Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Education is key.

I would agree that people need to be educated, at least a little bit, in classical music in order to understand it, follow it, appreciate it, etc. Of course, this is the same with other genres as well, including jazz, electronic music, Balinese gamelan music, what have you. Western classical music seems to always have a certain elitist quality or connotation associated with it, and in the Levine reading it did talk about how Italian opera (translated into English) became quite popular with the general public starting in the late 18th century, but in comparison with how it was viewed both before and after that period.

Accessibility is definitely a big issue, but I don't think it is much affected by the price of concert tickets or duration of performances, since there are always a ton of cheap or free classical music events happening, especially in bigger cities where a lot of people are, and also a lot of pop music or rock concerts that sometimes last for hours have tickets that get pretty pricey. Perhaps more widespread classical music education (as a regular part of grade school curriculum, although from a practical viewpoint it's doubtful how likely that is to happen, considering the cuts to arts funding in education that's been happening over the past decade) would do a lot to decrease the perceived class gap. The Levine reading mentioned that the reason why people started warming up to opera more was that they could actually understand them when translated, which broke down the barriers of "elitism" and allowed opera to more easily be integrated into the culture of a larger population, by using opera tunes in popular songs, and so on.

I actually think that recordings and iPods are a help rather than a hindrance to classical music in this day and age, especially since that's the kind of thing that society is built around--anything that makes it easier to get out to more people via the means that they are comfortable with creates familiarity and eventually appreciation. I also think that, since music is human expression, and the recordings out there are (mostly) polished renditions by artists who are good at communicating it, the essence of classical music is not lost, nor is the performer's connection to the audience. I've felt equally (and incredibly) moved by listening to a recording of Alfred Brendel playing a Beethoven piano sonata as I have in experiencing a good live performance. It's also true that classical music is integrated into today's mainstream culture through popular media and entertainment, such as video games, movies, and television commercials, and that's probably a step in the right direction. Familiarity often leads to liking (I think I learned that in Sociology class), understanding, etc. (This might apply to contemporary classical music as well.)

-Katrina Soo Hoo

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