The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music notes: How can classical music be more relevant to contemporary culture?

May 2, 2010
14 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I guess great beauty just isn’t enough to be relevant these days.

So for the past couple of decades, everyone — and especially record company executives and arts presenters — have been asking: How can classical music be more relevant to the culture of today?

What they often really mean is: How can we fill empty seats and draw bigger audiences and make more money?


And frankly, I like classical music as a welcome refuge or sanctuary from so much of today’s culture, which strikes me as pretty crass and commercial. It’s the same reason I prefer documentaries to Hollywood action movies.

Still, there are indeed legitimate questions about the marginalizing of classical music.


Is the solution to program more staples form the canon? Or more adventurous works from contemporary composers?

Anyway, I came across this story , which I found interesting and hope you do too.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-live-0429-classical-20100429,0,7736647.story

At least in Madison classical music seems plenty relevant, judging from the number of gorups and concerts that take place in a given season or year — and how well attended they have been overall, even during a severe economic downturn.

What do you think?

How can classical music be more relevant to today’s culture?

And to today’s young people?

Do we need more staples and canonical works, say Beethoven’s symphonies and concertos?

Or should we emphasize more modern and contemporary works by, say, Philip Glass and John Adams?

More crossover concerts by, say, banjo player Bela Fleck, bassist Edgar Meyer or violinist Mark O’Connor?

More education in the schools and by performing arts groups?

What’s the solution to get more people to attend classical music events and to develop a lifelong love of classical music?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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