Monday, September 28, 2009

The New Face of Classical Music

I would like to call attention to an article I read in the New York Times recently. In some ways, this post is something of a response to Ivan's post. Some of what Ivan said, while perhaps a part of the issue of revitalizing Classical music, I believe may miss the mark--to put it another way, I think that Ivan may have looked too much at negative possibilities while perhaps not giving positive possibilities enough of an examination.

It seems to me that the situation in which Classical music finds itself is based upon the active attempt at providing Classical music with its current image--that of elitism, of something special, or at least, of something set apart.

Now, one idea I would like to suggest is the idea of symbols.

Symbols, of course, characterize a thing, an idea, etc., and they hold an amazing amount of sway over perceptions. Think of rock and roll for a moment. What comes to mind? Probably many things, but one thing that surely one would eventually think of is the electric guitar or a drumset. Now, think of classical music. What comes to mind? Probably pianos, violins, and conductors. What is my point? Instruments (among other things) are the symbols of musical style.

Back to the NY Times article. One of the things I think is key in this article is the new context that the symbols of classical music have been placed. They are in a venue alongside cutting edge electronics, where sweet legato phrases are never to be heard, and where the music has a rough edge comparable to certain styles of rock. The symbols of classical music are being re-contextualized with new ways of playing and relating to audiences. I believe that eventually, it won't be a big deal to see someone play the cello--it will be no more special than playing guitar, it will be without elitist associations.

What does this mean for Beethoven and Mozart? Post your comments.

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