Saturday, September 27, 2014

Maestro, it's Alive!

Less than a year ago Mark Vanhoenacker wrote the explosive article Is Classical Music Dead? The title proposes a fair question, one that I have often thought about, but once you begin to read,it becomes increasingly apparent that in Mr. Vamhoenacker's mind,this is not a question, but a fact.
He believes that if you look honestly at all the "grim facts" as he calls them, that classical music is dead. The opening image he selected of a Maestro conducting not an orchestra, but instead a gravestone also helps shine a spot light on his point of view.
Vanhoenacker's opinion is so opposite of the thoughts that I and many of my colleagues have on the subject, that I went in immediate search of the reactions to his bold statement. As I had expected, Mr. Vanhoenacker's personal opinion on the state of classical music in the United States was not widely appreciated.
William Robin published the article The Fat Lady is Still Singing in the New Yorker and it gives voice to what so many of us felt after reading Vamhoenacker's bleak eulogy to classical music. Vamoenacker stated in the first paragraph that "When it comes to classical music and American culture, the fat lady hasn’t just sung. Brünnhilde has packed her bags and moved to Boca Raton." and Robin's title The Fat Lady is Still Singing is clearly in response to that.
If we are to believe Mr. Vanhoenacker, classical music has been in a zombie like state for the past 35 years, stumbling along despite the ever growing generational gap within the audience and declining ticket sales. Noble, persistence and yet the valiant creature is drawing its last feeble breath.
But this is not the reality, as Mr. Robins points out. "It was nothing we hadn’t read before, but the timing of the latest obituary was particularly strange. Yes, New York City Opera folded last fall. But, a week before the Slate piece appeared, the Minnesota Orchestra emerged from a fifteen-month lockout crisis, and the day after publication the New York Philharmonic and Seattle Symphony announced energetic 2014-15 seasons."
“The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.” Charles Rosen, musicologist and pianist.
Robins goes on to show in his article a infographic, designed by Andy Doe, consultant in the classical recording industry and the author of the blog Proper Discord, who has also pointed out the errors in Mr.Vamoenacker's information. This graph shows how long classical music has been in what Vanhoenacker calls "a state of crisis" and shows that there is no evidence for the claim of 2014 as the year it passed away.
"There is a creepy bloodlust to the doom-mongering of classical music, as though an autopsy were being conducted on a still-breathing body."
Mr. Robin then asks what would happen if instead of taking a pessimistic view in their articles, what would happen if they interviewed the elderly patrons or wrote a profile about an adventurous new ensemble?
The various forms of media all have the ability to make the internet come alive with news of the death of classical music. What would happen if they used their power to promote and uplift the arts rather then hover over it like inheritance hungry relatives waiting for it to died at last?
Classical music is not dead. There are still conservatories,concert halls and patrons. Should we continue to strive to grow our audiences? Of course. But as someone who lives in this world, I can state with first hand experience, classical music has not yet met its demise.
For more informtion see both articles:

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