Not connecting (first draft)

I’m making a list — and checking it twice — of all the ways in which classical music doesn’t connect to our larger culture. This’ll eventually be a detailed blog post. I’d love comments. Can anyone add to the list?

1. Most of the music at classical concerts comes from the past. So we’re rarely engaged with contemporary life. (Is this one reason the people who go to these concerts like them?)

2. Formal dress looks archaic, and out of touch.

3. The musicians don’t talk to the audience. In our culture today, people expect musicians to talk.

4. Musicians subordinate their own personalities. They play the music the way they’ve been taught to. They don’t take much initiative, don’t make their concerts personal statements, don’t play the music their own way.

5. Even when new music is played, much of it doesn’t sound like the world around us. The sounds of popular music aren’t much heard, though they were in past centuries.

6. More general statement of point five: There’s rarely even a hint of current popular culture at classical concerts. That’s not true of other forms of art — novels, poetry, visual art, dance, theater.

7. The audience is old.

I know that many of these things are changing. Point three, for instance. So I’m talking about classical concerts in their traditional form.

And I’m not saying that any of these things are bad. If you enjoy these concerts, you enjoy them. It’s just that concerts with these characteristics don’t resemble other current cultural events, don’t connect with our larger culture, and therefore might not attract many people, especially younger people — no matter how fine the music is.

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  1. says

    Hey there. I don’t think point 7 belongs on your list, because it is a direct result of points 1 through 6; because of points 1 through 6, the audience is old.

    Or, the classical music you outline in points 1 through 6 does actually connect to an older audience’s version of “larger culture”. My larger culture is different than someone of a different age or geography’s larger culture, so what or whose version of larger culture should classical music seek to connect with?

  2. says

    I’m about five blog posts behind, but did you hear about Eric Whitacre’s new music theatre/opera project, Paradise Lost? It was premiered in California this summer.

    The reviews seemed to indicate a lack of dramatic cohesion which may have kept its profile down. But the music is absolutely stunning, a mix of classical string and choral writing, pop vocals, opera, and electronica/techno. P.S. – the show had anime sequences, taiko drumming, martial arts, innovative lighting and a whole lot more.

    Whitacre’s music – most of it wind band and choral – is always an “event”, and young people are both his primary field of activity and fan base. He’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re interested in the future of classical music!

    Thanks, Rob. I’d heard of this, but then forgotten about it. I’ll have to learn more about it. Do you know of recordings/videos, even of excerpts?

  3. Seth says

    5. Even when new music is played, much of it doesn’t sound like the world around us. The sounds of popular music aren’t much heard, though they were in past centuries.

    6. More general statement of point five: There’s rarely even a hint of current popular culture at classical concerts. That’s not true of other forms of art — novels, poetry, visual art, dance, theater.

    Hi Greg,

    An anecdote, make of it what you will:

    A few weeks ago I went to hear Jeremy Denk play the Concord Sonata and the Hammerklavier here in Western MA. I’m in my early 50s and was one of younger of the mostly oldsters in the audience, though my impression was that there was a good solid chunk of people younger than me there too.

    I love this piece and Denk’s performance revealed things about it that I had never heard before. Some of Denk’s (Ive’s?) changes in dynamics were incredibly moving to my ears.

    It was as though Ives quieted down suddenly to let you hear something you weren’t aware of hearing all along. Revelation.

    During the intermission after the Concord Sonata, people around me stopped to talk and, from I what I overheard, the consensus from young and old alike was that, even as well played as it was, they really just didn’t like the Ives.

    Long story short, if Ives doesn’t move an audience, how can we expect any use of popular culture to bring vibrancy into classical music?

    On the other hand, Golijov seems to do it, and I don’t really get what’s so great about him. So what do I know?

    Back to lurk mode.


    Thanks, Seth. Emerge from lurking anytime you like!

    I’ve seen new music concerts in NY draw a large young audience, plainly civilians, by which I mean not classical music professionals. The classical music audience, of any age, seems to like the old stuff best, which they have every right to. But the old stuff won’t, as far as I can see, attract anyone new.

    I’ve heard that was a wonderful concert. Denk’s touring it around. He has a terrific blog, by the way.

  4. Bob says


    Your posts never cease to provide me with lots to chew on, and this one is certainly no exception. I have to admit, though, that I’m not quite sure how I can bring about any significant change in this area. As a pre-concert speaker, I always trying to make some sort of a connection between the audience and what’s been programmed, but as long as the organizations I work with continue to maintain the status quo, I often feel like I’m swimming against the tide.

    So at the risk of sounding completely frustrated by the current state of affairs, I’m wondering how each of us can move the discussion beyond the analysis stage and on to something more constructive. What can we do as individuals to help rectify this situation?

    Terrific question! Part of the answer is that we’re all doing something, wherever we are. But I think I should give my longer answer in a blog post, so more people will see it — and give answers of their own. Change is happening, but not everywhere, and not at the same pace in the various places where it’s taking place.

  5. brett says

    maybe add:

    stuffy concert hall atmosphere. In clubs (where increasingly classical music no longer fears to tread, see Haimovitz, Wordless music, classical revolution, et al), you can drink a beer, talk between songs.

    no visual impact. I know this is true of most concert performances, but even at a rock show with no projections or dance, the bands can be fun to watch. we live in an increasingly visual age.

    Thanks, Brett! Good points, both of them. I think concert performances could have much more visual impact, if the musicians would let themselves go, and move with the music. The Berlin Philharmonic players do that, and it’s riveting. You know they care, and the sound is richer and fuller because they put their bodies into it.

  6. says

    8. Any kind of physical response to the music is discouraged for both performers and audiences.

    9. Programs are rarely animated by a discernible idea that would allow one to have a conversation about the idea’s aptness or lack thereof.

    10. Advertisements for wealth-management firms whose services are inaccessible to the vast majority of human beings due to lack o’ cash dominate major-orchestra programs.

    11. The temple-like edifices in which orchestral music is typically performed lock out passersby and seek to cocoon their attendees.

    12. Classical music concerts are monocultural, i.e., European. They are the whitest events I regularly attend.

    13. When new music is played, it is treated as the red-headed stepchild, rather than as a special treat for the audience, which gets to experience something novel. I have never understood this.

    14. Classical music is, to my knowledge, the only musical genre in which many of its devotees demand fealty to it above all others. None of my fellow hip-hop fans ever badgers me about how useless classical music is…

    Don’t worry, there are more that I’m forgetting right now. I’ll come back.

    Wow! Thanks so much. Terrific points, every one of them. Maybe you and I should coauthor my book!

  7. says

    Would the following count?

    15. A great many of classical music’s devotees believe that if you have had little or no musicological training you cannot fully or in some cases even partially appreciate classical music.

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but it does appear that even taking into account a Deweyan or Bourdieuesque perspective on education and appreciation, social and other forms of capital, and so on, this is quite different from nearly all the other arts; specialists in literature, visual and plastic art, architecture, dance, performance, film, new media, etc., all acknowledge that popular criticism, understanding and appreciation of these other art genres and forms are valuable and necessary. This is not to say that there isn’t a great deal of contention between scholars/specialists and popular audiences, but it is quite different from what’s observable in the classical music realm.

    Definitely that counts, and it’s an important point. Thanks!

  8. says

    Hi Greg,

    I hope you are well! I am glad we finally cut to the chase so to speak. I think this list you have laid out is completely accurate. They seem like small points individually but as soon as you combine them all, the concert atmosphere changes drastically and you are no longer able to relate to the experience in terms of modern culture.

    I think classical musicians not talking to the audience is one of the bigger points in the list, and one of the biggest problems in current classical concerts. In my experience, audiences love feeling connected to the performer. They respect his/her skills and dedication and musicality so they want to feel like they know the person, like they can go grab a beer with the person after wards. Talking is the quickest and easiest way to connect people, so to me it doesn’t make sense not to talk with the audience and let them feel like they are taking part in the musical experience rather than just watching it.

    In classical music it is especially important for a true audience-performer connection because of your other point, the music is VERY OLD, it is already more difficult to relate to. So if we don’t relate to them on a lingual level, the music by itself is probably not going to take them there either.

    The large share of contemporary classical music that employs atonality and highly variant rhythms through out the music confuses even seasoned pros upon first hearing. Most musicians need at least three hearings to really get into the piece and start to understand the structure and meaning, if there is a meaning. If musicians have difficulty on the first pass, how is an average audience member going to be able to relate to it?

    Another audience connection problem is that especially with the cannon of classical symphonies that are being played all the time, all the titles are in Italian or German! What kind of average American knows enough Italian or German to be able to understand the titles of the different movements of a piece? Isn’t a title pretty important to the piece?

    It’s like us classical musicians are deliberately withholding information from the audience so they have no idea what we are really doing up on stage. I personally ALWAYS talk at my shows and I can feel it makes a huge difference; if anything just to break the ice a little.

    The problem with classical music sales is NOT (for the most part anyway) the fault of the music. It is the fault of the performer for not adapting to modern culture and presenting the music in a way in which the average modern audience member can understand and relate.

  9. Yvonne says

    I’m with Amanda on this. Point 7 has no place at all on the list. A primarily “old” audience is merely an observable outcome – although I hope when I am twice the age I am now that no one thinks my and my friends’ attendance at concerts a bad thing. It is not a way (i.e. method or means) in which classical music fails to connect to a larger culture.

    Amanda’s other point about whose culture is being defined here is also valid.

    @Lindemann: May I never have to read “bicenquinquagennial” in a concert, because heaven forbid that I be moved to laugh out loud during the performance! (Or maybe that’s what they were trying to encourage…?)

  10. anon says

    Here’s one you missed:

    8. Constant ringing the death-knell of classical music as culturally irrelevant.

    Sorry Greg, I know this subject is a pet project of yours, but even as I acknowledge the well meaning of posts and essays on the problems of the presentation of classical music, I can’t help but notice that most of the people bemoaning its irrelevance are not outsiders who don’t generally go to classical concerts, but insiders such as yourself.

    I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a constructive dialog on the state of the community, but if we on the inside are the first ones to say it is becoming increasingly irrelevant, why would someone who looks at the concert culture from an outside perspective disagree?

    If I constantly saw articles cropping up in the NYTimes music section with headlines saying that hip-hop was in crisis, why would I, as an outsider to that musical culture dispute that? And thus, the perception gains momentum.

    As you said: if you enjoy these concerts, you enjoy them. Given how classical music journalism treats its own subject, I’m not surprised that there isn’t a younger audience that is gagging to get their hands on overpriced tickets for concerts that classical journalists have already told them are culturally irrelevant.

    Let’s continue to discuss amongst ourselves, but stop announcing our own concerns through articles in big publications constantly!

    I would add:

    –There is nothing wrong with formal dress for concerts. Bands wear suits these days, depending on their image. So does Justin Timberlake. What’s your point? People don’t like to get dressed up to go out? Ever see a line to get into a club?

    –Musicians don’t subordinate their own personalities; mature artists all make their own interpretive decisions in the repertoire they are playing, and just because there is a lineage to pedagogy doesn’t mean classical musicians are automatons. I don’t understand what your point is here, really.

    –A concert is a concert, not a lecture. Most rock or pop concerts have a shout out of ‘how are you new york!’ or something like that, but mostly they just go out on stage and play. Would a shout out make people feel more welcome? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t argue for talking for 20 minutes before actually playing a piece.

    –Popular culture does not inherently equal cultural relevance.

    –I agree new music needs to become central, and the programing of it needs to be more even handed. Most groups one type of new music with a rather polemical fervor; we need to see Boulez and Adams and younger unestablished people being given their due more.

  11. says

    This to second the comment about the musicians moving with the music making a concert a more engaging experience. A lot of music is gesture made audible. For the non-specialist members of the audience, physical gestures by the musicians make the experience less abstract and more visceral, and can illuminate the deeper musical gestural forms embedded in the music.

  12. Eric Lin says

    @ Anon,

    I think you point to one of the greatest challneges and problems in new music performance with this:

    “–Most groups one type of new music with a rather polemical fervor; we need to see Boulez and Adams and younger unestablished people being given their due more.”

    Resistance to New Music from certain performers and certain institutions is a problem–but not the only. A bigger problem is the territorial-mindset that comes with new music groups. Some only perform music from certain countries or regions, while others take pride in only playing music by a certain ‘school’ of composers.

    I understand that many groups ARE regional, and part of their engagement with new music is through the commissioning and championing of area composers. Yet, while I find this local and community spirit very laudable (since obscure local composers might get a performance of their music), I actually think the negative consequences outweighs the positive and does a disservice to both the composer and audience. The audience’s idea of ‘new music’ inevitably becomes limited to the local composers. This is one of the biggest problems with some Boston area new music groups. They play a lot of music by Boston composers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a stretch to say that their seasons are rarely representative of the entire spectrum of contemporary music. The negative effects? John Harbison might get more performances of his music here in Boston, but comparatively less in other regions. In a more ideal situation, Boston groups play less music by Boston composers…but the result would be that their music would become more widely disseminated elsewhere. There really isn’t a reason why this isn’t already the case today (esp. with our increasing awareness of other new music through the internet) except for rampant regionalism (or stylistic bias) which I believe to be unhealthy. I’m not sure how to fix this…but more enterprising groups like Alarm Will Soundm who can program music by Wolfgang Rihm, Stockhausen, Leonard Bernstein and Aphex Twin all on the same program is surely the way to go. Ditto for the expansive (though increasing less so in the past 2-3 seasons) and diverse number of composers/styles represented at George Steel’s Miller Theatre Composer Portrait series.

    Of the European new music orchestras, Germany’s Ensemble Modern is probably one of the best groups–playing everything from Harrison Birtwistle and Lachenmann to Frank Zappa and Mark Anthony Turnage. That is healthy. Boulez’s Ensemble Intercontemporain’s obsession with mostly French music (and other narrowly defined modernist music) is not. I think the only Americans to regularly grace their programs lists are Cage, Feldman and maybe Reich.

    New Music already attracts a very small audience…to engage in regionalism, segmentation and stylistic bias is only to marginalize new music even further. This is truly a case of ‘unite or die.’

  13. Anonymous says

    I definitely agree that formal dress manifested as a tuxedo makes absolutely no sense – I think all black applying to the men as well as women would make perfect sense.

    However I think the main problem with orchestral concerts today is that there are just far too many. With the ridiculous number of orchestras, I do not see any possible way that they could all realistically be sustained by the audience. Orchestras have just expanded so much – correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t most orchestra in the golden age somewhere around 26 weeks or maybe a few more? – several of my teachers’ teachers (I am an aspiring orchestral musician), even playing in the most legendary ensembles in America and being famous in their own right, had to do other work including drive cabs to make a full-time living. Also, is a full, modern-sized symphony orchestra concert really necessary every weekend during the season – I think probably not, this is huge overkill. Especially considering much of this music was written with a smaller group in mind. If orchestras during the golden age of orchestral cultural relevance couldn’t sustain 52 week seasons, why should we try now? Without 52 week employment, musicians would for better or worse have to explore more of the creative avenues commentators such as you have advocated of audience interaction and play other types of music. I think the ideal model for an orchestra would be a concert every few weeks featuring a modern sized group (playing rep that really needs it, like a Mahler symphony) with some type of mix of chamber orchestra, chamber ensemble, and solo recitals from the employed musicians happening every weekend (maybe a few concerts like this a weekend) in various venues. The orchestra would be paying the players for these performances, and couldn’t pay as much for as many weeks as they do now, but I see this being a very fulfilling musical life for a community, taking for granted the performances could somehow be regularly high caliber.

    You’re not the only one thinking this way. Many people think the expansion to full-year employment created more concerts than there’s really a demand for. When it happened, in the 1960s, the immediate result was the worst financial crisis orchestras have ever faced. They solved it by developing the ways they raise money now, and by creating huge development departments to do the fundraising. Now they seem tapped out again, and they’re talking about still more ways to raise money.

    We shouldn’t forget that the old way — only partial employment for even top-quality orchestra musicians — had a big downside. Many musicians worked in factories and as clerks in stores during the off-season. When the 52-week season arrived, musicians were understandably thrilled to be treated just like high-caliber professionals in other occupations. Nobody could have known that this might cause difficulties decades down the road.

    Musicians — and musicians’ unions — are going to be outraged that we’re having this discussion. But to look at the present situation in a positive way, one way orchestras are trying to raise more money is to root themselves more deeply in their communities. And the model you propose for orchestra musicians could be a way of doing that. The evolution to there, from where we are now, could be difficult, even painful, but maybe there’s a bright future ahead. If we can only figure it out!

  14. Randy says

    Lack of information. Outside of a few big cities, there is very little classical music coverage in the papers, mainly just concert listings, maybe an interview with a guest artist before the concert, and reviews after. A lot may be going on locally. Students, amateurs and professionals win competitions, soloists and ensembles issue recordings, musicians join and leave the local orchestra. Little of this ever gets covered anywhere.

    Very good point!

    A lot of people blame the media for lack of coverage, but that’s not helpful. It certainly won’t lead to any change. I’d blame the classical music business, for not doing things that are very interesting, and also — much more specifically — for not knowing how to pitch stories to the media. Classical music publicists, in far too many cases, don’t even seem to know what a story would be. “Orchestra Plays Beethoven” isn’t a story. Happens all the time. I’m on the receiving end of gigantic amounts of classical music publicity, and I’d guess that 80% of the time, or more, “Orchestra Plays Beethoven” is about all that the publicists have to say. Well, sometimes “Orchestra Plays Beethoven with Acclaimed Soloist.” Or, “Orchestra Plays Magnificent Beethoven Concerto with Acclaimed Virtuoso Soloist.”

    We have to make ourselves interesting, and learn how to talk about that. Then we’ll get some coverage — though I think we should start creating our own excitement online, because even if we do get newspaper coverage (let’s say), how many people read newspapers anymore?

  15. says

    Greg, as I’ve pointed out before, I must respectfully disagree with the premises of these statements.

    The complaint that too much of the classical music played today is old doesn’t wash. Classical music has been around so much longer than the other kinds of music most people are familiar with that we have an enormous amount of repertoire to choose from.

    Two or three centuries ago, there were only a tiny fraction of the number of public perfomances which occur today, and very few orchestras and opera companies.

    Of course, we have to give new music a chance to be heard, but why should we

    limit ourselves to new music ? And in fact, a great deal of new music has been heard recently.

    Classical music is also not exclusively white and male by any means. It is in fact, more diverse and multicultural then ever before.

  16. says

    Classical music is also not exclusively white and male by any means. It is in fact, more diverse and multicultural then ever before.

    I agree with both of these statements. However, classical music is still really white and really male, much more so than the broader culture. Look at the principal conductors of Gramophone’s top 20 orchestras if you don’t believe me. Classical music is making progress, but it has an incredibly long way to go.

    Another one I thought of builds on the point made earlier about the languages used in classical programs, and that’s the weird metadata so fetishistically cultivated for classical works. Newbies to the concert experience don’t know what “BWV,” “K.”, “D.”, “Hob.”, “WoO,” “Op.”, et al. mean. I’m still not sure why Hoboken catalogue numbers even exist for Haydn’s works, and I love Haydn’s music to death. (But that’s the point – I love the music.)

    BTW, Greg, I’d be happy to help with the book, but many of the observations I contributed earlier have been featured somewhere or other on this blog. Perhaps I have phrased them more tartly than you did, but that’s most of my contribution with those.

    Good point about the incomprehensible numbers. Among much else, they give the impression that scholarship is vastly important in classical music. Especially when they’re combined with program notes that give the same impression.

    As for diversity — I was on a panel at Carnegie Hall, as part of the big Bernstein extravaganza they’re having, in conjunction with the NY Philharmonic. Our topic was Bernstein’s social activism, and part of the discussion was his support of civil rights, counterpointed to a complaint, from that time, that the Philharmonic didn’t hire enough black musicians. Bernstein passionately defended the orchestra’s hiring, saying they couldn’t possibly do any better. Whether he was right or wrong, it’s plain to see that orchestras have hardly any more black players now than they had then. The fact that there’s no obstacle to black musicians joining orchestras doesn’t change the fact that there are hardly any onstage.

    Thanks for bouncing the ball back at me, and giving me credit (or something like that) for the wonderful things you posted. But a big part of getting all this sorted out is, quite literally, sorting out the many ideas in the air these days, no matter where they first came from. You did a great job of that, and I’m grateful for it. Helps me a lot.

  17. Daniel says

    On the matter of formal dress: I was struck by watching a performance of Berio’s sinfonio at the Proms earlier this year, the difference between the Swingle Singers, dressed in well-tailored (and highly fashionable) suits and the orchestral players in full white tie and tails, a style which has not been in fashion (except at weddings -and barely even there nowadays) for fifty years or more. One can still look elegant and modern.

    Part of the whole problem with “classical” music is that it does seem locked into a 19th century worldview and the fashion seems to emphasize this. It is less evident as regards “period” music ie baroque which I could see communicating to a younger audience if it got the exposure. No donning of periwigs or 18th century breaches is deemed necessary and there is a degree of improvisation in the performance of the music.

    Often there’s even a contrast in the way conductors and orchestra dress, when you have a conductor (Christoph Eschenbach is one example) who doesn’t wear white tie.

  18. Bob says

    Newbies to the concert experience don’t know what “BWV,” “K.”, “D.”, “Hob.”, “WoO,” “Op.”, et al. mean.

    Audience members occasionally ask me to explain these organizational designations in my pre-concert talks, but I’ve never gotten the sense that anyone is put off or bothered by their usage. I find that most people understand on some level the need to create order out of chaos, and this is exactly how I’d frame my discussion of something like the Hoboken numbering system. I’d also point out how imperfect these schemes are and how in the case of Vivaldi, for example, scholars have come up with an entirely different method for classifying and arranging the music.

    We can certainly debate whether or not these sorts of endeavors are all that important for the first time concert-goer, but I’m not ready to jettison them simply because someone coming into the hall off the street doesn’t immediately grasp their meaning.

    In my experience, people don’t often spontaneously start talking about things they don’t like, or don’t understand, about the classical music experience. That’s true both for long-time concertgoers and newcomers. Or, for that matter, people who never come, though they’re the most likely to be critical.

    Give people a forum, though — ask them questions, and make them feel like someone cares about their answers — and you’re likely to get an outpouring of questions and criticism. I’ve seen that happen, and I’ve facilitated one discussion at which the management of a big orchestra got blistering criticism it never dreamed would come from its audience.

    All those scholarly numbers aren’t enough, by themselves, to make anyone not go to classical concerts, or to feel uncomfortable when they’re at one. But they combine with many other things about the experience to make at least two things happen — people stay away, or don’t come as often as they might, or do come, but feel that they’re too ignorant to have any legitimate opinion about what they’re hearing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that, even from people whose ears and judgment were really very good.

    If I had to deal with all those numbers in a public way, I’d tease them a little, and treat them as the kind of enticing weirdness that younger people these days really enjoy. Beyond that, I know they have a scholarly function, but it’s legitimate to ask why pieces can’t simply be known by comprehensible numbers? String Quartet Number 15. I know the answer — a lot of those numbers were formerly used, but have proven to be incorrect. Easier to introduce a whole new numbering scheme than to ask people to change the numbers they’re used to, and call the 15th string quartet the 16th.

    The result still is a mess.

  19. says

    The question is not what we should jettison about the classical music experience. The question is what about the classical music inhibits connections with the wider world. The obscure cataloguing, I think, does inhibit connections, useful as it is to devotees. Is it so useful that we cannot possibly jettison it? That’s another question.

    I’m trying to think of another artistic field in which you see that level of incomprehensible-without-decoding information presented as high-level text attached to each and every work, but I cannot. Maybe I’m missing something here.

    I can’t think of one either. Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night, O’N 33b. Of course, other arts tend to have art works with unique titles. O’Neill didn’t call his plays Play No. 1, or Play No. 13. Still, the result, in classical music, is something we don’t find anywhere else, and it makes the art form look like a playground for severe scholars.

  20. Bob says

    I’m trying to think of another artistic field in which you see that level of incomprehensible-without-decoding information presented as high-level text attached to each and every work, but I cannot.

    I don’t think there is another comparable example. I would argue, though, that people classify, categorize, and arrange things all of the time, and that some even go to what might seem like extreme means in the process. The urge to impose an organizational framework on a large amount of information is part of what drives something like the Hoboken numbering scheme, and it’s also what compels certain individuals to create files for the photos or to shelve their books a certain way.

  21. says

    Classical music appears to be the music of the upper class but we live in a middle class world. Many classical music organizations actively cultivate and promote that attitude.

    Classical music claims not just to be better than other genres (most genres think they’re better) but that it’s in a superior class all by itself.

    The classical music industry has built a wall of separation between itself and film score, even though film score is the area of classical music with the strongest connection to the mainstream. The occasional performances of film scores by orchestras are treated as novelties, and film composers who get played regularly as “serious” composers (Takemitsu, for instance) are treated like they’ve transcended the presumed banality of film score.

    Many pieces, especially new ones, are treated like music that is good for you rather than music that you will naturally like.

    Using the education system as a tool for the indoctrination of new audiences also cultivates the attitude that classical music is good for you.

    “Education” style concerts in which pieces are presented and then analyzed for the audience cultivates the attitude that classical music is something you have to _understand_ rather than something you can enjoy.

    The term “serious music.”

    The standard media narrative reinforces all of these attitudes and beliefs.

    Audiences are required to sit quietly and pay attention instead of having the option to sit and pay attention or to chat or drink or dance or whatever else they want to do.

    Audiences, especially subscription audiences, are expected to substitute the Music Director’s taste for their own.

    Good points, Galen. Thanks.

    Two thoughts. First, pop genres generally don’t announce their supposed superiority. They largely coexist. Oh, OK, indie rock thinks it’s much smarter than Top 40 pop (if “Top 40” has any meaning anymore), but Latin music just thinks it’s Latin. Plus these genres intermingle and influence each other, and have been doing that for decades. Classical music, of all musical genres, stands the most apart from all the others, and is the least changed by other genres.

    Substituting the music director’s opinion for their own: absolutely. And the people in charge of classical programming don’t much care what the audience thinks. In fact, they think the audience is a problem, because it won’t want to hear all kinds of new and difficult music that the artistic gurus want to program. It’s very rare for anyone to solicit the audience’s opinion, or engage the audience in any dialogue about this. I’ve even had people — classical music professionals — get outraged at me when I suggest such a thing.

  22. says

    I agree completely with your expansion on the pop music / superiority issue.

    The issue of music directors and other classical music pros getting upset about the idea of catering to the interests of the audience is very interesting and deserves to be unpacked. I started trying to, but I don’t have time to do it justice right now. The really short version, though, is that it fits with the common notion that classical music is worthwhile because it’s good for you and certain elites know better than you do what you need, and there’s a really interesting dynamic with the industry’s discomfort with its commercial status. I would be fascinated to hear what arguments were made by the people who got outraged at you–I have guesses, but I’d love to see the real data.

    The arguments couldn’t have been simpler. The audience doesn’t know anything. So their input, if we paid attention to it, would only weaken the good things we need to do. We’d end up pandering to their bad taste, and new music (for instance) would never get played.

  23. Yvonne says

    «Newbies to the concert experience don’t know what “BWV,” “K.”, “D.”, “Hob.”, “WoO,” “Op.”, et al. mean. I’m still not sure why Hoboken catalogue numbers even exist for Haydn’s works, and I love Haydn’s music to death. (But that’s the point – I love the music.)»

    [and subsequent comments on this general topic]

    The approach I’ve adopted for my orchestra’s publicity listings is:

    Use the minimum amount of information necessary to unambiguously identify the piece.

    Put another way, no informed classical music lover should ever be able to look at an entry in our advertised listings and say “which one?” (as might happen, for example, with “Schubert Sonata in A minor” without a Deutsch number). And no uninformed classical music lover or potential concert-goer or should be put off by obscurity.

    This approach means that sometimes we’ll use catalogue and opus numbers in publicity. But we never, as I saw one major choir do a few years back (and I’m not making this up), advertise things such as:

    HANDEL Messiah, HWV56

    Or redundancies such as (also seen around the traps):

    HAYDN Symphony No.100 in G, Hob.I:100

    Do we include more detailed identifying information in program books at the concerts themselves? Yes we do (not for Haydn symphonies!), partly because, as others have said already, it’s a way of making sense of chaos. Are there better ways to present, introduce, and explain that kind of information? I think there are and am exploring that. But denying its existence or usefulness doesn’t help in the long run.

    [PS. Hoboken numbers are redundant for nearly all the symphonies, I agree, but they do have usefulness in some of the other categories of Haydn’s output.]

  24. says

    Greg: I didn’t mean to deny you credit for ideas you’ve already expressed! Heavens no! One of my big professional responsibilities is to remember what people say and then repeat it back to them at opportune moments. (Can you tell I don’t work in the classical music field?)

    Yvonne’s position on metadata seems reasonable to me. I would just like to parenthetically complain here: I read program notes, liner notes, and anything else I can get my grubby mitts on, and I still have no idea why the piano sonatas have different Hoboken numbers from their regular ordinal numbers. Like I have here a couple recordings identifying the same piece of music as “Piano sonata no. 52 in E flat major” and “Sonata no. 62, Hob XVI:52, in E flat major.” What is this crap? I’ve never seen anything explaining why one numbering system is preferable in one context and not in another. I’m sure there’s a monograph somewhere that would explain it all to me, but I don’t think I should need to read monographs in order to be able to tell which sonatas are on a CD. And if I’m frustrated, think what the reaction would be from someone who’s just getting started in the game…

    And I didn’t mean to imply that you’d denied me credit! I was trying to give you props for expressing some of the ideas we’re all batting around better than I ever did.

  25. Bill says

    I think your #4 point is the main problem. If musicians play music they believe in, play it sincerely, all other sticking points just naturally fall away. But if not, well, we get 2% ‘niche’ market share.

  26. Yvonne says

    @Lindemann: I wasn’t going to mention the matter of Haydn’s piano sonatas, but since you raise it…

    To cut a short story long (as my favourite Haydn pianist of all time would say) the sonatas received “Landon” numbers in Christa Landon’s Vienna Urtext Edition from the 1960s (which numbers the sonatas chronologically but discounts some of them) and there’s Hoboken, which is a catalogue rather than a performing edition (completed late 1970s, begun I think in the 50s) but which influenced other performing editions (Henle Urtext, for example).

    So that marvellous English sonata in E flat (God, how I love it, especially that stunning shift up to E major for the second movement) is No.62 (Landon) or “No.52” if using Hoboken’s system Hob.XVI:52. (And in my Könemann Urtext it’s also No.51 in the book – go figure…)

    So your options are (in my personal order of preference):

    Pno Son in E flat, Hob.XVI:52

    Pno Son in E flat, Hob.XVI:52 (Landon 62)

    Pno Son No.62 in E flat, Hob.XVI:52

    Pno Son in E flat (Landon 62)

    The only option I probably wouldn’t consider at all is:

    Pno Son No.52 in E flat

    just because I think if Hob. numbers are used they should be identified as such, even with the key present.

    It seems the Landon numbers are being used less and less in favour of Hob. numbers (I see either Hob. numbers only or both) and familiarity with what’s seen elsewhere, including on CDs, is always going to be a consideration.

  27. says

    Thanks, Yvonne. I feel enlightened. And yes, I focused on that sonata because it is so awesome.

    Big dis to Marc-Andre Hamelin’s Hyperion recording for not making its use of Hoboken numbers clear. Ta-dow!

  28. Yvonne says

    @ Galen: «”Education” style concerts in which pieces are presented and then analyzed for the audience cultivates the attitude that classical music is something you have to _understand_ rather than something you can enjoy.»

    What you say makes sense on an intellectual and logical level, but then explain to me why so often that kind of concert (especially when well done) is absolutely lapped up by audiences? My orchestra has a series of four such concerts in which pieces and composer styles are “unpacked”. The 1200-seat hall routinely sells out.

    Clearly there is a genuine hunger for being able to get inside classical music. Clearly there are people who really want to understand it and who enjoy having an inspiring conductor/presenter guide them into the repertoire in an intelligent and impassioned way.

    Some of these people are newbies, making early steps in classical concert-going; some of them are long-time concert-goers who just want to know even more and to be able to listen even more astutely. But both groups seem to be experiencing a similar need.

    Is it a bad thing for orchestras to fulfil that need?

    On a personal note: nothing in this world brings me greater enjoyment than understanding something. I would enjoy many things a whole lot less if I didn’t understand them. And, true, I would probably understand many things less well if I didn’t enjoy them. Catch 22, of course. But still, I disagree with your severe dichotomy between insight and pleasure.

    Yvonne, are those old audiences or new audiences that come to the education concerts?

    My theory is that the existing audience loves education events, but that a new audience won’t be attracted to them, and is generally turned off by the idea or even the implication that they need to be educated before they’ll like classical music. Many of them like it already, after all, but aren’t coming to concerts.

  29. Bob says

    I’m not scheduled to talk about any Haydn in the near future, but I do have the Schubert string trio in B-flat coming up in April (that’s the D.471 for those keeping score), so I’ll see if I can get any feedback from either the audience or the performers about the question of catalog numbering systems.

    Greg, I’d love to see a posting in the future that addresses the topic of pre-concert talks. As someone who makes something of a living doing them, I’d be happy to share some stories from the trenches.

    It’s a good topic. I was once hired as a consultant by the Cleveland Orchestra to develop some new pre-concert talks idea. The project got buried in some larger issues that came up, but the most interesting thing we did was to recruit a younger staff member at the orchestra to get her ideas on what pre-concert talks might interest her. She wanted less information on details of the music being played, and more about connections with the outside world, including the other arts. A focus group of one, so we’d need more data. But what she said makes intuitive sense to me.

    At every pre-concert talk I’ve been to, the audience is even older than at the concert itself. Seems to be made up largely of retired people who are able to come an hour early. Certainly that was true in Cleveland.

    Who comes to the talks you give?

  30. says

    Many rock clubs I go to don’t have chairs, so you have to stand up for the entire show. At the concert hall, you have no choice but to sit down, often for hours on end with no respite whatsoever. That’s another huge, glaring example of how classical music differs from the larger culture: seating.

    Terrific point, Marc. Reminds me of a painting I’ve seen in the Louvre, and blogged about here. Shows a very large-scale 18th century performance — more than 70 musicians in the orchestra, plus chorus — of a piece written to celebrate a royal marriage. People are walking around on the lowest level of the performing space, talking to each other, and even getting in among the rows of seats to have conversations. Then there’s the painting Christopher Small cites in one of his books, showing a smaller 18th century concert. It’s almost exactly like a club now. A knot of people have gathered in front of the stage where the musicians are, listening. While everyone else walks around, talks, eats, whatever. There’s even a dog, if I remember rightly.

    Haydn and Mozart, and Rossini, too, wouldn’t have recognized our current concert environment. And I have a downstairs neighbor, a smart woman in her 40s, who said she might go to the NY Philharmonic if she could sit at a table and relax and drink.

    Though then we need to calibrate the picture, to allow room for music as serious art, to be listened to intently. I’m thinking we need concerts in many different styles.

  31. says


    I definitely oversimplified that point and you are of course right about the success and value of the educational style concerts. I think the key factor is how they play given the broader context of the industry. You never see rock bands doing shows where they disassemble and reassemble their songs, describe the chord progressions, explicate the lyrics–it’s significant that classical music is the only genre that does this, and I think the reason comes from the joint presumptions that classical music is so important that it deserves to be heard analytically by the lay listener, and that it’s so sophisticated that the lay listener isn’t capable of doing the necessary analysis. There’s nothing wrong with the education style concert in and of itself–it’s the way it functions in the current environment. I’m still not satisfied with how I’ve articulated this, but it’s closer anyway.

    Also, I don’t mean to draw a dichotomy between insight and pleasure (clear insight can be pleasurable itself) so much as to point out that to a large extent the industry prioritizes insight over pleasure, prioritizes pleasure gained from insight over pleasure gained from other sources, and presumes that insight should naturally lead to pleasure given the inherent “greatness” of the music.

  32. Yvonne says

    @Marc: each to their own: for me having “no choice” but to stand up, “often for hours on end”, is precisely one of the things that turns me right off rock clubs. Give me a music to listen to and I want to sit down. (Dance music is another matter.)

    And how removed really is auditorium seating from the larger culture? No one’s about to suggest that we should all stand up at the movies…

  33. Yvonne says

    «Yvonne, are those old audiences or new audiences that come to the education concerts?»

    As I mentioned, some are newbies, some are experienced concert-goers. I don’t know the exact balance, but if you factor in that many of the experienced ones are bringing younger members of their families, it’s probably evenly balanced.

    The thing that amused me at my orchestra was how surprised many of my colleagues were that experienced concert-goers attended these things at all. They’d made an assumption (and many were relative newbies themselves) that only newbies would be interested in such concerts.

    I wasn’t surprised at all, because I know (as you do) that often the more you know the more you want to know. And that the kinds of people who’ve generally been attracted to orchestral concerts and have developed a lasting love of them are often the kinds of people to whom such educational opportunities are very appealing.

    I think it’s telling that the series, which launched a few years ago as “Adult Themes” now goes by the name “Discovery”. Apart from the inherent issues of googling a series name like that(!), it was recognised that the audience base was broader than 20/30-somethings coming for a short, presented concert and a glass of wine afterwards. They do come and there’s still the free wine, but the appeal of the concept extends more widely.

    When I worked with the Pittsburgh Symphony on concerts with lively commentary (from me), we were surprised to see regular subscribers showing up. But of course it makes sense. They’re hungry for some warmer connection with the music and performances, and often don’t know all that much about the music, even if they’ve been coming for years. I watched a focus group once at a major orchestra, and long-time subscribers were confessing they couldn’t recognize the sound of various instruments.

    The Philadelphia Orchestra found that 25% of their regular ticket-buyers welcomed concerts with education/commentary added.

  34. Yvonne says

    @ Bob (greetings from a fellow speaker!): the Schubert string trio is a good example of where you need the Deutsch number, since there’s more than one string trio in that key, the fragmentary one you’re doing and then D.581. I’d be very interested in what you learn.

    And I’d second the request for some discussion about pre-concert talks!

    At my orchestra I would say there’s always a few who’ve turned up early to get a good park, and are then attending the talk to pass the intervening time. (But they could as easily be eating or drinking or chatting or enjoying the gorgeous view, so they wouldn’t be at the talk if they didn’t want to be. So I refuse to be cynical.)

    The talk audiences I see at my orchestra are no older on average than the ones in the hall. If anything they’re younger, partly because our talks require ascending stairs to an upper foyer level.

    The one thing that I laud about the talks at my current orchestra (and I’ve given a number of talks for the Cleveland Orchestra too) is the location: they take place in a natural amphitheatre space in an open foyer. Nice picture here ( – when there are talks there’s some seating as well.

    What this means is that, unlike Clv where the talks are held in a lovely little recital hall with the doors shut(!), my orch’s talks are out in the open and so attract a good many passers by. We’ll start with, say, 100 who’ve arrived ahead of time, and by the end, there could easily be 250 or more standing around listening.

    I’m not saying that the Clv talks didn’t attract a good crowd – their recital hall was often close to full. But their talks weren’t on view and if you were a newcomer you might have no idea they were happening or where they were. It was often difficult to slip in discreetly if you arrived late.* So as advocacy tools, rather than simply educational tools, I think my orchestra’s talks are more successful in reaching a wider and more diverse audience.

    The one piece of informal feedback from the Clv audience that I really remember was from a 20-something woman, who, after professing musical ignorance, wanted me to talk to her in even more detail about “what to listen out for” in Shostakovich 15. So I guess not everyone wants less detail about the music being played. We now have a focus group of two. :)

    (I’m fervently against pre-concert talks as forums for extended, blow-by-blow analysis, by the way, and I’m all for providing broad-ranging connections and aural context.)

    *Years ago, when travelling in the UK, I arrived 5 minutes late for an orchestra’s talk. Being a speaker, I desperately wanted to hear some of it. The usher refused me entry, even though, as far as I could tell, I could have snuck in and sat down without causing disruption. I still can’t believe it!

  35. Yvonne says

    This of course, leads us to a whole other point Yvonne: how ushers, (many [some?] of whom have little interest in Classical music, treat paying audience members. Usually, some ushers are part-timers and simply treat it as a job, much like a TSA agent at an airport or something. Sometimes their attitudes are extremely terrible (granted, they may be simply doing their jobs but I’ve had my fair share of concerts/operas ruined by one). *Note: Some audience members also have terrible attitudes as well.

    On second thought, I’ve dealt with a good number of annoying bouncers at bars/clubs/music clubs as well, so maybe it’s not a unique thing to Classical music.

  36. Eric Lin says

    Oops. The above post (11/26/08, 12:03 AM) is mine. I accidentally put Yvonne’s name instead of mine in the author line because I was reponding to Yvonne’s post. Sorry. :)

  37. Yvonne says

    Question about ushers (asks the real Yvonne): I had never come across volunteer ushers in professional venues until I worked in Cleveland. In Australia they’re always employees. How common is volunteer vs paid ushering in the US?

    Anyway, in relation to connecting-or-not, here are my thoughts:

    * in Cleveland, many concert and esp. theatre ushers seemed to be older (probably retired and therefore volunteering?). They seemed to love the performances and to have attended a great many over time. That was the well-spring of their helpfulness and information. They were often very kindly. At the same time (and I say this with utmost respect) older ushers would certainly contribute to the casual impression that concerts are “for” older people.

    * in Australia ushers are mostly young. They can be students who are cannily using part-time ushering as a chance to experience many concerts, plays, operas, whatever; they can be performing artists or arts admin staff supplementing an income. And that’s the source of their knowledge. Obviously having mostly younger ushers and front of house staff helps create a superficial impression of youthfulness.

    In both countries I’ve only ever encountered courtesy and helpfulness among ushers; the worst I could say I’ve observed is the occasional error of judgement coming from inexperience – usually very minor. And I meet more ushers who have a real interest in the art form they’re witnessing than not.

    (Even that usher in the UK was unfailingly polite. Ultimately I take issue with a stupid rule than with the person following it.)

  38. Suzanne Derringer says

    Hi, Greg –

    All of these things bother me, as you know. And just now I have come to Vienna (to collaborate with a friend on a book on Public Diplomacy) for the winter…My first concert here was this afternoon, at the Konzerthaus. Two friends were doing a Lieder recital, and they did it very well, according to the rules: excellent musicianship, very smooth performance. The audience however was almost entirely elderly (and of course ‘white’). OK, this was a midday concert, so younger people would be working or at school; but I don’t think it would have been much different in the evening. And once again – though I love my two friends, the singer and the pianist – I found myself uncomfortable with this frozen, archaic format, which is what this elderly audience expects: the formal, museum

    -cum-ersaty-religious-experience concert which became codified after WWII. There’s no fun in this, no spontaneity, no interactivity, and no connection to the contemporary world.

    This is what has to change, or ‘classical’ music will simply die.

    Last spring in DC, we had a concert – I forget the organization’s name, it was a group from NIH, I believe – they gave chamber concerts, but the group literally died of old age. Holzmair sang Schubert’s Schwanengesang: a fitting end to this venerable chamber series. Poignant perhaps. Those who attended were old enough to be our parents, for the most part, and that is definitely NOT a good sign.

    Things gotta change. Music has to be more intelligible and interesting to the contemporary world – or the ‘classical’ music industry should be abandoned as an expensive anachronism.

  39. Bob says

    Yvonne–Thanks for the welcome. I’m wondering if those of us who do pre-concert talks should think about creating some sort of association. We could share ideas, discuss what’s worked and what hasn’t, and maybe even start to bring about the kind of change that many of us feel is way overdue.

    And, we could get together once a year where it’s warm and drink gin and tonics by the pool.

    Well, no pool, no sun, and no gin and tonics, but…you could start a Facebook group. Yvonne and I are already in one for people who use social networking to promote their orchestras. Very good discussions there.

  40. says

    Responding to Anon’s comments

    I just wanted to point out that Pierre Boulez has, in the course of the past several decades, expressed many extreme denouncements of the so called “postmodern” school, as well as popular culture writ large. Based on the materials I’ve read by him and about him, he enacts a disdain for aesthetic plurality in many many ways. IRCAM, the center for musical modernism he created and officially controlled for 15 years, represents his political disposition towards authoritarian structure.

    For an interesting debate between Boulez and French cultural theorist Michel Foucault, see Foucault, M., Boulez, P., & Rahn, J. (1985). Contemporary music and the public. Perspectives of New Music, 24(1), 6-12.

  41. Phil Hoffman says

    Greg: A few comments intended to illustrate how and, maybe, why it doesn’t have to be so:

    1. Most of the music at classical concerts comes from the past. So we’re rarely engaged with contemporary life. (Is this one reason the people who go to these concerts like them?)

    After a long day coping with the nasty weather and snow, I arrived home exhausted and turned on the local classical music station. I was in luck – Schubert’s String Quintet was just beginning (Emerson with the designated hitter Rostropovich). Life was immeasurably improved. It was just what I needed to get over it. I ended the evening with the CD player spinning Wynton Marsalis’ String Quartet #1 “At the Octoroon Balls” (Harlem Quartet), a piece of music commemorating a part of American life that we, hopefully, will begin putting behind us on January 20th. I find joy, pleasure and meaning in the old and new.

    2. Formal dress looks archaic, and out of touch.

    In mid November I attended a Seattle Symphony concert sitting in the upstairs cheap seats. My companion and I were dressed nicely but not formally. In Seattle a coat and tie at the concert hall is not expected. But the ‘twenty some-things’ sitting next to us were dressed to the 9’s. I was impressed. They appeared to have spent the day and a fortune at Nordstrom’s. Now the crowd sitting across the concert hall in similarly cheap seats where having the time of their life led by the young lady in the most unnatural of hair color. Tomorrow night (New Year’s Eve) my partner (in her beautiful red silk dress) and I plan to attend another symphony concert doing our best to emulate the ‘twenty some-things’. I look forward to Ginastera’s Malambo as well as Louie’s #9. It’s all about having a good time. Dressing up maybe part of the ritual for some but not all. The only expectation is good companionship and good ENTERTAINMENT.

    3. The musicians don’t talk to the audience. In our culture today, people expect musicians to talk.

    A New Year’s resolution: take away all the printing presses and copiers from all the classical music venues. Let’s see some innovation in the communication of program notes or better yet let’s improvise program notes.

    4. Musicians subordinate their own personalities. They play the music the way they’ve been taught to. They don’t take much initiative, don’t make their concerts personal statements, don’t play the music their own way.

    I just finished re-reading L. Bernstein’s biography. If he and Glen Gould can invent and reinvent the way things are played why can’t others. Innovation and improvisation doesn’t begin and end with the composer. Music is organic. For the life of me I don’t understand why anyone would expect a musician to be an industrial worker, perfectly replicating the composition each time performed. I believe musicians to be artisans and licensed to innovate and improvise. Does someone fear failure more than the the satisifaction and appreciation of the success of risk taking?

    5. Even when new music is played, much of it doesn’t sound like the world around us. The sounds of popular music aren’t much heard, though they were in past centuries.

    See reaction to statement #1 above. I suggest that someone listen in particular to the “Hellbound Highball” movement of Marsalis’ string quartet. Upon careful reflection I think we will all discover a closer kinship between W. Marsalis, Bartok and Dvorak.

    6. More general statement of point five: There’s rarely even a hint of current popular culture at classical concerts. That’s not true of other forms of art — novels, poetry, visual art, dance, theater.

    See reaction to statement #1 and #5 above.

    7. The audience is old.

    I am getting very close to the social security check. I do laugh at those in the classical music world that refer to compositions written 75 years ago as new music and grin and bear a lot of contemporary trash and ancient music. What I think many have forgotten is that the classical music concert is a social and entertainment event. The genre has deep cultural and artistic meaning that many believe takes primacy. No. It’s my time, my money and my enjoyment not someone else’s puffery. It is the appreciation of the deep cultural and artistic meaning of classical music that leads me to the choice of that genre rather than some other; it’s the competitive edge not the competitive source. My humble thought is that the more we understand that the classical music concert is a social and entertainment event the greater the likelihood that the old audience (if it really is old) will be regenerated. “The concert hall is a place for happy people.”

  42. paul says

    Greg –

    In 1989, I attended a concert of the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, of a piece by Lutoslawski, who was in attendance and spoke about it. I was in my late 20s then, and probably the youngest person in the audience who wasn’t accompanied by grandparents.

    The same year, I attended a performance by the Kronos Quartet at a sushi place in Oakland, near the Berkeley line, that was also a jazz club. Their program was nothing but contemporary work, and the average age in the audience was fairly close to mine.

    Kronos made it a point to distance itself from everything that made classical music appear stuffy and snobbish to a potential audience. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones made it a point to appear on stage in what they happened to be wearing that day. The Beatles followed suit very soon after, and this has become the norm for rock performance and everything that has come after. You’re right, formal dress doesn’t help.

    I think it will require some major shifts for classical music, however it evolves, to become the ‘people’s music,’ since it never really was in the first place. In the late 18th century, culture was top-down: the imprimatur of the court gave a composer or a work the avenue to become popular. Recordings and radio changed all that, and classical music remained with the wealthy elites who had supported it down through the centuries. It’s still in that position now, although it has to fight through a lot more than just impoverished minstrels and troubadours in local taverns and traveling shows to attract its audience.

    Hi, Paul. Thanks. Nice vignette about Kronos.

    I don’t know if classical music ever has to be “people’s music.” Are Wong Karwai movies people’s films? Maybe classical music, or some kinds of it, will be niche art. Like many things we know. But it should at least be contemporary niche art.

    And things were much looser back in the past. Classical music couldn’t be a mass art, because there wasn’t any mass culture. Any cultural form reached relatively few people. But our age has forgotten how entrepreneurial and often wild classical music could be, even at court. Though it wasn’t always presented at court. The level of sexual innuendo in Baroque opera, for example, would be something we’d immediately recognize today.