Gathering clouds

In the past, I’ve started the year off here with posts called “Where we stand,” in which I sum up the current state of classical music, or, maybe more accurately, consider the latest evidence that classical music — in its mainstream form — is declining.

But right now I’m rewriting last year’s version of that document, to use in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music, which starts next week. (The link takes you to last year’s curriculum. I’ll put the new one up when the course starts again.) So I’ll hold off on the current “Where we stand,” until it’s finished. And instead I’ll cite some signs of trouble that appeared in recent months.

First, a study from Norway, showing that young Norwegians are notably less interested in classical music (along with all the other traditional high arts) than they were in 1998. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, since this is a trend we see here in the US as well. But I’ve known people to think that classical music is stronger in Europe than it is here, that somehow the problems we have — with classical music growing distant from mainstream culture — aren’t happening there.

And that’s just not true. As this study illustrates. There’s other data, of course — statistical and anecdotal — which I can save for another time. Though I might cite a study by Timo Cantell, a Finnish scholar, about why young Finns don’t go to classical concerts. As we often say, enviously, in the US — and as Timo himself notes — Finland offers extensive classical music education in its schools. But in spite of that, young Finns aren’t going out to hear classical music.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. says

    I speculate about some of the reasons behind results such as those of the Norwegian survey in this post:

    There are a lot of other things I could have mentioned too. Doesn’t it seem as if children are oriented towards high-paying careers at a younger age than ever and one of the results is that fewer of them take music lessons? One consequence of this is that they have less of an entry into classical music. Just a thought…