Sunday, September 23, 2012

Classical Musicians Are Selling Themselves Short!

Lately, it has become trendy for the Classical Musician to bait his audience with what he thinks they might be enticed to bite. He is wearing a pair of ripped jeans intentionally to trick his audience into believing that he is down to earth; his program is themed in easily digestible chunks which in reality, form very loose associations among his pieces, if any at all exist; prior to the concert, the classical musician embarks on a long winded stream of consciousness, mentioning vague bullet points about the composer's life that have no real baring on the potential impact this piece could have on this audience; worse yet, he proceeds on to the obligatory rounds at the reception but when an audience member says with enthusiasm, "Wow, that song was really impressive!," the Classical Musician smugly brushes it off with a casual "thank you, I appreciate you coming out." Why aren't we engaging? Why don't we ask the audience member, "What about it did you enjoy? What did you identify with?" It has been argued that Classical musicians do have the audience in mind; an audience who happen not to know the Wikipedia version of Beethoven's life story, an audience whose unfamiliarity with the original reception of Stravinsky's Right of Spring. necessitates that the story be told, again and again! -No! It need not be told. The original reception is not why that conductor chose to spend a year of his life studying the score. Those arbitrary facts are not what led thousands of music students to spend hours and hours in the practice room. Performers are given a unique opportunity to connect with people today. I am glad that it has become popular to give a talk before a concert but what are we choosing to talk about? Birthday and death days? A History lesson? "Do you here this pretty tune? It shows up in all these places! Isn't that cool?" No, it's not cool. It's irrelevant. Classical music is not dead; if it was, conservatories would be mixing bowls full of firey, workaholics, chasing lives of poverty! But when given the opportunity to share our passion, most of us don't; we share birthdays. Who proved that your average audience member is not capable of appreciating great music for the same reason those that are entitled to call themselves "musicians," might? Sure, we are losing our audience due to a pretentious image that is decades old; but, do we really have to dumb things down for people? Can't we just bring the authenticity back into the concert hall? Let's talk about our love, our dreams, our dramas; that's what this music is about! I believe that if we trusted the audience enough to open up to them we wouldn't have to waste out time with music appreciation courses (with a negative connotation of the high school, cut budget variety) prior to our concerts. Let's talk about what was happening in our lives not the composer's that inspired the piece as they heard it. Let's break down the barrier at the reception by sharing in the audience member's enthusiasm rather than using the exclamation as an opportunity for self-validation. Classical music is still relevant through the real experiences of the performer; and, passion is contagious!

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