A recent article at the online Huffington Post contributed another point of view on the persistent question, “Who Cares About Classical Music?” You might find the writer’s thoughts of interest, as we did here at WDAV. You can read the article here.
A colleague of mine is a highly sought consultant for radio stations of all types of formats. She believes the change in classical music’s profile is at least partly due to what she sees as a well-documented shift in the last 50 years from a parental culture, which valued authority and institutions, to a peer culture, where everyone is an authority on his own desires and values. She doesn’t think that’s a bad thing, necessarily; it simply means you need to relate to people differently.
Another factor may be that our culture, in general, no longer distinguishes between high art and low art. The brilliant contemporary novelist Michael Chabon made this point in a recent interview. That’s why, although he won a Pulitzer prize for one of his novels, he was also one of the screenwriters of Spider-Man 2.
There’s been a fair amount of research done in the public radio industry into the “core values” of classical music listeners. This research has convinced me that listeners who seek out classical radio, in general, are in a sense actively rebelling against the predominant cultural aesthetic. They want to reconnect with a time when there were clearly defined standards of excellence and taste. Yet at the same time they can’t help being part of the current culture, and in general expect to be treated as equals, not as pupils.
As you can probably tell, I think a lot about this kind of stuff. Probably too much, but it’s something of an occupational hazard, and the articles and essays about classical music’s imminent demise are frequent and inescapable.
That’s why it would be interesting to hear your views. So, as always, you’re invited to share.
3 thoughts on “Classical Music: Out of the Mainstream?”
While I would not use the terms Parental/Peer as your colleague did, I do agree that a marked shift has taken place. Where I vehemently disagree with her is that I do think it is a bad thing. To me it is evidence of cultural decline. Everything now — the good, true and beautiful — has become a matter of preference.
Aesthetic judgments are indeed tricky, but it is not exclusively a subjective determination. Is something beautiful just because I like it? Or does it have some objective quality rooted in creation/nature that makes me recognize it as beautiful?
Romanticism has played a key role in bringing about “the triumph of the therapeutic.” A therapeutic culture seeks to promote the efforts of the self to find fulfillment by throwing off “the light of nature” and the restraints of tradition, precedent and community.
Our culture is reaping the whirlwind.
I especially like the point you make about Romanticism playing a key role in the changes. It seems ironic to me that some of the very visionaries that we revere in classical music inadvertantly planted the seeds of an aesthetic that would one day minimize it. I’m not sure if you’d see it that way, but that’s what stands out for me: without Beethoven we would never have had Stravinsky on the one hand, or The Beatles on the other (betraying my own personal preferences here, but you get the idea).
Frank…There is a tremendous amount of cultural analysis that is way beyond the framwork of this blog to give answer the question at hand.
But in a word, “who cares about classical music?