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Thread: Has Classical Music become too popular?

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Default Has Classical Music become too popular?

    Most discussions center around how we can increase the Classical music fanbase among the general public.

    This thread takes the opposite thesis. Classical Music has historically and most naturally been a patrician interest intended for elite audiences. The plebeians had their folk music, as today the unwashed masses trash themselves with ever increasingly decadent pop and rock music.

    The fear is that by pandering to the masses, we must lower the podium down to them, destroying the art of classical music in the process. See the proliferation of the same war pieces that are required to be heard in virtually every concert. Concerts have become something that true connoisseurs must suffer, at the chance of getting to hear a more novel aural experience.

    This is the reverse of the natural order. Instead of attempting to eradicate the elitist label, it should be embraced and enshrined. Instead of lowering the podium down to the masses, let us elevate it, so that they may look up at it in fear and wonder, pronouncing to them unmistakably their inferiority. Let us give them something for the ambitious to climb up to, and the higher the Everest, the better. Let concerts be programmed to dissuade the uninitiated from ever attending. Only then can Classical music again thrive.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Orchestras are already struggling for money. Making concert programmes pander to "elites" would make the issue worse and cause orchestras to go bankrupt.

    Now I would like avant-garde pieces to be sandwiched between warhorses. If a concert programmes 1812 Overture, Schoenberg Piano Concerto, and Beethoven's Emperor-- I suspect that the plebs would suffer through Schoenberg to hear the warhorses.
    Last edited by ORigel; Jun-01-2020 at 17:16.

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    Classical Music has historically and most naturally been a patrician interest intended for elite audiences.

    I don't think that's necessarily true and I know it is not "too popular" where I live in USA.

    In the 1950s in the early days of television there was lots of classical music on American TV. Firestone and other companies sponsored hourlong programs that typically featured classical music. Through the 1990s cable channels such as Arts & Entertainment and Bravo! regularly broadcast programming featuring classical music.

    None of this is true today even though these channels are still there and hundreds upon hundreds more. Even the streaming services don't program anything with classical music in it except for the free Lloyd Rigler Foundation-provided Classic Arts Showcase which shows snippets of arts programs, many of which contain classical music.

    They no longer provide this free outlet via broadcast, however. Your only chance of seeing classical music on broadcast TV in 2020 is through the Public Broadcasting System or PBS.

    Also, public radio stations (NPR) have gone bust by the droves in this century and the late 20th century. These were the primary outlets for free classical music in over the air broadcasting. There are far less of these than there were in the 20th century and the number of private radio stations that broadcast classical music might be counted on one hand for the entire United States.

    Classical music sales as a percentage of all sales of downloads, streams and CDs continues to decline. I just don't know what evidence there is that classical music is even as popular as it was in 1950, 1970 or 1990, much less today.

    I think there is a "too" problem in classical music, however: the warhorses written in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that make up most CM broadcasts or concerts have been played "too" many times and contemporary classical music hasn't created new fans.
    Last edited by larold; Jun-01-2020 at 17:54.

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    It is broadcast TV itself which had declined by pandering to the masses, not Classical music. It is a warning what happens when you attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator. TV today is an absolute wasteland.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ORigel View Post
    Orchestras are already struggling for money. Making concert programmes pander to "elites" would make the issue worse and cause orchestras to go bankrupt.

    Now I would like avant-garde pieces to be sandwiched between warhorses. If a concert programmes 1812 Overture, Schoenberg Piano Concerto, and Beethoven's Emperor-- I suspect that the plebs would suffer through Schoenberg to hear the warhorses.
    Orchestras should not be dependent on ticket sales from the general public. Depending on the declining tastes of the public is indeed a sure recipe for death. All money should come from elite donations with the shortfall made up by the government.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ORigel View Post
    Orchestras are already struggling for money. Making concert programmes pander to "elites" would make the issue worse and cause orchestras to go bankrupt.

    Now I would like avant-garde pieces to be sandwiched between warhorses. If a concert programmes 1812 Overture, Schoenberg Piano Concerto, and Beethoven's Emperor-- I suspect that the plebs would suffer through Schoenberg to hear the warhorses.
    Not this pleb. This is exactly why I stopped going to concerts.

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    It is broadcast TV itself which had declined by pandering to the masses, not Classical music. It is a warning what happens when you attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator. TV today is an absolute wasteland.

    That's not true; classical music interest has declined. If it had not Bravo! and A&E would still be programming it. The reason they don't, and the reason none of the other 300 channels I receive don't broadcast it, is because there is no market for it.

    The average broadcast and streamed station in 2020 is looking for a 3 share or about 2 percent of the market. That's what they need to attract advertising. So any program that can attract 3 percent of the people watching at any given time exceeds this standard.

    There are TV shows that appeal to every possible thing under the sun -- except classical music. Interest in it has declined to such extent even PBS cut back their broadcasts of it.

    TV may or may not be a wasteland but there is no market in American TV for classical music and that is a big departure from the past.

    The more damning things is public radio has declined too. It was the bell cow for classical music in USA.
    Last edited by larold; Jun-01-2020 at 18:07.

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    Now I would like avant-garde pieces to be sandwiched between warhorses. If a concert programmes 1812 Overture, Schoenberg Piano Concerto, and Beethoven's Emperor-- I suspect that the plebs would suffer through Schoenberg to hear the warhorses.

    I think we already know there's no market for avant-garde music in subscription concerts. I have heard countless music directors and conductors say they have to schedule Beethoven, Brahms or Mahler to bring in audiences. They are not interested in scheduling music that drives away audiences.

    I'm not sure there ever was any market for it. I attended the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival July 4, 1976, the American bicentennial, and they led the concert with a piece of modern atonal music. It was booed by the paying audience. I don't even see avant-garde stuff scheduled at university concerts.

    What orchestras have tried is world premieres of new music and paying house composers to write music specifically for premier with the orchestra. They keep trying this though no new music has made much impact the past 50 years.
    Last edited by larold; Jun-01-2020 at 18:14.

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    Is this thread referring to Classical composition? Because one could argue that there is no strong tradition of 'Classical music' today, but a smattering of new symphonic and instrumental creations. The predominant, overarching source of Classical music is from Baroque to Romantic. However, our forum voted the Contemporary period as their favorite period because of how much output there is. If I were to tell someone I like Classical music, they wouldn't be thinking of the Contemporary period. Yet for many of us, that's what we still call it
    Last edited by Ethereality; Jun-01-2020 at 18:32.

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    I think that the loss of NPR stations playing classical music is moot. Why would anyone need to listen to classical music on the radio and have to endure the DJ's selections? It's so much easier to just go to YouTube. Instead of one version of Brahms Fourth, you have dozens at your fingertips. Not only that, but YouTube versions also include scores.....you can't get that on the radio. And I say this as a former NPR classical music radio announcer. I have a hard time mourning the loss of the medium when I have more than ever before to choose from.
    I wrote a song about dental floss. Did anyone's teeth get cleaner? ~ Frank Zappa

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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    I think we already know there's no market for avant-garde music in subscription concerts. I have heard countless music directors and conductors say they have to schedule Beethoven, Brahms or Mahler to bring in audiences. They are not interested in scheduling music that drives away audiences.
    This phrasing is a bit trickier, but I think they are very much interested in scheduling music that drives away audiences. It is not their intent to drive away the audiences, but that is the effect of the music that they want to be able to schedule more of. (Why they want it schedule it is a matter of opinion and conjecture.) So, I would say that they would love to schedule more contemporary music if they could do so without losing audience, but they can't. The idea that you could mix some less familiar but still very suitable music between the bigger offerings seems not to occur to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    What orchestras have tried is world premieres of new music and paying house composers to write music specifically for premier with the orchestra. They keep trying this though no new music has made much impact the past 50 years.
    And most of those works are lucky to get a second performance. The problem seems to be, in large part, the disconnect between what composers and musicians want to offer, and what an audience sufficient to support it wants to hear. (Tradesmen are still not whistling Schonenberg, and likely never will.) That has been true now for about a century. The problem is made worse by the cost of tickets, parking, baby-sitters and whatever other expenses are incurred to attend a concert, versus just listening to the radio or CDs. I don't really know what, if anything, would bring back the audience attendance that they once enjoyed, but I am pretty sure what will produce the opposite effect, and that is exactly what Origel has recommended.
    Last edited by JAS; Jun-01-2020 at 18:53.

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    Most obnoxious and stupid thread of the year?
    What time is the next swan?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    Orchestras should not be dependent on ticket sales from the general public. Depending on the declining tastes of the public is indeed a sure recipe for death.
    You are most certainly correct that it is a recipe for death.

    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    All money should come from elite donations with the shortfall made up by the government.
    Most of the money that keeps orchestras and classical concert halls alive already come from elite donations (wealthy people, businesses, & organizations who give grants). Why should the shortfall be made up by government? Why should the public fund something that the VAST VAST VAST majority couldn't care less about and is certainly no essential service?

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    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

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    I think that the loss of NPR stations playing classical music is moot. Why would anyone need to listen to classical music on the radio and have to endure the DJ's selections? It's so much easier to just go to YouTube.

    I couldn't agree more. However, the loss of NPR stations happened in the 20th century before the invention of YouTube. If it was a recent phenomena it could be ascribed to more options online. But these stations disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s. That's how far back is the drought.

    The comment raises the other issue that is killing classical music: free or nothing. For better or worse 21st century people won't pay the same for music as 20th century people. That's another reason for declining financial health in the industry.
    Last edited by larold; Jun-01-2020 at 20:23.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    Concerts have become something that true connoisseurs must suffer, at the chance of getting to hear a more novel aural experience.
    I have to admit that in Salt Lake City, I often feel this way. I have heard Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and Dvorak 9 enough times. I want something new.

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