”


"Surveys on the social morphology of classical music audiences show an aging and a narrowing of their social base. This questions the connection of young people with classical music, and more generally the evolution of participation in the arts and music in the digital age."


Seems like a great deal of folks are rescuing classical music today. But the number of rescuers is an idicator of size of the problem... or not?


Reason 2. Adapting universities

Probably, never in the history, musical student had to gain such a number of non musical skills to succeed in profession. Today, historical music schools are transforming their curriculums towards  business, personal management, computer sciences, technologies of communication etc. to better prepare their students for current realities.


“Leaders of New York's three major conservatories—Juilliard, Mannes and Manhattan School of Music—all acknowledge the need for preprofessional training that addresses the prospects and realities of a competitive marketplace.“ (Classical Music, Modern Problems)


"Back in the day, the assumption was, 'Well, I'm going to be a trombonist, and I'm going to play in a large orchestra, and that's going to be my life,'" said Joseph Polisi, the president of Juilliard. "It sure doesn't work that way now.” (Classical Music, Modern Problems)


"To succeed in today’s music business the aspiring musician needs to give almost as much time and thought to business-related matters as they give to practising their art." (Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire)


Reason 3. Declining incomes

Incomes of classical musicians are steadily going down regardless of any cicumstances, even if they are positive. Britannica, in its Year in Review 2014, mentions the report by Association of British Orchestras (ABO) for 2014


“…which found that attendance at all classical concerts and performances in the U.K. had grown by 16% since 2009–10, with more than four million people attending every year. The report also noted, however, that during the same period, the actual earned income of British orchestras had fallen by 11%.”


The latter means nothing but devaluation of labour of classical musician. The reasons are on the surface - lowering the prices of entrance tickets to get more listeners. In this way, the growth of attendance turns out to be provided on the account of the very musicians.


Ironically, pointing actually to this growth is often used to show that nothing special occurs - classical music is ok and even progressing.


Britannica quotes Michael Eakin, chairman of the board of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) and chief executive of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra:


“...far from being on the way out, I think this is an incredibly exciting time for orchestras in the U.K.”


Exciting actually for whom in these orchestras?



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Violinist deeply rooted in classical tradition and concerned about the future of the genre >> more about the author 

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