Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Commencement address

At the Flesch Symposium this weekend I got to reading the program book and thought the excerpt from Alex Ross' commencement address at Longy last May is very relevant to our discussion. (Alex Ross is a music critic for the New Yorker.)

"...you have a responsibility to tune out completely this endless up-and-down, back-and-forth debate about the future of classical music, because it can only distract you from the fundamental task of waking people up to the power, beauty, magnificence, intelligence, relevance, coolness and, if I may be so bold, awesomeness of this music. (A little while ago I proposed renaming classical music Awesome Music, but it hasn't quite caught on yet.) Talking about whether classical music is dead or not is really not going to entice people to become interest in it again. In fact, I can't think of a deadlier marketing plan. Imagine: Fly Superb World Airlines! Our planes might fall to pieces any day now, so do it while you can! History tells us that nearly all predictions about the state of the art, whether rosy or dire, have failed to match up with complex reality as it has unfolded year by year, decade by decade. So forget the chatter. Play the music and communicate your passion for it. Write the music. Make it new, reconnect the present and the past."

After I read this Ida Handael, a legend violin player (almost 80 years old or well into her 80's, I'm guessing) came out and blew me away by what she could still do. Was it perfect? no, but it was brilliant, it was human, it touched on the past and touched everyone in the hall. It was pretty awesome. If it had been a recording I don't think I would have had the same reaction. It was her presence in the live performance that was awesome.

To continue the recording discussion Alex wrote in one of his blogs: "Topic for another time: classical music went into cultural decline at around the time recordings became available. The only way to keep the art alive is to go to concerts."

You can check out his blog at www.therestisnoise.com

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