First of all, I think that it is okay for classical music to continue to pursue its current ideals. Classical music doesn't need to become something else in order to appeal to the masses in order to live on. I also believe that classical music in this day and age as performed in concert halls is a Highbrow institution. As the survey for the Columbus, Ohio Symphony Orchestra showed, the average age of the audience was over 50. Add to that students of classical music who regularly attend concerts, and we see the age of the frequent concert-goer is much higher. In a BSO concert I went there, I did see numerous attendees who seemed to be on their way to partying or something and were stopping by for part of the concert, and well as others who treated the concert as a social venue. There was this young soloist played the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, and I saw a man sitting on the opposite end of the row from who seemed to be nodding off and somewhat displeased with what he was hearing. I tended to agree with that assessment (the playing was complete crap) and thought that here was someone who actually knew good music when he heard it, as opposed to all the other idiots who listened rapturously to the virtuosic passagework (look, there I go judging the audience). But then at the end, he jumps to his feet out of his slumber and begins applauding very vigorously and shouting bravos, and I realized I was fooled. Anyway, that story was to show the mindlessly, passively appreciative audience that characterizes a venue of Highbrow art continues to exist today.
This attitude, Bloom summarized in talking about reading “the Book,” not the bible, “but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer.” I admit I read some books recently with that same attitude. I expected to feel more cultured and transformed, enlightened, after reading Jane Eyre, because after all, it was a great piece of literature. After I finished it, I was not particularly affected. It was a nice story about a girl growing up and getting married. I think I lacked the knowledge to properly appreciate the book. But my opinion of the book, Jane Eyre did not worsen in my mind afterward. This is the same reaction as average concert-goers have when going to concerts. In order to not mindlessly accept the worth of something, one must have a certain amount of knowledge to judge.
This reminds me of something I thought about a musical canon. That music is sacred, man. Bach is God, don't be messing with his music. Make every note perfect. I think other composers are the only people courageous enough to diss those composers. Probably because they have their own knowledge and ideas. I think it is very important to be able to critically judge a work of art, and for that, a certain amount of knowledge and awareness is needed. Only through a critical evaluation of a work of art can one properly appreciate the work of art. It may be lamentable or not that audiences now passively enjoy concerts, but I think that the only thing lamentable is their lack of mental participation in the music. In order to demystify music, one must be able to critically evaluate it. The quality of sacredness is fact to be impervious to criticism, I think. I believe this critical mindset can readily be cultivated in concerts now. Some strategies might include giving audience members more choice in programing, question and answer sessions, and maybe “what did you think of that performance” time after each piece. This will give you an opportunity to address different aspects of what the audience heard, and in justifying your artistic choices, the audience might learn something. The break pieces are probably welcome, and the audience will probably be more attentive to the next piece. You might also be able to improve your playing based on audience feedback. Educating people about composers lives is not very productive to a true appreciation of music, I think. It is merely a novelty and introduces confused emotional associations with the music.