A high school student — who wants to be known here just as Spencer L. — asked if he could interview me. We did it by email. Here’s our Q&A. A good chance for me to be very succinct about things I believe:
1. How has music (specifically orchestra, ensemble, jazz as opposed to rock, rap, etc) affected you and your life?
I grew up listening to this music, so my first musical experiences were involved with it. It touched my heart, excited me, and made me want to learn all about it. [I was careless here. Apologies to Spencer. I meant that I grew up in a classical music household, listening to classical music. Jazz came later, thanks to a friend in high school. My parents were surprised — not happily, I think — when I started to like it.]
2. Do you believe there is a decline in interest in and appreciation for this kind of music? Why?
Yes. Our culture has changed in many ways in the last 50 years, and classical music hasn’t kept up with the change. Our culture is more informal, more diverse, and more flexible. Classical music hasn’t changed in these ways.
3. Do you believe that the average teenager dislikes or disapproves of this music, etc? Why?
I can’t say for sure, because I don’t talk to many teens about this. But I think most teens probably think the music has nothing to do with them.
4. Given the choice to listen to concert music or modern music (rap, etc), which would you choose? Why?
Both! I couldn’t live without either. I don’t draw any line between types of music, and I’ll listen to whatever interests me at the moment.
5. How do you feel about rap, hip-hop, and the other forms of music that the teenage generation listens to?
I like this music, on the whole. I used to be a pop music critic, and I wrote about hiphop. In fact, around 1990 people thought I was an authority on gangsta rap, especially Ice-T and NWA. I knew those people personally, and was especially friendly with Ice-T. I think he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
6. Do you feel that these forms of music are less sophisticated and require less skill to produce than concert music?
No. They’re sophisticated in different ways. The best pop musuicians, for instance, have a much deeper feel for rhythm than the best classical musicians.
7. Where do you think the future of music lies?
Diversity! The mixing of styles. Which has been happening for decades in pop music. It’s already begun to spread to classical music, if you look at what younger composers are writing.
8. How can we fight the decline in interest in these kinds of music.
Stop talking about classical music as if it was something special. Bring it into the real world, to coexist with every other kind of music.