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Are you bored by modern classical music?


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Quite a few issues are raised in this article about modern classical music by Joe Queenan.

http://music.guardian.co.uk/classical/stor...2289751,00.html

This is a very personal view and I agree with some of what he writes but vehemently disagree with a lot. For myself I'm less inclined to listen to modern music than I used to be and have resigned myself to accept that I probably lack the intellectual capacity to enjoy all modern stuff, my basic approach to music being emotional. I found The Minotaur far more interesting than Mr Queenan did as the harsh and ugly elements were part of the strongly played out drama and I can't have been alone as the opera was very, very well received. Perhaps Queenan dislikes other types of music too as I wasn't quite sure what his reference to "Renaissance muzak" meant.

At present, the American public seems most taken by anachronisms (Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt), infantilists (Glass), eclectics (Corigliano) and atmospheric neo-Brucknerites (John Adams).

That is true of UK audiences as well, but I wouldn't say the following holds on this side of the Atlantic:

The public likes its warhorses, but it doesn't seem to care how well these warhorses get played. They are particularly susceptible to showboaters like Lang Lang and Izzy Perlman and Nigel Kennedy; they turn out in droves to hear Andrea Bocelli warble his way through the Shmaltzmeister's Songbook.

As far as I'm concerned the vast store of classical music has something for everyone and although you start off by listening to everything, it gets narrowed down eventually to that which moves you the most.

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It's mostly repellent, and says more about trends in criticism than music. Salonen has been having some real success, as I've pointed out before, with introducing lots of new music. I would agree with this sourish-toned troll that jazz enthusiasts are more knowledgeable than the majority of concert-goers: It's enough that they go so it's supported for awhile. But it's not true that 'jazz is literally dying' because the funding goes to classical. Jazz has never primarily been state-funded. There are things that are dying--old-style cabaret has mostly legends for any lengthy engagement and only the most A-list like Karen Akers need apply--but jazz is all over the place in clubs in cities. I don't know what he's talking about. I like 'infantilism' for Philip Glass, though--I envy him that one. It's mostly a kind of rhetoric, to some degree useful, but very misleading. There are smaller contemporary musical groups all over the world, and more than ever. Maybe things just splinter off into smaller pieces, instead of the big concert hall world. Of course, he doesn't even mention the inconvenient British masters like Tippett and Britten--maybe they're too 'bourgeois', but certainly Carter is much more so. The British always seem to be left out of the contemporary classical discussions and they can actually bridge the gap. I find them quite as satisfying in a great many of their works as most of the great 19th century composers, and it's not necessary to see Boulez and Stockhausen and Berio as the only important voices: It's as if to say, well THEY are the real contemporary thing, but LOOK--nobody likes them, and I don't either anymore. I like Carter well enough, and he's not difficult to listen to at all, but I'm not passionate about much of it either. And he's wrong that Bernstein never became a great composer. He doesn't have to be Wagner to be great, and just like Balanchine, it's okay if he worked on Broadway. That counts, no matter somebody like this can barely get the piece out in thick jabs.

He's just hired to write this kind of half-hack-, half-serious thing, that's all it is.

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If this guy had been writing in the 1740's, how would he have classified Bach? Maybe as an "anachronism"? Bach's music certainly wasn't popular during his lifetime.

Personally, I think that there is a lot of great modern music. And sure, there is a lot of junk. But there always has been lots of junk. It's just that the junk from the past has been filtered out and only the good stuff gets performed any more. The junk from today will eventually be forgotten about, and future generations will only hear the good stuff.

Music is a creative enterprise, and sometimes the creativity isn't properly focused. But that's the nature of progress. Artists need to take chances, and when people take chances there will be failures. That's not a good reason to want to roll back the clock. Many compositions that are held in high regard today were slammed when they were first performed.

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Thanks for posting this, Mashinka. I've read some of Queenan's stuff before and he's not so bad. This kind of piece gets written on an annual basis, and although it makes some classical music fans freak out I don't think such articles make a huge impression elsewhere

jazz is all over the place in clubs in cities

Not in my neck of the woods. My impression is that jazz clubs are much thinner on the ground than they used to be as trends in popular music have shifted, and Queenan may be right to say that some of that state dough could be redistributed.

I probably lack the intellectual capacity to enjoy all modern stuff,

I doubt that, Mashinka. :)

Other comments?

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Eh, typical Queenan. (See his notorious NY Times review of A. J. Jacobs’ The Know-It-All for another sample of his work.) Queenan’s whole schtick is simultaneously mocking some presumed elite and sticking his finger in the eye of the comfortable middle class that constitutes his main audience. Here’s where I almost stopped reading: “Having spent most of the last century writing music few people were expected to understand, much less enjoy, the high priests of music were now portrayed as innocent victims of the public's lack of imagination.” Given that the music written over the last century is astonishingly diverse and that whole great swaths of it are really quite understandable and enjoyable (without being in the least “infantile”), I don’t think one needs to give his views any more serious consideration than he’s given to his ostensible subject matter. The whole point of the article is to let you know that Queenan’s taste is more discerning than the taste of those who enjoyed Lang Lang playing the Emperor Concerto AND the taste of those who enjoyed Britwistle’s Minotaur; more discerning than the taste of those who like Górecki, Pärt, Glass, and Adams AND those who like Berg, Varèse, Webern, Rihm, Schnittke, Adès, Wuorinen, Crumb, Carter, and Babbitt.

Here’s the part I found most repellant: “I started listening to classical music when I entered college, aged 17. Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. Over the years, this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated.” What a warped way to look at art – as some sort of credential that grants you access to a special club reserved for a privileged few, much as “premier member” status in a frequent flyer program gets you into the lounge where the well-heeled businessmen, soft chairs and free drinks are. Only now everyone has enough miles to get in and they’re charging for the drinks anyway.

And only a crank disses the Stones.

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Here’s the part I found most repellant: “I started listening to classical music when I entered college, aged 17. Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. Over the years, this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated.”

You pointed out some interesting aspect to this 'crank', and it certainly does have its comic value. What I like about the above is that he passed through the proles into the bourgeois, but one wonders what class he was now in once 'this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated'. (at least he didn't say 'vanished'. :) ) Had he found something perhaps *astonishing* or even *incomparable* up in that new ether? Or had he remained a prole all along, looking back wistfully to a more innocent time? Yes, he not only knows what Stockhausen and Penderecki 'really sound like to everyone who is honestly (read, 'like him') listening to it', he has informed me that Lang Lang is not only suspect, but whether by virtue of 'hothouse flower freakish' or 'unexciting' I wasn't sure. I had no objection when I heard him do Rachmaninoff 2nd at the Philharmonic in 2002, although I'd rather hear Richter, I imagine. He's a good pianist, what's the big deal? We're not to robots yet. Actually a little strange to hear about Babbitt in the list. Now that is a point: I know not a soul who is deeply in love with the music of Milton Babbitt, and I do not think a huge fad in Babbitt concerts is in the offing. (I've had Boulez maniacal periods, and Webern ones too, but never a Babbitt marathon-listen. There's one piano piece 'Partitions' I used to like). Edited to add: I just looked some more of Babbitt up, though, and would be interested in recommendations, esp. would be interested to know what the Piano Concertos sound like.

But he is quite a good buffoon, I agree, esp. with that Stones crack and his movement up into ethers.

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Here’s the part I found most repellant: “I started listening to classical music when I entered college, aged 17. Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. Over the years, this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated.” What a warped way to look at art – as some sort of credential that grants you access to a special club reserved for a privileged few, much as “premier member” status in a frequent flyer program gets you into the lounge where the well-heeled businessmen, soft chairs and free drinks are. Only now everyone has enough miles to get in and they’re charging for the drinks anyway.

And only a crank disses the Stones.

He didn't knock them, he made a specific comparison which I think is undeniably accurate (and I'm a Stones fan). Nor did he say he wanted to cut ties with the proletariat to gain higher status or special privileges. The cultural elite he's referring to is one he says no longer exists, one that's "especially knowledgeable" about classical music. I'll leave it to more frequent concertgoers to gauge how accurate his assessment is, but we all know that we're not living in any golden age of artistic education.

And papeetepatrick, he didn't say Lang Lang was suspect, he said he's a showboater.

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jazz is all over the place in clubs in cities

Not in my neck of the woods. My impression is that jazz clubs are much thinner on the ground than they used to be as trends in popular music have shifted, and Queenan may be right to say that some of that state dough could be redistributed.

Fortunately most jazz doesn't take an orchestra to play; one of the finest contemporary jazz writers and big band leaders, Toshiko Akiyoshi, had to disband her orchestra a few years ago because it was too expensive. The few large groups that survive are mostly tribute and repertory bands.

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Fortunately most jazz doesn't take an orchestra to play; one of the finest contemporary jazz writers and big band leaders, Toshiko Akiyoshi, had to disband her orchestra a few years ago because it was too expensive. The few large groups that survive are mostly tribute and repertory bands.

I remember reading about that back when, kfw, and it's a shame.

Here’s the part I found most repellant: “I started listening to classical music when I entered college, aged 17. Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. Over the years, this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated.” What a warped way to look at art – as some sort of credential that grants you access to a special club reserved for a privileged few, much as “premier member” status in a frequent flyer program gets you into the lounge where the well-heeled businessmen, soft chairs and free drinks are. Only now everyone has enough miles to get in and they’re charging for the drinks anyway.

Thanks for posting, Kathleen. Queenan is indeed wearing his Joe Sixpack credentials on his sleeve, but I didn't think less of him for admitting that listening to art music made him feel that he had de-classed himself and joined a special elite. Mixed motives are not uncommon in this area, after all, and many a ballet and orchestra has benefited financially from rich aspirants looking to climb the social ladder as well as contribute to an art form.

In a way, it's actually an idealized way of looking at the matter - as if lovers of classical music are members of a special club, in that they have access to a 'mystery and beauty' that pop music, however excellent, can't quite provide. It's not 'dissing' the Rolling Stones to say that. His disillusionment sets in when he realizes that his naive concept is in error and the club he thought he'd joined was not the cultivated society of which he'd originally conceived but the frequent flyer program you just described so well.

The whole point of the article is to let you know that Queenan’s taste is more discerning than the taste of those who enjoyed Lang Lang playing the Emperor Concerto AND the taste of those who enjoyed Britwistle’s Minotaur;

Many articles of this kind are indeed fundamentally about taste. ("I don't like this, so everything's going to hell in a handbasket.")

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Nor did he say he wanted to cut ties with the proletariat to gain higher status or special privileges. The cultural elite he's referring to is one he says no longer exists, one that's "especially knowledgeable" about classical music. I'll leave it to more frequent concertgoers to gauge how accurate his assessment is, but we all know that we're not living in any golden age of artistic education.

And papeetepatrick, he didn't say Lang Lang was suspect, he said he's a showboater.

Saying he was a 'showboater' meant his 'serious credentials' were suspect. A 'showboater' is not an Artur Schnabel. Or is that too big a stretch to make on such a rarefied text?

Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. .

My impression was that upon cutting ties with the proletariat he had 'arrived' somewhere, and thought a cultural elite existed at least for a time in his 'development'. Of course this cultural elite is 'especially knowledgeable' about classical music, just as it is about ballet. And of course it still exists, it may have reconstellated in some ways, but without it there is not classical tradition in any of the performing arts. He's saying it doesn't exist any more is some jaded, world-weary thing, could even derive from theorists who talk about how elites are powerless by now, and everything is all pop culture. And talking about 'jazz is literally dying' is exactly like those who says 'ballet is dying' or 'irrelevant', except with even less basis. This whole site is supposed to be able to prove that ballet is not dying; and certainly jazz has infinitely more followers and fans than does ballet. If anything, jazz involves many classes of people, and is not necessarily elitist. The classical arts don't survive without an elite core. There were never audiences in the United States in a broad sense that are as widely educated in the arts as are many audiences in, say, Germany or Austria, where the tradition of the favorite music comes from. And Russia has always had ordinary people going to ballets, long before some people in some American cities started doing it (and even there, not many.)

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He didn't knock them, he made a specific comparison which I think is undeniably accurate (and I'm a Stones fan). Nor did he say he wanted to cut ties with the proletariat to gain higher status or special privileges. The cultural elite he's referring to is one he says no longer exists, one that's "especially knowledgeable" about classical music. I'll leave it to more frequent concertgoers to gauge how accurate his assessment is, but we all know that we're not living in any golden age of artistic education.

Just a note, kfw, that I didn't mean to ignore this post when I made my comments, as I see we made similar points. :)

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The 'cultural elite' might not be comprised of only illumined audiences, but it never was. It includes the artists themselves, those in their inner circles, and their patrons and supporters (usually), and some of the audiences. It has always been a prestige object to start going to classical concerts, and always has to do with class, if one starts to do it at some point, not having done so before. Peter Gay is especially good on the economics of concert-going in 'Pleasure Wars'.

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papeetepatrick, I think a showboater is someone who seems to show off, plain and simple. I do think that to assume more is to to presume. :) No one I'm aware of thinks Bernstein was a poor conductor, but his demonstrativeness on the podium was surely part, and perhaps a large part, of his appeal to relatively uneducated audience members. That would seem to be Queenan's point about Lang Lang, that his personality accounts in significant measure for why he's more popular than, say, Richard Goode. That's no verdict on Lang Lang's musicianship.

As for the tradition of classical music, in the short run it depends upon good musicians and composers, not the educated audience members which Queenan laments the lack of. As for jazz, up in your neck of the woods the working class can't afford the Village Vanguard, much less the Blue Note where the bigger names play. Where I live we have a great little jazz scene, and even a jazz society, but the latter holds meetings in a fancy restaurant. I see few African-Americans and no one that looks working or lower middle class (students excepted) at jazz performances here and there.

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Here’s the part I found most repellant: “I started listening to classical music when I entered college, aged 17. Because of my working-class background, ‘serious’ music was important to me - not only because it was mysterious and beautiful in a way the Rolling Stones were not, but because it confirmed that I had cut my ties with the proletariat and ‘arrived’. Over the years, this sense of membership of a cultural elite has evaporated.” What a warped way to look at art – as some sort of credential that grants you access to a special club reserved for a privileged few, much as “premier member” status in a frequent flyer program gets you into the lounge where the well-heeled businessmen, soft chairs and free drinks are. Only now everyone has enough miles to get in and they’re charging for the drinks anyway.

And only a crank disses the Stones.

He didn't knock them, he made a specific comparison which I think is undeniably accurate (and I'm a Stones fan). Nor did he say he wanted to cut ties with the proletariat to gain higher status or special privileges. The cultural elite he's referring to is one he says no longer exists, one that's "especially knowledgeable" about classical music. I'll leave it to more frequent concertgoers to gauge how accurate his assessment is, but we all know that we're not living in any golden age of artistic education.

And papeetepatrick, he didn't say Lang Lang was suspect, he said he's a showboater.

I think I have to respectfully disagree. I didn't mean to suggest that Queenan expected that special privileges or status in the most material sense would flow from his embrace of "serious music" (whatever that is*), but rather that he viewed it as a marker of having left his working class background behind. If the art is "mysterious and beautiful" and moves you, why does it matter who else listening? Had he simply said "it fired my imagination in a way that the Rolling Stones never did" or "made me all goose-bumpley in the way the Rollings Stones never did," I'd cheerfully acknowledge that he was making a value jugement based on his perception of artistic merit and that he had every right to do so, even if I didn't agree. But he seems to be saying that he valued "serious music" because it allowed him to hang with a better class of people, and that just rubs me the wrong way. Throughout the piece I kept getting the sense that at least part of his assessment of what's worthy and what's not is based on the audience for the thing, not the thing itself.

*I'd have to know what Queenan means by "serious music" before I could entertain the proposition that it is unequivicallyand always more "mysterious and beautiful" than the Stones. Bach, sure. Some baroque shlockmeister's 86th sopranino recorder concerto? Third-tier 19th century ballet music? There's some pretty pedestrian stuff passing itself off as "serious music" out there. How about Strauss waltzes? They're wonderful, but are they "serious" in a way that the Stones aren't? Yes, saying that "serious music" is "mysterious and beautiful" in a way that the Stones are not might imply that the Stones are "mysterious and beautiful" in a different, but equally valid and estimable way, but given the context that doesn't seem to be what Queenan is saying. But that's for a different post -- my husband is calling me to dinner ...

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papeetepatrick, I think a showboater is someone who seems to show off, plain and simple. I do think that to assume more is to to presume.

This is what he said: "The public likes its warhorses, but it doesn't seem to care how well these warhorses get played. They are particularly susceptible to showboaters like Lang Lang and Izzy Perlman and Nigel Kennedy; they turn out in droves to hear Andrea Bocelli warble his way through the Shmaltzmeister's Songbook"

In these two sentences, 'doesn't seem to care how well these warhorses get played' is immediately followed by 'particularly susceptible to showboaters like Lang Lang'. Is that not clear that it's the same people? My saying 'suspect' was tongue-in-cheek anyway, because I know what Lang Lang sounds like and don't need anybody to tell me how to judge him. I also know why he'd call him a 'showboater', which could mean he was very good and also that, as here, Queenan may not think he plays so well. I frankly don't care what Queenan think about Lang Lang's playing. I was talking about his writing.

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papeetepatrick, I think a showboater is someone who seems to show off, plain and simple. I do think that to assume more is to to presume.

This is what he said: "The public likes its warhorses, but it doesn't seem to care how well these warhorses get played. They are particularly susceptible to showboaters like Lang Lang and Izzy Perlman and Nigel Kennedy; they turn out in droves to hear Andrea Bocelli warble his way through the Shmaltzmeister's Songbook"

In these two sentences, 'doesn't seem to care how well these warhorses get played' is immediately followed by 'particularly susceptible to showboaters like Lang Lang'. Is that not clear that it's the same people?

Sure it's the same people. But it's Bocelli he says that warbles. He doesn't say good musicianship and salesmanship are mutually exclusive, he says the public can't tell the difference.

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Sure it's the same people. But it's Bocelli he says that warbles. He doesn't say good musicianship and salesmanship are mutually exclusive, he says the public can't tell the difference.

This was mainly about my phrase 'informs me that Lang Lang is suspect', and 'inform' is clearly meant ironically, not literally.

There's nothing wrong with warbling. Kiri Tekanawa warbled superbly, and the public loved it, whether or not knowing she was good or not. But also it's possible, with the tone of the piece, that he does mean these are not the best performers. If the public 'doesn't care how well their warhorses are played', they nevertheless know which showboaters, whether or not both musically able and commercially savvy, to choose from and gravitate to. If they therefore can't tell the difference, they must sometimes choose the less great performance if they choose only or mainly the showboaters; because if they both do choose (by being susceptible) and 'can't tell the difference', then it is surely the case that they may have chosen the less ideal performers by choosing only the showboaters. Because sometimes showboaters may be the best, but they are not always the best. But this gets into much more hairsplitting than I'm willing to do further. It can go either way, for example, showboating and salesmanship are not necessarily the same thing. Many showboaters are small-time--they can be lounge pianists or singers. So all these terms have different meanings to us, and how we see the text someone wrote in its details will usually follow from our perception of the whole piece. Since I think it's a dreadful piece, I can write about it freely and without respect to certain minutiae, especially given that he was throwing sledgehammers everywhere, certainly not the least bit worried about attention to details. In writing about it, I'm not going to respect it as I would someone's piece I thought was incisive and/or meaningful. The Rolling Stones remark alone already has different interpretations, because his writing is not indisputably precise. Anyway, I agree with most of what Kathleen said, not all of it, but too much of a chess game type thing for me beyond this. Maybe she will take it up tomorrow.

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I'd have to know what Queenan means by "serious music" before I could entertain the proposition that it is unequivically and always more "mysterious and beautiful" than the Stones. Bach, sure. Some baroque shlockmeister's 86th sopranino recorder concerto?

I think he means that classical art music can provide pleasures and rewards outside the purview of pop, which seems fair enough comment. ‘Moonlight Mile’ by the Stones is as mysterious and beautiful a song as one could ask for, and I don’t think he was suggesting that those qualities are impossible to find in rock, only that there is more and different to be found elsewhere.

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The whole point of the article is to let you know that Queenan’s taste is more discerning than the taste of those who enjoyed Lang Lang playing the Emperor Concerto AND the taste of those who enjoyed Britwistle’s Minotaur; more discerning than the taste of those who like Górecki, Pärt, Glass, and Adams AND those who like Berg, Varèse, Webern, Rihm, Schnittke, Adès, Wuorinen, Crumb, Carter, and Babbitt.
Throughout the piece I kept getting the sense that at least part of his assessment of what's worthy and what's not is based on the audience for the thing, not the thing itself.

Thanks, Kathleen. I totally agree on both points. One reads the piece and wonders, Gee, doesn't he like anything? Or anybody, for that matter? His description of the Aperghis performance makes me sorry I missed that concert; whereas he dismisses it, it seems, because it didn't look and sound like a concert of Brahms piano trios played by performers who are not "showboaters" to a discerning audience of the right people.

If he ever picked up a book on performance or reception history, he'd realize performers and audiences haven't really changed much over the couple of centuries that public concerts as we know them have existed. Just like there have always been snobs like him to give classical music a bad reputation.

I don't read this columnist. Can anybody tell me what he loves?

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I sort of liked the article. I'd add the myth of Tschaikovsky's homosexual morose suicide to the warhorse stories people like to tell themselves. Eliott Carter--an very early appreciator of Balanchine--at 100 years old is still composing things and kids do like his work. Yes, it's no secret Bernstein did not develop as a composer and "Candide" does get better reviews with every revival. Newspaper boys do not exactly whistle "Pierrot Lunaire"--wasn't this was Shoenberg's prediction of his later twelve tone music (unfortunately there are no newspaper boys left to see if this would come true) but I've find myself warming up to Pierrot and it's one of the first things I've downloaded to my new iPod Touch. (If only I could get it to stop shuffling Beethoven Bagatelles).

Those miscellaneous comments aside, the classical audience is ageing in the States and no seems to want to make the stretch for new music--the last time they did it was for Mahler revival, at roughly the same time they made the attempt for the 4 Temperaments and Agon. In Europe I think it's a bit different.

One critic--it may be Alex Ross--thinks that classical music will survive only through Opera, which seems to have revived its subscriber base and delivery system.

[And regarding Nadal and Federer did anyone else think of them as the scampy Apollo versus the aloof and princely Peter Martinsy one?]

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[And regarding Nadal and Federer did anyone else think of them as the scampy Apollo versus the aloof and princely Peter Martinsy one?]

I think that’s an apt comparison and I’m annoyed I didn’t think of it myself, although even the scampiest Apollo doesn’t constantly tug the back of his pants.

But has this not been the case for a long time? One ageing classical music audience is replaced by the next generation of ageing classical music audience.

That’s a good point, zerbinetta, but it’s possible that the times are different. People have access to a wider variety of music than ever before – it wasn’t too long ago that to hear Balinese music you had to go to Bali – and classical music has to fight for space in a much more competitive market, and without the snob appeal that it used to have.

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It's a bit of a tangent, but I thought that this post from Greg Sandow's Arts Journal Daily blog was interesting in the context of attracting new audiences to "serious music": "What the New Audience Wants"

A teaser:

One of the people I've long thought ought to be invited to talk to the classical world is J.D. Considine, a veteran pop and jazz writer whom I've known for some years, and currently writes about jazz for the Toronto Globe and Mail. He likes classical music (we used to talk about Baltimore Symphony concerts when he was pop critic for the Baltimore Sun),.and just sent me an e-mail that everyone who wants to extend the reach of classical music should read. I'm reprinting it here with J.D.'s permission. Note two important things: the parts about the audience liking difficult music, and about the limited appeal for this audience ("limited" being an understatement) of musical beauty. These are things the classical world doesn't understand at all (beauty, after all, being one of its favorite selling points, just as J.D. says).

Last week, I had the chance to hear (and cover) a performance of Cage's HPSCHD. It wasn't quite the "standard" performance, as it only ran only three hours and relied on just five actual amplified harpsichords (the other parts were covered by a Yamaha digital piano and a Hohner D6 Clavinet). The quality of the players was wonderful-- Eve Egoyan corralled the group -- and they did a great job with the pre-recorded electronics and the projected art. But the smartest thing they did was to stage it less like a concert than a happening, encouraging people to walk around the room, or even in and out, instead of sitting solemnly and stoically for three hours. (They stressed the freedom of movement in the pre-concert publicity, too.)

And it was amazing. People wandered through the room, listening to the various harpsichords, occasionally chatted with the players, sipped wine or beer, and had a terrific time. The crowd was also mainly young boomers and older X-gens -- just the people symphony boards pray for -- as well as a smattering of seniors and 20- somethings. I swear, I even saw a kid wander through carrying a skateboard
!

Considine goes on to observe that what younger audiences want is "aurally challenging" and "emotionally powerful" music, and that "the thirst for adventure is there waiting to be exploited."

Getting back to Qeenan: I think his piece was ultimately mostly a polemical riff on some (for him) disappointing concert-going experiences, and not really measured assessment of the current and future condition of "serious music," its performance, and its audience. Sandow is always interesting on these points (it's the focus of his blog) and worth checking out if you have any interest in the topic.

Quiggin: :thumbsup: Truly apt! Now I'll never look at Federer and Nadal in quite the same way again ...

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I sort of liked the article

That was pretty much my reaction. Sure, there's plenty of more cogently argued stuff out there, but Queenan provides a good springboard for discussion as these pieces written in a testy mood sometimes do.

Thanks again, Mashinka, for posting it. You set off quite a discussion!

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