Where is the main threat to classical music coming from?

9 Apr 2017

It comes from the erosion of listener’s attention in a hi-tech environment. This threat is likely underestimated and certainly on the rise.


How this works?  


~Technology boom causes information overload;

~Information overload causes FOMO and multitasking;

~FOMO and multitasking cause fragmented and superficial attention;

~Fragmented and superficial attention undermine the perception of the classical music.


More details on that:


Information overload  


Information overload is a natural result of technology boom we are experiencing in recent years. Science says:


“The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015.


It is estimated that in 10 years’ time the amount of data will double every 12 hours.”


That means, 130 times faster. So let's quit wondering what would happen 20 or 30 years from now.…




FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a new phenomenon caused by a social media by emerging over the past several years. Now it's referred to as “first world's problem” and “20th century epidemic”.


Studies estimate that almost all adults in developed countries suffer from FOMO, especially the digital natives (those aged under 40).


To understand the magnitude of this problem better, we stand to witness as the British government launches an urgent anti-FOMO program which “will be rolled out to every secondary school in the country from September (2017)”. 


What exactly are people with FOMO affraid of missing out? The answer is - Everything. Job opportunities, interesting news, novel experiences, fateful meetings, immense temptations of dolce vita, merry contacts with peers and friends – all that is suggested by the permanently updating social media platforms.


FOMO thrives on the irresistible need to constantly stay connected to the virtual world.


Scientists say, it’s not a deviant behavior anymore, but a new way to consume our allotted lifetime from now on.




Individuals with FOMO turn to performing multiple things at once. Multitasking comes from the need to consume as much information as possible in a shortest time.


Aside from a few benefits (operating at high speed, making instant decisions, etc.), this way of information processing does not come free. The dark side of multitasking is the erosion of human attention.


Scientists consider multitasking a myth, because the human brain is not wired to focus on more than one task at a time. Multitasking is just a quick switch from one task to another. In this mode the brain has no time enough to concentrate and to go deep into the subject.


As a result, attention becomes fragmented, superficial and permanently distracted.


This phenomenon has been extensively studied by the science. Actually, what we see these days is the emergence of a new type of human intelligence. No less.


Why classical music suffers from it?


Classical music requires a continuous state of attention to be perceived properly. This is a type of sustained concentration people normally experienced in the pre-digital times while engaging in music, poetry, visual arts and also in everyday life.


The problem is, the hi-tech environment strives to disrupt and steal this condition.


To be understood properly, it's a kind of disrupction that comes from inside the brain rather than outside. Often enough some sort of digital device disrupts the fragile environment of the classical concert, but it's not the thing of concern. The main issue is the condition of the listener’s mind - short fragmented attention, distractibility, impulsivity and so on.


This mental erosion is not some kind of accident, but a natural sustained response to the challenges of the hi-tech environment. No reason for complaint. Quite on contrary, it’s actually the best state of mind to match a new reality.


The bad news is, it's not such a good match for the reality of classical music.



Photo: Zio Ziegler "The Focus Within Distraction" (2012)




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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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© Yevgeny Chepovetsky 2015-2017