Tuesday, October 9, 2007

future of classical music - a trendy term?

I’m getting very uncomfortable with the title of our course. It seems that “future of classical music” is a very common term in these times. There are classes offered at other universities and conservatories that have the same name. I wonder what they are about. The term can be read in so many different ways! Reading the textbooks and your posts in the blog, I’m getting lots of new information and new ideas – but it’s hard to relate them to our topic. I’m very deconstructive, because I’m complaining about something which I can’t put in words…

Future of classical music industry is certainly important and everybody should keep track of what’s going on. Even I do, although I’ve never owned something like an mp3 player so far (and I don’t have a craving for one yet). But I think the question about our music industry is more related to economy in general than to classical music. The music industry is certainly not interested in classical music for the sake of being classic, but only in music that sells. Like cars or DVD players, music is something that stands for lifestyle and is consumed. (to consume music = listening to music???) This development started when the first gramophone was built and it still continues – but that’s the presence! Why do we say we talk about the future when we just report what’s happening right now? What does it actually mean that you can buy your Radiohead cd online for your own price? It’s impossible that music continues to become cheaper and cheaper. At some point, it won’t work anymore and people will have to pay more again to get the music they want. (That’s an easy economical fact, it happens all the time, lately to the world price of diary products:) Classical music seems totally lost in this system. Demand determines supply, but in this case, the supplier also influences the consumer! Lang Lang is not only bought by people who love classic, but by people who were atracted by the huge pop-like campain. That’s a double windmill. It makes me frustrated to think about it because I can’t understand it entirely. But I’m a musician and not an economist!

What I do understand is that I want to make a whole living with music one day. I’m very optimistic about it, because there are so many opportunities if one’s creative. So why don’t we talk about these opportunities? How can musicians offer their skills, how can they convince people to attend their performances and buy their CDs? How can orchestras attract more and also younger audience?

A slightly positive example is Berlin. Slightly, because the city is totally bankrupt and had to cut its finances for culture drastically. You can imagine what that means if there are three major opera houses, over five major orchestras and various choirs mainly supported through the state. How can you explain to somebody who is unemployed and dependent on public fund, that the state supports five (5) orchestras? The public was offended. The result was that each of the institutions had to find more own funding. They also had to work on attracting more audience, so they started campaigns in schools, started programs for working adults, workshops during the holidays etc… I’m not an expert to say that it worked, but none of the big institutions is in a real crisis anymore. A lot of students in Berlin have the classiccard, which allows them to go to any concert, opera or ballet for the price of a movie. This has become very common in the past years. Old couples don’t glare at students any more who show up in jeans and sweater!

PS: There is a conference in NY this weekend; jazz journalists talk about the future of jazz! They don’t call it future, but “global imagination”…


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