Sunday, September 11, 2011

Initial Reflections on H/L

Since arriving at conservatory I have been developing my own take on the supposed decline in orchestral music, otherwise known to the general public as classical music. There were a number of ideas presented to me from various professionals throughout the Boston music scene ranging from budget crunching to community awareness. Dr. Lawrence Levine wrote a comprehensive examination of American music in a  class-based society discussing the roles that music played in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in his book Highbrow/Lowbrow. Theodore Thomas is quoted saying:
"Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven were sons of God!"
(Lawrence Levine. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America [The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization] [p. 118]. Kindle Edition.)
The elevation of orchestral or otherwise grand masterwork “classical” music to a sacred level puts a barrier between the larger general audience and art music. Music serves a variety of purposes and some are personal, shown through the countless differences in opinions among critics with an expertise in “classical” music.
Proclamation of these artists as gods or sons of God ignores the fact that contemporaries of these “deities” weren’t all convinced of their so-called divinity.  Harmonies used in these “divine” masterworks were vastly contrary to the conventions used and accepted by the church. One example is parallelism and the use of ninth and fourth intervals.
While concerts continued and still do continue into the present, the audience has changed as have the desires of the audience.

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