Book title — and some thoughts from the book


I blogged about my book on the future of classical music. And tweeted about it. And put an update on Facebook.

And in all of that, I forgot to mention the title! It’s Rebirth. Meaning — of course — that classical music won’t die, but instead will be reborn. Or, more formally, the title might be Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music.

From the mine of thoughts that will go into the book (this one goes in the very first chapter): I know the rebirth may be painful for people who like classical music in its traditional form. And I know that some of them — including people whose comments I value here — might think the rebirth will dumb classical music down.

I sympathize. But I think classical music in fact will get smarter. Does it present an intelligent face to the world right now? No way, and chapter VIII of the book, “World Gone Wrong,” will give many reasons why.

The rebirth, in any case, is already happening, and it can’t be stopped. I’m excited about it. Understatement! And I think it’ll make classical music better for just about everybody. Including people like me, who grew up under the old rules, and want to keep diving into classical music’s depths.

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  1. David Cavlovic says

    Ya know, it doesn’t matter how many people will or will not listen to classical music in the future, or rock or jazz for that matter. Numbers do not determine quality. Since when does mass-appeal, or lack of it, determine quality, likeability, or sustainablility? this is all moot.

    These things are entirely separate, something understood, by the way, far better in the pop world than in classical music.

    But you can hardly pretend that numbers don’t matter. “Mass appeal” is one thing, but everything has its requirements for sustainability. One of my close friends, who’s a singer-songwriter, but makes his living at something else, has almost no sustainability requirements. Only time. (And money enough to buy the occasional guitar.)

    But a symphony orchestra is something else. If you want orchestras to continue at anything like their current level, they’d be the first to tell you (if they were speaking privately) more or less exactly what they need, in the way of ticket sales and donations, to do this. I once saw a presentation by a major orchestra that quite seriously worried about going out of business. Had nothing to do with whether it had mass appeal. What mattered was whether it had enough support in its city to sustain it.

    Which, by the way, helps explain why the pop biz has a much better grasp of all this. They don’t talk vaguely about “mass appeal.” They talk about concrete sales figures. They understand that some artists sell 2,000,000 copies of an album, some sell 1,000,000, some sell 100,000, some sell 50,000, some sell 1,000. At each of these levels there’s a way to survive (or, at the lowest level, at least exist). And so choices get made, about (for instance) how much money can be spent on recording and promotion, and what size venues various artists should perform in. It’s all very concrete. But not at all callous. Everyone understands that some of the best people, artistically, aren’t in the high sales ranks.

  2. says

    Looks like I got moderated out of the comments on the first post on the new book.

    My thesis is, about both Classical music and Jazz, that there is going on a paradigm shift, listening to the music on web streams, and purchasing music in mp3 downloads. This is not bad or good, but rather a new reality. Composers and artists will have to figure out how to make money in this new digital world.

    I believe that both Classical and Jazz are basically healthy, even if concert halls and CD manufacturers are not.

    I’m glad you posted this second comment, because I hadn’t noticed that the first one was slapped down. Not by me, but by the software. I have no idea why it singled your comment out, when you didn’t even have lots of links (which sometimes makes the software guess that a comment is spam).

    Anyhow, I’ve reinstated your comment. I’m sorry this happened.

  3. Tom Hartley says

    Glad you fixed the title. “The Future of Classical Music” by itself was kinda’ bland. What a difference an extra word, the right extra word, makes. Hope this latest rebirth of your book is the one that makes it.


  4. says

    To David Cavlovic: While mass-appeal may not be a determining factory for quality, it certainly is for sustainability, especially in a genre where a large portion of performances require roughly 100 performers who all need to be paid to afford the student loans they’ve built up from years of study. And in areas in like opera, this is even more pronounced as there are many behind-the-scenes workers who will not show up if they’re being paid peanuts. This sort of infrastructure can’t be supported without mass appeal unless you want performances to happen once a year in only five locations around the world.

  5. Janis says

    Josh — ITA. Opera got huge and complicated precisely because of its mass appeal. It had been a chamber entertainment for the very wealthy for a long time; when it got to Venice and began to be supported by its own ticket sales is when it got enormous (even in terms of the complexity of its staging) and incredibly popular.

    I don’t know if it got any better in terms of quality. Sucking up to the whims of one rich patron ultimately ends up on the same quality level as sucking up to the lowest common denominator of a public audience. :-)

    A good point, but opera in the 19th century, at least — and especially in Italy — didn’t depend on patrons. It was thoroughly commercial. Operas succeeded if they sold lots of tickets. Which was why Rossini was the leading composer in Europe.

  6. Janis says

    That’s sort of what I was saying — opera did depend on patrons when it started … in the 1600s. But once it hit Venice and became a public entertainment, it changed and stayed that way throughout the next few centuries.