Tuesday, December 6, 2011


As my colleagues have done, I will begin my farewell post with some concluding remarks about what we have discussed this semester. Classical musicians now have to be individuals, who form an identity that is not entirely centered on their technical skills, but more related to the way they present themselves and their music (and perhaps their Twitter accounts). Using non-traditional venues, incorporating technology into performance, and willingness to blur genre boundaries are increasingly common tactics for remaining relevant and reaching out to audiences. But perhaps more important than following current trends is simply knowing what those trends are. An awareness of the classical music landscape is vital for musicians, now more than ever before. The business is changing, and knowing how it is changing is important for us as we prepare to enter that business ourselves. Our own contributions will be more effective for knowing what and how others are contributing to classical music.

It has been enlightening to have such a forum where my colleagues and I can discuss current topics and events in classical music, as well as the prospect of what lies before us as we embark on careers in classical music. I have been able to gain insight about the classical music world from both my own reading and research and from my colleagues' perspectives that I would not have discovered on my own. So, to the next Future of Classical Music class: I hope your experience is equally as enriching. I now pass the discussion on to you!

So long for now

I can not say for certain if this is indeed my last blog post or not. The landscape of classical music in this day hangs amidst a constant state of validation and scrutiny. So long as there are those of us that recognize that and use the gifts we are given to keep music relevant than it will continue to survive.
The messages of urgency, validation, and authentcity that are presented that are considered when examining the future of classical music are meant to provoke an introspective view point on the body of that encompasses classical music. The message is not to take music or audience appreciation for granted. The artist must always progress to keep relevant. Partly this is due to the temporal nature of music. It is also important for music to connect with the culture listening to it. This is not to say we all need to drop what we're doing and play hip hop. The solution is to be far more creative, clever, and artistic than anyone before.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cautious Optimism for the Future

I was interested to find that despite the differences of tone and focus of Cook and Hewitt, they both conclude with some of the same points. In a general sense, each author attempts to move past the broad assertions about classical music’s imminent death and proceed with “cautious optimism,” as Cook puts it. In our blog posts and class discussions, we seem to have gone through a similar process, beginning by criticizing the marginal nature of classical music, then attempting to move past complaints and into insight. On a more specific level, both Cook and Hewitt conclude that the locus of information of classical music, and its potential for future existence, lie with re-imagining our listening experience.

This said, there are some differences in the implications of their conclusions. Hewitt writes that we often feel a lack of “emotional intensity” in current music, but “we never think that its lack may be partly in ourselves, and with the way we relate to music.” (2003: 266) Our listening habits have become too passive, and we must actively engage with the music. Hewitt claims that classical music is especially well suited to active listening, since it gives its conception of the musical realm “some substance, in the form of a set of pieces and techniques, and an entire metaphysics of music, that one can share and pass on, even to people in cultures far distant to our own.” (2003: 263) By mentioning “a set of pieces and techniques,” he appears to suggest that music education based on theory and the canon of works still has an important role to play in classical music’s future. For Cook, on the other hand, fighting off our passivity involves the recognition that music is a way of “creating meaning, rather than just of representing it.” (1998: 125-6) This recognition is not so much the realm of music theory, but more of critical theory: “critical theory omits music at its peril; music has unique powers as an agent of ideology. We need to understand its working, its charms, both to protect ourselves against them and, paradoxically, enjoy them to the full.” (1998: 129) While Hewitt is concerned that the philosophy of fusion and “breaking down barriers” is disingenuous, Cook does not condemn these forms, saying instead that we need to understand what is at stake in listening to this music (or, conversely, rejecting this music as trash). Put in the broadest manner, Hewitt believes that music should be understood by its internal logic, whereas Cook suggests looking through an outside logic to question the internal one.

Either way, these are high expectations for us as both performers and listeners. Hewitt even suggests that his vision may be an impossible one. What do we do to become more a more active audience? Unfortunately, this seems to be a topic that often goes missing from our blog posts. We’ve written extensively on different types of concert programming and presentation, on film music, on fusion, and whether art can be democratic, but relatively little on modes of listening (ours, or others’). How can we listen in a way that is both informed and unintimidating, to abandon our hierarchical status as musical specialists (performers) without falling into passive listening? For me, a small part of resolving this involves listening to more music played by other instruments (as a cellist, this means solo piano music, lieder, or l’Histoire du Soldat, all things I will probably never perform myself). I do not abandon my knowledge of the musical logic, or the associations and ideology it brings to mind, but I am no longer listening for specifics of technique and execution that seem to be inevitable when I listen to string music. Positioning myself as an audience member, I am more able to understand and enjoy the activity of listening.

To some extent, we must re-imagine our own listening experiences before we think about how we might convince others to do the same.

Farewell, fair friends!

Hopefully this will not be my final post to this blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing classical music and where its future is headed during our class sessions. Where our future is headed, really. It was wonderful to have a place to discuss the issues that pertain to this future as well as to have an instructor who asked pertinent questions.

It was quite interesting to hear Dean Chin's opinion on competitions last week. There were two vocal seminars this semester that were dedicated just to competitions and young artist programs. These competitions have their place and value, but it is good to hear that there are other ways if these programs are not an option.

Random interjection: at Friday's orchestra concert, the pianist and composer Timothy Andres, did not use a "regular" musical score during the performance of his piano concerto Home Stretch. Instead, he used his iPad. He had it right on the piano as if it was a regular notebook. I had never seen anything like it. Perhaps this is part of the future of classical music? I'm sure it is. As long as one does not have any quick page turns...

Have a wonderful winter break! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.
I hope to see you all in the spring and at my recital on April 29th at 5pm in Pickman Hall. Yes, that was a shameless plug. =]




Scrutinized, but unaware of the outcome proceeding this examination. What is this knowledge, other than cultural, political, and philosophical "lore"? It's an interesting question. And although I possess an antiphon, I refuse to share. It is simply an interesting question.

Thank You for reading,

Kwaumane Brown

Longy School of Music
UD in Composition ('12)