Saturday, October 4, 2014

Art for Art's Sake

We live in a world of technology. Technology that focuses on making life as easy, fast, convenient, affordable and perfect as possible. From the scientific stand point, such advances promise better results in many fields. Medicine, research, education, to name just a few, all seem to grower bigger and better with every advancement and discovery. With each new invention we can save more lives, learn more, and go further.
But what does it mean for the arts? Let's take the same list from above: easy, fast, convenient, affordable, and perfect, and apply it to the world of classical music. Easy? YouTube. Fast? iTunes. Convenient, saved to your iPad. Affordable? 99 cents a song. Perfect? Advanced audio editing. None of these advancements are solely responsible for cheapening classical music, actually, things like iPads or YouTube are tools we musicians can use to help promote what we do and I will return to this later. However,technology has accelerated rapidly and people are becoming use to a brand new level of perfection. What does this mean for classical music?
In the article Making Classical New, Gracy Olmstead explores how the goal for perfection has changed the nature of our art. Olmstead begins by reminiscing about pianist Arthur Rubinstein. Rubinstein, one of the best known performers of the 20th century was known for his unique tone and creativity, not for being note perfect. He is quoted saying “I’m after the music, not after perfection.” This is clear, as Rubinstein did not edit out mistakes, but boldly left them in. Why? For the Art of it.
Olmstead goes on to point out, that now days, creativity with in our art is a luxury that few classical musicians have. David Taylor, assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, said in the Los Angeles Times “Today, perfection is a requirement. You must have flawless intonation, you must be a machine.”
A machine? How is that art? What is the next step going to look like? And orchestra filled with robots, programmed with the most perfected versions of the classical hits? For those who might wonder what that would look like, the Upper Austrian Youth Orchestra has made a charming example for us.
The Cyber Conductor (watch before continuing)
While created in good humor and truly hilarious to watch, this speaks to the issues that our technology has created for us. How should we respond to a world full of more musicians then there are jobs? Olmstead describes it in a word, entrepreneurship.
Joseph Polisi, president of Juilliard says "Juilliard is working to promote innovation by teaching students to communicate their craft through new mediums, to write and speak in public about their art, and to use technology to foster their work and build an audience."
I think there in lies the solution. As soon to be Masters of Music, we are the ones that will face the downside of what technology has done to the arts. But we can use technology to fight technology. It can help show that a live concert is a completely different experience then a recording, that classical music can be presented in a way that preserves the integrity of the music and yet is appealing to a new, younger audience. In doing this we will not only successfully fight against current stereotypes & misconceptions but will also create our own jobs and bigger audiences in the process.
Technology is not going anywhere and if we continue to make technology our asset rather then our enemy, I believe the same can be said for classical music.
For more information visit

No comments: