The discourse supporting classical music so reeks of historical blindness and sanctimonious self-regard as to render the object of its ministrations practically indefensible.He goes on to say that one must always be prepared to defend classical music from its devotees! I think we have seen a lot of examples recently. The Minnesota Orchestra seems desperately to need to defend itself from its own management! In this post I gave reasons why I thought that classical music needed a defense against the head of Universal Music's classical music unit. It seems that classical music also needs to defend itself against the ex-CEO of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He said:
The most common practices in classical musical venues today represent a contrite response to a totalitarian belief system no one in America buys into anymore. To participate obediently is to act as a slave. It is counter to our culture. And it is not, I am certain, what composers would have wanted: A musical North Korea. Who but a bondservant would desire such a ghastly fate? Quickly now: Rise to your feet and applaud. The Dear Leader is coming on stage to conduct. He will guide us, ever so worshipfully through the necrocracy of composers we are obliged to forever adore.I'm sure this is very gratifying to the ego of the CEO, but it does nothing more than lower the prestige of classical music while it does not lead more people to attend concerts. Why bother when the patrimony of classical music is nothing but a necrocracy? That last quote comes from this article, which gives a pretty good overview of the problem. Here is a sample of the article's take on things:
Orchestra leaders bought a lot of snake oil in hopes of democratizing the concert experience, and now they have an audience that views classical music as just one among many entertainment options, and as not very entertaining compared with bubble-gum pop and action movies. They talk about education but have in many places done away with program notes. Marketing material uses a hyperbolic language of emotional engagement to oversell the concert experience, implying that one has only to pull up a rug and surrender to the music. That musical appreciation takes work, and that its greatest rewards are cumulative over a lifetime rather than immediate, is not much discussed."Snake oil" sounds like an accurate estimate. The article makes the further point that everything that orchestras do thinking they will attract bigger audiences--pops concerts, trendy things like "crowd-sourced" compositions, politically-correct messages and other kinds of musical trivia--tend to drive away serious listeners. That leads to a death-spiral of more trivia and fewer and fewer serious listeners.
I think we can see Taruskin's point that a lot of the so-called defenders of classical music, the people who write the books of music appreciation that avoid actually informing the reader, the popularizers that cheapen the music, the syntheses of classical and pop, the marketing and performing of classical music with a pop sensibility, all this is what we really need to defend ourselves against. The traitors in our midst are far more dangerous than the barbarians out there roaming the hinterlands with their boom box cars.
Let's end with one of those dead composers that is oppressing us, the Piano Concerto No. 25 by Mozart, played by Mitsuko Uchida: