Sitting in a tree

I use an app called TalkTo. Which, when I need it, is one of the most valuable apps I have on my iPhone. With it, I can text stores, to ask questions. Does the supermarket nearest me have a garlic press in stock right now?

An answer comes within five minutes. Invaluable! Once, out at our country place, I needed to buy a MacBook Air in a hurry. Ten minutes with TalkTo told me that I needed to drive an hour to an Apple Store, because neither of the Best Buys in the area, which were closer, could configure the computer as I wanted it.

Why am I telling you this? Because TalkTo is merging with a company called Path, and — as a registered TalkTo user — I got an email about the move with the subject line “Path and TalkTo sitting in a tree…”

I trust my American readers know the rhyme. For anyone who doesn’t, here’s what my mind instantly filled in:

Path and TalkTo sitting in a tree,

Though of course you wouldn’t normally chant this about companies. You’d chant it if you’re a kid — or you would have, 60 years ago, when I was one — and you think two other kids like each other.

kissing2Sarah and Michael sitting in a tree,

For me, that’s so familiar that I feel silly typing it out. But since when do companies make business announcements that way? That’s not the business world I grew up in. It’s a completely new culture, one that’s grown up, I’m going to guess, in the last decade. Brash, fun, ironic, playful. And not the least formal.

It’s all over. I write my blog in WordPress, maybe the world’s leading blogging platform. Meaning that it’s not the least edgy or obscure. When I log on with my browser, I read “Howdy, Greg Sandow, high on the right of the WordPress window.

A little lower, to the left, I’ll find quotes from “Hello, Dolly.” Today it was “You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’.” I opened another WordPress window, and read, “So take her wrap, fellas.” The software — used by businesses as well as individuals — is having fun with me.

If I want to send a newsletter, using MailChimp — absolutely central, standard newsletter software, widely used by businesses — I’m asked what kind of campaign I want to launch. Plain text, or “Regular ol’ Campaign?”

And of course the platform is called MailChimp. Its logo is a cartoon chimp, wearing a hat.

This is the new culture. The culture of millennials, and also of people older than that. Brash, fun, ironic, playful. And not the least formal.

So here’s a question. Are we ready for this in classical music? Do we understand that if we want to reach that fabled young audience, we have to join its culture, and talk this way, too?

[Clarification, added later: That question is most pointedly asked in the official classical music biz, so to speak — big institutions, plus anyone who does things in traditional style. These people will, very likely,  have trouble adapting. Younger people in the business, out on their own, are doing just fine.]

TalkTo is available for Android, too. Though now new users on all platforms will have to download the Path Talk messaging app, which, says TalkTo, will “soon” (sigh) “use the TalkTo service to support messaging millions of stores and restaurants in the US and Canada.”




Howdy, Greg Sandow

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


  1. says

    These questions about how to make classical music reach a younger audience have always seemed a little odd to me. For some time now, I have had the feeling that we are just asking the wrong questions. I think we’re afraid to ask the questions that really need to be asked.

    It’s natural to want to pass on to the next generation a love and appreciation for something that has great meaning to us. When something like an art form or other collective cultural activity is a present manifestation of contemporary life and culture, it naturally propagates itself and is taken up by anyone who can respond to it. Art, music, literary, fashion, culinary trends, etc. just go on and on until they are ready to be replaced by something else. In general, people don’t worry about how to “pass them on” or keep them going for future generations. Why do we feel this way about classical music?

    We need to ask ourselves why there is no movement for classical painting, or classical poetry, or maybe classical architecture. Anyone who wishes to and is capable of doing any art in the style of the old masters is free to do so, and may derive great satisfaction from it, but why do we think it should appeal to this or that generation? I have ranted some on the takeover of classical music by the academic establishment which took place fairly early in the last century. And I have ranted about the subsequent “professionalization” of classical music and all the arts. We need to be clear about this: anytime the survival of a cultural tradition or practice is dependent on academic culture, that tradition is in serious trouble.

    Around the turn of the last century, one of Yale University’s first Professors of Music, Horatio Parker, ridiculed Dvorak’s “strange theory” that “negro tunes should be called American music.” I suggest that, with some exceptions, this was the general attitude of academia during the formative years of the twentieth century, and that it set in stone the “public be damned” attitude that prevailed in the world of academic composers. I will also suggest that this was the beginning of the “disconnection” of classical music from audiences. Finally, after several generations, the public voted with its feet, and continues to do so today, and will continue to do so in the future.

    Classical music is music from another century and another place. It is not American, never was, and never will be. The American aesthetic is innately hostile to any art other than folk art, and is even ambiguous about that. The fact that movers and shakers in the elite upper class early on decreed that America would become “cultured” by the importing of the finest music and musicians from Europe only postponed the inevitable. This attitude attained full blossom by the end of the nineteenth century. And the fact that a multi-million dollar industry was created, on which musicians and associated professionals became thoroughly dependent, does not change anything. It simply results in lots of people assuming that, somehow, some way, this wonderful thing must continue at all costs. And of course, when livelihoods are at stake, answers MUST be found.

    Composers are no longer needed. They exist, of course, but in a bubble world of our own making. If you go to Colonial Williamsburg, you might find a guy making a living as a wheelwright. He may even have a sign hanging outside that says “Jos. Smith, Wheelwright” or something like that. That doesn’t mean that wheelwright is still a real occupation, just that this guy, through ingenuity and determination, found a way to make a living doing something that only a miniscule portion of the population will appreciate. He gets a paycheck and probably loves what he does. Same with composers and classical musicians. It’s really a boutique occupation sustained by extra-market forces and funding, and by the longtime assumption that this constitutes “high culture.” It’s done, it’s dying, and no questions about attracting this or that generation can save it. To summarize: the Culture Industry is even now in the process of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It’s time to find a new bird.

  2. ariel says

    Mr. Hardy’s opening comments start out well enough then wander off into the desert of
    ambiguity when asking why we feel the necessity of passing on “classical ” music
    & why there is no movement for “classical “music , art poetry etc . Since i have asked
    a few times of various writers here to define their understanding of what is classical music and they avoid the question
    like the plague, perhaps Mr. Hardy by
    defining what is “classical music ” in today’s
    terms and by this defining “classical music ” hopefully resolves the many questions
    concerning the state of the art . As much as
    Mr. Hardy dislikes academia I do not believe
    he can lay fault at that door step alone , many music conservatories some of great
    repute can share in his dislike in their teachings . That “classical music ” is from another century and place and never was
    “American ” is an odd comment indeed and
    that folk “art” is also suspect causes one to
    wonder just what is “American”to Mr. Hardy
    and what “new bird must we find” so as to
    define a more lasting American culture .