Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Blame Game

Who's fault is it--this modern phenomenon that has locked contemporary classical music behind the doors of conservatories and widened the gulf between composers and the general public? When did academia become so elitist and exclusive, and when did our modern audiences turn off their ears to new developments in the classical realm? Why are the various camps and counter-camps in modern compositional thought so often hostile one to another? What, exactly, has changed in the process of communication that we call music over the past century?

Like many of you, I am coming into this class with more questions than answers, and the more questions I ask, the more questions I seem to find. But as complicated as the situation becomes and as difficult as it is to pin the blame (is there even blame to pin?), these questions must be asked. They are vital to us, as musicians, and to the future of classical music. If we don't understand where we've gone wrong and where we've gone right in the past, how are we to construct the future?

We, as classical musicians, work tirelessly training ourselves to be good performers or composers. But if our performance/composition doesn't connect with an audience, then our attempt at communication has failed (no matter the level of our technical proficiency), right? I think so. Then what's the solution? Do we write/perform to suit the general tastes of the broadest possible audience (the lowest common denominator)? Do we continue writing/performing in highly academic ways, hoping that some day our audience will "get it?" Do we try mingling the two--reaching out to our audience with new and interesting ideas from within an accessible framework? I certainly lean toward the third possibility, but I think there might be a completely different perspective altogether. What if we stopped focusing so much on training composers/performers and started training listeners? Now, I'm certainly not suggesting that we send every child in America to a music conservatory and teach him/her the finer points of set theory and counterpoint; I'm suggesting that we help our audience understand things musically on an intuitive level. I have an inkling that something of this kind might be accomplished using Eurhythmics, but I need to let my ideas percolate a little longer. :-)

In the meantime, check out this youtube video that I posted about a year ago:


Sharlee said...

I think you may be on to something, Erica! I've had similar ideas in relation to literature (the need to focus more on the education of readers). Good luck! Can't wait to hear more.

Kyle Siddons said...

I don't think that we can or should change the content of what we are trying to present to the rest of the world, but rather change the context in which we release it. I think if we begin to make changes there, we may in turn have better opportunities to 'train listeners.'

ericakyree said...

Interesting, Kyle. What, exactly, do you mean when you say we should "change the context?" What do you feel is the proper context?

Kyle Siddons said...

I think that the typical concert hall experience can be a little intimidating to those not used to it. There is normally some kind of unspoken dress code, rules for behavior, and in general it is an atmosphere quite different from any contemporary musical experience. If we don't break down those walls, our music will remain locked behind mystical glass walls.