Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Is classical music a dying art form?

a            The demise of classical music seems to be a topic of particular interest in recent years with some media outlooks seeming to be on a classical music ‘deathwatch’.

I recently read an article in the independent, which was telling the story of the writer sitting in a tube station enjoying a Beethoven work, that was being played through the station’s speaker system. The story looks upon this experience critically due to the fact that the music is being used as a deterrent for layabouts and trouble causers, as in his opinion, ‘people can be relied to loathe [the music]’. I would somewhat agree to this conclusion, certainly in terms of the reason for the music being played. This could be insulting to classical music lovers and degrading to the art form. However, there is a certain positive element I feel is being overlooked. Classical music is a genre, especially in the UK, which is not exposed enough. To have it played in a public place, even if it only captures the interest of one person for every thousand that pass through the station, that is one person exposed to an art form he or she may have never previously heard. I would also argue, that although possibly not to the extent of a Beethoven symphony, if Scouting For Girls were being played over the tannoy, this would present an almost equally successful deterrent against anybody staying to long.
Peter Maxwell Davies, recently criticized the government’s treatment of classical music as an ‘elitist fringe activity’. He said the state of classical music in education was so poor most students do not even know who Mozart is. It is interesting to reflect on this thought, as perhaps if more time was spent introducing children to classical works and teaching them how to understand the music then maybe more young people would listen to it. Peter Maxwell Davies has now stepped down from his title as the Queen’s composer and is dedicating his time to regenerating interest in classical music with young people. The elitist attitude towards classical music can certainly be alienating to a younger generation. In my last year of school I attended an opera in London’s Covent gardens with two friends and we found ourselves awash with classical jargon and pretentious people, who made us feel underdressed and out of place. However, as Peter Maxwell Davies stated if we understood more about the music perhaps we would have felt less out of place.
Looking at it from another angle perhaps it would be more beneficial introducing children to classical music by showing them contemporary classical works, which draw upon ideas from music that they can understand. For example introducing people to performers like Greg Pattilo and Pedro Saxo who have looked at new ways of performing on their instruments, which create contemporary classical works with certain elements of popular music. This merge of genres and use of traditional and non-traditional methods of performing has created interest in the younger generation. However the music is not exposed enough and maybe if it was played in music lessons and used in education it could alter young peoples perspective and inspire them.
There are areas where classical music is flourishing even if it is only passively being listened too, for example the film industry. The film industry is a billion pound a year industry with a lot of the most acclaimed and popular films featuring classically styled music. The popular film series ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ had a hugely popular soundtrack with one YouTube recording having over eleven million views.
YouTube and other social media forums create a new platform for concerts readily available whenever at the viewer’s convenience. Although recent years have shown a decline in ticket sales for concert hall performances, perhaps this is not due to a lack of interest in classical music but is more a reflection of an increasingly digital world. This new public platform also undermines the somewhat elitist attitude towards classical music by making it readily available to everyone. However, it is important to note that this does have a certain negative effect on classical music as though it may be increasing interest it is not increasing sales.
In my opinion classical music is not dead or dying but just struggling to fit its current ‘business model’ with the society we live in today. However it is evolving and changing and will continue to do so as it has done for so long.

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