This came in an e-mail from John Steinmetz, who’s often
made comments on blog posts. John had trouble posting it as a comment (sorry,
John), and I thought it might as well be a post by itself. I love its good
sense, good cheer, and also the necessary dose of realism.
Maybe there used to be a sense that
there was One Right Way to present classical music—one right repertory,
one right standard of quality, and one right way to be an audience
member—but there is no longer one right anything. Shifts like this are
happening all over our culture. This may be a source of sadness or frustration
for people who loved the old one right way of presenting and organizing
classical music, but we now have the possibility of multiple right
ways—including the old one—suited to different people’s different
enthusiasms. (Why did we ever think that all the music between Bach and Bartok
belonged in one bucket anyway, or that those musics
should be separated from all other musics?) Sure,
there are problems, not least that nobody knows what
will happen to the tons of money that used to follow the one right way. But
this is a huge set of opportunities, too.
Underlying some of the
arguments about classical music is an assumption that the old one right way
will be replaced by another one right way, so of course people argue for their
preferences. Fear not!
There is not going to be one right
or wrong way. The road ahead splits into multiple paths,
and people are free to follow more than one.