Lonely listener

I’m always delighted by the variety of people who subscribe to my online book on the future of classical music. (The next episode comes out on Wednesday. Recently I’ve gotten, just for instance, the marketing directors of two important orchestras, one in the US and one in the UK, a music student exploring new ways to describe classical music in Banff, in Canada, and someone in charge of program notes with an Australian orchestra. Plus a professor of piano and piano pedagogy at a small Bible college, not to mention an assortment of musicians and long-time classical music listeners.

But Eric Davidson really touched my heart. Along with his subscription request, he sent this message (which, as always, I’m posting with his permission):

I’m a 24 year old law student from the US who loves “classical” music, though I have no particular talent for playing or composing. Enjoying this music is often a lonely pastime, and it’s interesting to hear how it became so.

I responded with some encouragement, which I mention only because Eric told me he really found it encouraging. I suggested, for instance, that he look into starting a classical music listening group, along the lines of the book groups that have sprung up everywhere. I’ve seen this done successfully by the owner of an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, and it’s an idea I’d love to see catch on.

But above all, I understand Eric’s loneliness. I often hear something similar from classical musicians, and from classical music students. Of course they know other people who like classical music — their colleagues, or their fellow students. But they also have friends who aren’t involved in their field, and these people, they often say, don’t know anything about classical music. So in a way it’s the same thing Eric is saying.

One piece of good news, surely, is that there are many people in the same position. So if someone they could meet each other…and maybe if people like Eric could meet some younger classical musicians…

(The next book episode, by the way, will be about modernism, which — without at all rejecting modernist music — I see as a kind of pathological development inside classical music, because of the way it grew inward-looking, formalist, and even dictatorial, imposing itself on mainstream audiences who had no taste for it. But what I’m writing about in this next episode are the reasons why modernism, when it first arose, was not only strong and important, but necessary. And I’m going to look back with wistful interest at the days (in the 1920s) when modern music was hot, and seemed to be on its way toward developing what we’d now an alternative audience all its own.)

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  1. says

    It’s strange, but you don’t know how happy this post made me! I’m an avid classical music listener, and I’m always rattling off to people about how “isolated” it feels to like something that you can’t really talk about, or share with people. It’s almost feels sometimes that talking about classical music is like talking about an imaginary friend. Of course, when I enter the concert hall, all those feelings happily wash away when I hear my fellow listeners on my way out after a show, expressing some of the same things that I feel listening to music, that I just can’t talk to other people about.

  2. says

    It’s not “real-life”, but the Modern Composers chatroom on the Soulseek filesharing network has new music discussion 20/7, and dozens of people are active. No local listening group could compete with the breadth of opinion one can get there.