What will those crazy classical kids think of next? I can't wait to hear it!
My last blog post ended on a somewhat downcast note, as I briefly chronicled the decline of classical music's market share and claim on the typical modern culture maven's attention. And why not be downcast about classical music? Lots of other bloggers and pundits are, and not without darned good reasons. Indeed, as blogger Greg Sandow repeatedly points out, the more facts you have about classical's current state, the more you should be concerned — very concerned. So, what is there to restore confidence in our favorite music? And why am I smiling as I contemplate classical's future? I'll tell you the biggest reason for my optimism: the musicians.
Yes, those crazy classical kids. With their weird lingo, funny haircuts, and strange ideas about classical music. What strange ideas? Well, there's the idea that you can write a classical piece that sounds like you grew up in 20th/21st century America (just to keep it at home for now), and that you watched TV, went to action movies and listened to tons of pop music. Like you actually like this stuff. which every self-respecting intellectual knows is actually mind-numbing pablum foisted on the gullible masses by the evil corporate taste-makers. And then there's the amazing notion that you can write classical music for your friends, not just for your professors and professional peers — sure-fire artistic suicide. How 'bout this whopper: A composer's frame of reference can be the here-and-now, closer to a modern dance club than 1910 Vienna or 1920 Paris. Scandale! Or there's my favorite idea of all: that you can do none of the above, and still be as relevant and up-to-date as the cool composers.
That's just the composers. How about those crazy performers? You know, the ones who can collaborate with indie-rockers and rap deejays one day, then do the freshest, best-played rendition you've heard in years of a late Beethoven quartet the next? Then there are the classical performers who don't just play the notes of others, but also compose and (gasp!) improvise their own. I'm surprised there isn't a law against it (actually, there probably is somewhere). To make matters worse, these unruly musicians will then go and use that icky social media (you know, Facebook, Twitter) to get their stuff out, as if they didn't care that these awful new technologies are destroying our culture!
OK, so I've knocked down so many straw men in the foregoing rant to make this entry a fire hazard. Just to hammer home my point: Whatever problems classical music faces, I trust the current and upcoming generations of classical musicians to deal with them. They're smart, they're open, they compose really terrific music, they play and sing like crazy, and I can't think of better hands into which to place the future of our beloved, beleaguered art form. Want a sneak preview? Head the the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Thursday night and check out The Knights. You've probably heard them on WFCR; that's some of them pictured above. Find out more about the group and their concert by clicking on the highlighted links. Now, one concert with one group won't turn things around by itself. But if it doesn't give you a palpable jolt of optimism, let me know with a reply.