The other day I had lunch with a classical musician friend. She started talking about how sick and tired she is of reading stories about how classical music is dying. What is the purpose of these stories?, she wondered. If a department store found its profits declining and was afraid of going under, would its owners run around shouting to the public that it was in danger of going under? Wouldn’t that shake consumer confidence in the store and make things worse? Wouldn’t that become a self-fulfilling prophecy? We could see how, in private meetings of classical-music performers and managers, you would certainly want to raise any appropriate alarm. But what effect will this continual “Classical music is dying” mantra have on those not involved with classical music in the first place? Won’t they think, “Good, if I wait a little while longer, that’s one more thing I’ll never have to pay attention to”? Wouldn’t the helpful strategy be to talk about what’s wonderful about classical music, about what you can get from it that you can’t from any other music? Given the self-fulfillingly-prophetic nature of the mantra – that those who shout “Classical music is dying!” are increasing and accelerating its likelihood of dying – what do the mantra-shouters get from doing it? What ego strokes from dissing their own artform do these Cassandras receive? Especially when every now and then we find a retailer’s report or audience statistic suggesting that the reports of classical music’s imminent demise are greatly exaggerated.
Since I couldn’t answer any of these questions (not being one of the mantra-shouters myself), I pass them on to you.