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Appreciating classical music seems to be closesly connected with respecting culture in general, which can be effectively taught. I cannot comment on the education system in the US or elsewhere, but at least here we are taught music theory and classical music and jazz history since middle school for many years. The best schools in the country are actually old and historic public schools, making any kind of social class distinction rather unimportant. I think social class isn’t even a massive game-changer in our contemporary world where most people in the Western countries at least have access to Youtube and streaming services. Of course, being from a well-to-do family might increase your chances, but it’s by no means a requirement and most definitely not a guarantee. You don’t have to be part of the upper-middle class or social elite to be exposed to classical music. Classical music fans and musicians should also get rid of the uppity stereotype that classical music carries - the very stereotype that classical music is “elitist.”

I think that people should simply be exposed to classical music as early as possible, and classical music has to make itself accessible to general public, not only an erudite musical elite who enjoys atonality and contemporary avant-gardism. I got more deeply interested in classical music after watching the VPO New Year concert on TV. People should simply be exposed to that kind of easily accessible classical music more frequently than once a year.
 

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A bunch of classical music is meant as just that : entertainment, ear candy, or distraction.
Telemann's table music, Mozart's divertimenti, Strauss waltzes, opera/operetta...the list goes on.
Also religious music composed as an earnest expression of religious sentiment instead of as "art".
Apart from the fact that entertainment can mean very different things in a culture without mass media vs. a culture where now not the 3 min. of the 1950s vinyl single is the important unit of time but the first 10 secs sample in a streaming service, you are throwing a lot of different things in one bowl in the paragraph above.
To start with the last, one could claim that at least some religious music is quite close to contemplative music for its own sake. Expressing religious sentiment is one aspect but obviously does not capture the idea that it is for the glory of god (neither the more materialist one that it is for the celebration of spiritual and worldly authority).
Strauss waltzes were in the first place for actual dancing which comes with a different set of requirements. opera was usually expensive, took the whole evening, so it was usually not some background "ear candy" but while entertainment it was taken seriously enough to have people getting into hysteria about famous singers and into fistfights if they didn't agree on the value of some piece. Telemann's Table music collection is as serious (or not) as Bach concerti or chamber music. Even real table music was probably played between the courses. Mozart's serenades were often festive music for graduation ceremonies etc.
So, music had all kinds of more specific functions, not merely entertainment (and certainly far less distraction, I think with the omnipresence of recorded music we have mostly lost how special elaborate music must have been in former times).
But such functions are all largely orthogonal to what Edward Bast said about listening to music as art. All architecture has the function of providing certain buildings with a certain function but it can often also appreciated as art. And while not totally irrelevant if a building is a church, a castle or a city hall, the artistic appreciation of a building's beauty is not directly connected with the function. It seems quite similar with music.
 

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The atonal/serial nonsense should just be stopped. Classical orchestras are often used for films and video games. So its sellable to average Joes. I have also heard from average Joes that they like Beethovens 5th full symphony. But they don't like to go to the concert house and sit there. The internet increases the accessibility today what helps. But we need more new music because everything has a half-life. Therefore it is necessary for classical composers to understand that many musical developments of the 20th century were bad and wrong.
The half life you speak of could well be a symptom of poor quality. Dumbing down too far and at the expense of refinement merely for the purpose of popularity, will be to the the detriment of the art as a whole imv. Surely there's room for everything from the mundane to the excellent, from the common to the esoteric.

"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds."

I.Berlin.
 

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When I was young (the 70s and 80s) classical music was certainly being marketed as accessible to everyone. My first proper introduction to classical music was through the widely advertised CD compilation "The Classic Experience" of 1988. Then there was the Three Tenors in 1990... The UK's first commercial radio station, Classic FM, launched in 1992 to much success and now has about 6 million listeners, which sounds impressive until you realise that means 90% of the country doesn't listen to it.
I think this is evidence that some "average Joes" like some classical music and the extent depends a lot on many circumstances. In my impression the development of classical music had been to become more accessible to more people since the early 19th century. This was mostly connected with the rise of the bourgeois and petit bourgeois who imitated their (and the nobility's tastes). Stats can be found about the number of pianos and other instruments in middle class households in the 19th and early 20th century. With recording and radio it became much easier to distribute music and while this was overall more favorable to popular, non-classical music it also helped classical music. Especially as the offers by public radio (and later TV) were restricted to a few programs and most of them had some ambition to bring culture to the common man (cf. some others above). This idea was also shared by most political movements; the rising socialists were often rather bourgeois in their tastes, even the totalitarian communist regimes (they rejected some art but usually revered the classics). It seems to me that despite popular music also getting ever stronger (and a lot of contemporary classical losing touch with large parts of their audience) until the 1960s or so, classical was still doing quite well, also commercially. (Which conductor before got as fantastically rich as Karajan in the 60s/70s?)

What you sketch above and what I also remember (I started listening to classical as a teenager ca. 1986/87) seems the tail end of this development.

So assuming that the above is roughly correct, why the apparent decline in the last ca. 40 years? (The extent of this decline seems to be disputed but to me it seems obvious that regardless of numbers of concertgoers etc. CM has become ever more niche in public in the last decades.) I am not at all sure but probably several factors:

1. decline of musical education. I would not blame universities, this is far too late (and many countries never had general education stuff at university). Children have to be exposed to music and preferably learn to play instruments. Sure this would not automatically boost classical, but there could be some connection

2. mass media have changed. Even in the 1980s in countries like Britain or Germany there were so few TV programs that the whole nation watched certain things and so a common popular or sometimes middlebrow culture was maintained. Then came cable/satellite TV and dozens of programs and now everyone watches whatever he wants on netflix, and so remains in his bubble.

3. the mass media culture has shortened attention spans and reduced the ability to focus, especially on non-instant gratification things (both to a higher degree necessary for an appreciation of CM). I am myself affected and I am in my late forties and did not have a computer before I was 17 or 18. Cf. also the explosion of ADHS etc. diagnoses (even if this is overblown to sell meds, it's not a total fabrication). One different example is that a certain rather narrow style of popular music (western/anglo mainstream pop) is so prevalent that this defines for most people since the 70s or even earlier what typical music is. And what typical singing is. Classical unamplified singing appears "artificial".

4. this is probably the most contested (and I also think that it is speculative and maybe not as strong a factor as the preceding ones). The devaluation of classical music (and "high culture" in general) by elites. This seems to be a consequence of the "cultural revolution" of the late 1960s. It seems in sharp contrast to the stance of the socialist movements around 1900 (who wanted high culture for everyone), that now the point seemed to shove high culture from its pedestal, stress its rôle in "symbolic oppression/exclusion" etc. (The soft version of this is the claim, that despite never having been as easily accessible as today, CM is mostly hindered by elitist stances and the requirement to wear a clean shirt and shut up during a concert, as if tailcoat and top hat were required...) I have no idea why the admirable earlier stance lost on the "left". So as in some other things to me there seems a (unintentional) entente diabolique between the forces of capitalist mass media, the denigration of high culture by a certain type of the "right" (useless egghead nonsense, cf. for an early version of this conflict "Howard's End") and the more leftist stance just sketched. In all likelihood the "hard material factors" 2 and 3 are stronger but I would not discount the last one.
 

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I agree with the above posts that classical music was NEVER popular with average middle class Joes.

Of course I am not a musicologist and the above is just an opinion.
The following is my summary of some reading I've been doing in the book Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia.

The dichotomy of good music (for elites) and bad music (for peons) all started with the Greeks. Music of the slaves, was "harmful" as played on the aulos and was deemed unfit while the beneficial music was played on the lyre, the preferred instrument for making good music. One spurious reason given was a musician can't play the flute and use language at the same time, and so the potential for this music to serve as a tool of education is limited. String instruments are superior because they can accompany morally uplifting, sung messages.

According to Socrates aulos music is for drunkards, yet even the music itself can intoxicate, without the alcohol. He is horrified that responsible individuals sometimes open their ears to this pernicious sound. "The result is that such people become quick-tempered, prone to anger, and filled with discontent."

Ironically, on his deathbed Plato had a slave-girl to serenade him on the aulos, finally giving into his base nature.

Aristotle also held strong convictions about melodies and rhythms; some contribute to virtue, he explains, but others are dangerous and intoxicating. Indeed, every aspect of music requires political consideration and guidance. The elites attempted to exert control over our music for a long, long time.

Later, Nietzsche saw the lyre and flute as emblematic of the opposed Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies in ancient culture-the former emphasizing rule-making and restraint, the latter embracing rule-breaking and irrationality. The lyre, as a well-tuned string instrument, promotes the harmony and order of society, while the flute draws on human breath for its soul-shaking sounds, and thus serves as a dangerous instigator of passion and ecstatic states.

In our own time we are familiar with the same kind of thinking also concerning the music of slaves, the blues, played on the guitar with a knife or bottleneck to create slides and bending the strings outside of the standardized tuning of Western music also established by the Greeks, was considered primitive music.

We may think we have left such debates behind in modern times, but anyone who has read cautionary statements on music from the modern heirs of Plato-for example, Allan Bloom in his book The Closing of the American Mind-will find similar arguments, although with the electric guitar replacing the flute as the source of moral contagion. Here the lyre-like guitar has been flipped from good to bad.

And of course the railings against "atonal" honking we see on TC all the time.

But "primitive" music has survived the elites after all.
 

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In answer to the OP - Why should we bother?
 

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- Because it is better when more people have the chance to learn to appreciate a broader spectrum of beautiful things.
- Because it helps the endangered status of CM if more people like it and it gains a broader audience.
- Because there are supposedly a lot of beneficial side effects from listening to and especially making (classical) music oneself.
 

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1. decline of musical education.
2. mass media have changed.
3. the mass media culture has shortened attention spans and reduced the ability to focus, especially on non-instant gratification things (both to a higher degree necessary for an appreciation of CM).
4. this is probably the most contested (and I also think that it is speculative and maybe not as strong a factor as the preceding ones). The devaluation of classical music (and "high culture" in general) by elites. This seems to be a consequence of the "cultural revolution" of the late 1960s.
Lots of sense in what you say.

I would love to see more teaching of musical instruments in general primary education. However, my main comment is about 2, 3 and 4.

We have gone from a period, if it ever existed, when a "well-educated" person might be expected to know the thread of literature or art or music over the past few hundred years (by which I mean being able to tell you the two cities in A Tale of Two Cities or to tell a Titian from a Turner or to recognise the odd numbered Beethoven symphonies, apart from number 1!), to one in which they would be embarrassed to admit that they know these things, but know that they have to be able to identify a song by The Weeknd or risk ridicule.

I cite a show called Richard Osman's House of Games on TV in the UK. There is a round where contestants are asked highbrow and lowbrow questions with the same answer. The interesting thing is the embarrassment of contestants if they know the highbrow one and equally if they don't know the lowbrow one. On your point about high and low culture, the highbrow and lowbrow distinction indicates that we still recognise the difference (as no contestants are surprised by the questions which fall into the two categories) but we have gone beyond the devaluation of high culture to the enthronement of low culture. You might argue that a light entertainment show on TV is not a reliable barometer, but I see it as just an example of the message pumped into people's homes and minds all the time: that "low culture" is what you must know about if you are to be "one of us" and knowledge of "high culture" is something that you should be embarrassed to admit.

It's not about bringing classical music back to the average Joe; it's about preventing it from being banished from the consciousness of those with an above average education and interest in the arts as well.
 

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- Because it is better when more people have the chance to learn to appreciate a broader spectrum of beautiful things.
- Because it helps the endangered status of CM if more people like it and it gains a broader audience.
- Because there are supposedly a lot of beneficial side effects from listening to and especially making (classical) music oneself.
Why do you think this audience you wish to cultivate for classical music has not embraced it in the past? And why do you think they will suddenly appreciate the supposedly beneficial side effects from classical music?

It could be that they have already found the kind of music they enjoy and have no interest in classical music. Maybe their experience with classical music was not a positive one.

Would you suddenly embrace a music you don't listen to if someone made your argument to you for listening to it?
 

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I think it depends on education.

Music is a language and the more education and knowledge you receive the more refined gets your taste and understanding of music.

Imagine we had a real musical education in public schools including at least 2 one-to-one instrumental lessons per week for each pupil. Immediately we would have a very well educated generation playing and listening to classical music.

It depends only on money...on funding the public school system.
 

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How many people want to get into classical but don't because of "atonal"/"serial" junk? Like, this isn't 1950, does that even happen anymore?


e) I'm also constantly skeptical about the assertion (which has been going on for decades) that the kids simply have attention spans which are too short for art. One of the most growing forms of entertainment have been podcasts and streams which have durations of hours. I think it's less attention span and more that there's simply more competition for time, which cuts across all generations.
 

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- Because it is better when more people have the chance to learn to appreciate a broader spectrum of beautiful things.
- Because it helps the endangered status of CM if more people like it and it gains a broader audience.
- Because there are supposedly a lot of beneficial side effects from listening to and especially making (classical) music oneself.
There's no longer any "supposedly" about it. It's now settled science that playing and listening to music develops and strengthens connections between the two sides of the brain and their respective functions.
 

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One way to gently introduce CM is to ask somebody if he minds the music from Star Wars.

Then play "Mars" from The Planets.

Then play Ride of the Valkyries.

Another way is to mention that many pop/rock musicians like CM. There are YT videos with samples of songs and what they borrowed from decades or centuries before.
 

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From a fresh announcement by the Royal Concertgebouw (free translation):

Programme (concert on January 27th 2022)

Jennifer Higdon
BLUE CATHEDRAL
Peter Lieberson
NERUDA SONGS
Alfred Newman
20TH CENTURY FOX FANFARE
Erich Korngold
THE SEA HAWK
Bernard Herrmann
VERTIGO: PRELUDE / THE NIGHTMARE, SCENE D'AMOUR
John Williams
ET: ADVENTURES ON EARTH
John Williams
STAR WARS: PRINCESS LEIA'S THEME
John Williams
STAR WARS: MAIN TITLE

The hall will be packed and the audience rejuvenated by 10 years.

But I digress. Let's continue about mandatory university programmes, short attention spans, the alleged "necessity" of analytical listening, or what have you.
The dumbing down of classical concert programmes is an integral part of the apparent trend referred to in the OP. I'm not against it: if people like music of that type then let them have it, even if it has to be helped down with an assurance that they are partaking of high culture.
 

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How many people want to get into classical but don't because of "atonal"/"serial" junk? Like, this isn't 1950, does that even happen anymore?
There's no longer any "supposedly" about it. It's now settled science that playing and listening to music develops and strengthens connections between the two sides of the brain and their respective functions.
Are y'all aware that some cities blast Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven to clear corners of crews selling drugs?

Apparently it isn't just that "atonal"/"serial" junk that drives people away.
 
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