Monday, September 14, 2009

Role Playing

One of the things that interested me in the second chapter of Highbrow Lowbrow was the idea of the changing function and role of a classical musician. Before sacralization, American musicians, it seemed, were entirely popular entertainers. However, with the sacralization of the classical musical world, the role changed from entertainer to artist and, in a sense, to a transcendental religious figure who became increasingly distant from the average person in matters of both musical taste and hierarchical affiliation.

Of course, a great similarity is seen in today's structuring of classical music in America. The classical musician still has—and perhaps even more so—an aloofness from the culture to the point of irrelevance, and the average musical consumer largely, I would venture, views the classical musician as someone detached from society, possibly in a negative way—there is still a tight association between “rich, intellectual snobs” and classical music.

What I suspect is starting to become an important difference between now and then, however, is how the musician views him/herself in today's society. Almost assuredly there isn't agreement as to what that role should be, but from some sources I have come across, I believe there is a certain longing on the part of the classical musician to once again be able to touch the lives of people in a much closer way than the sacralization of classical music has allowed. I would point the reader's attention to an entry in another blog that I came across recently (Read the entry dated March 10, 2009 6:48 PM):

I'm curious what the readers think on this subject. Personally, I have not yet decided for myself—this is, in fact, an issue I have struggled with for a good deal of time at this point. At times I find myself sympathetic with the views expressed in the provided link, and at other times, with the great separation from society that classical music currently finds the norm, I find myself almost feeling selfish for pursuing this path in life—frankly, as a composer, who wants or needs my music? Why should I spend time composing when there are other matters in the world which are quite arguably far more important than whether I choose to include an element of improvisation in my next electronic work, or whether or not I should use a more traditional pitch organization in my next piece?

Where does a classical musician fit in society? What should a classical musician do in society?

1 comment:

Billy O. said...

I have to agree with you on the subject of finding myself split when it comes to what to think about the importance of what I do as a musician. In a way it is hard to see how what I do is important in the grand scheme of the world.

But, despite this nagging thought creeping up on me every now and again, I think that what we do as performers, composers, etc. is important at the very least as a release for the public.

For me personally, part of the enticement of playing music is the ability to connect with the audience on a deeper level that cannot be spoken. This is also something that I feel is lost on the youth of today. Many people feel that you have to be "educated" in music in order to appreciate it and the only people who are educated in music are the rich snobbish people.

While knowing about the working of music helps to understand some of the unbelievable aspects that went into creating a work, it is not essential. Though I do believe that people do need to be informed about why a piece of music was written (a disaster or unfortunate circumstance, etc.) but all of that can be briefly done by the director before the piece is played. That understanding of the past that a work comes from can change a person's life.

That is, in a very jumbled explanation, why I think that musicians still should play a key role in society. We may not always seem like the most important thing, but when people need us or when society needs something to say what words cannot, there we are.