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Its obvious that the book looks at things from a USA perspective. The classical industry there has been exposed in recent decades, particularly in the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and now with Covid 19. I think that part of the issue there is poor financial management, exploitation of tax law (some creative accounting to do with charitable exemptions) and union involvement.

I also think that there are probably more urgent problems to deal with in the USA than culture, such as key areas like the economy, education and health.

Apart from that, there are some issues raised that are general problems. I think that the biggest one is access and equity. If a child wants to learn music, there are ongoing costs attached, such as buying instruments and private tuition. With growing prosperity, not only in Western countries, more parents are able to afford for their children to learn music. At the same time, the majority of children are still denied this privilege. Venezuela started to tackle this about 50 years ago with its El Sistema method.

I doubt whether there's any use in getting children in the mass education system to listen to classical music if they can't play it. Its better if it becomes part of their lives in some way. Teaching skills of classical playing can't be done easily. Perhaps it simply doesn't fit into the regular curriculum? One on one tutoring has always been the way music is taught best.

The exclusive private schools still have strong music programs, but they are there to translate the values and needs of the rich, which is also why they teach Latin. In contrast, the state system is struggling with getting children ready with skills they really need in life, such as reading, writing and counting.

I'm less concerned about the ability of the classical music scene to survive. With the situation of diminishing subsidies, they've been forced to reach out to the wider public, and attract new audiences. This has been happening for a couple of decades now. Its not the first time that classical music had to adapt to a more austere economic climate, neither will it be the last. That already happened after the two world wars. As always, its a case of nourishing audiences and the creative community, as well as keeping an eye on the budget.
 

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TwosetViolin is a hugely successful youtube channel with nearly 4 million subscribers run by two young Australian-Taiwanese classical violinists, Brett Yang and Eddy Chen, that mostly targets the 12 to 21 demographic but is popular with a general audience, including many who came to it with no prior interest in classical music. Hilary Hahn, Ray Chen and other classical stars are frequent guests (Chen is also originally from Australia). They have made two successful live world tours and will soon embark on a third, long delayed by the pandemic. They have a large fan base in Europe and the Americas as well as, of course, Asia and Australia.

I mention them here because they have all but singlehandedly demolished the myth that classical music cannot be sold to young people, repeated by some in this thread. Though video games and other current youth pop culture phenomena are prevailing themes in their videos, they go to great pains to be respectful of the western classical music tradition that always is their main topic, and mercilessly satirize any pop culture examples of disrespect, dismissing them with one of their running comments: "Sacrilegious!" Great, and funny, stuff.
I think getting milennials online can be a key to this, and Eric Whitacre's virtual choir - established over ten years ago - is another good example:

 

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People who have an agenda to implement new social norms - have to eliminate the old to make way for the new. One of the ways in which this has been happening for decades is through government schools.
I doubt that's impinged on classical. Socialisation has always been a part of education, but I think that government schools have other more pressing concerns. The foremost of these is bullying (including cyber bullying) and violence (since you mention the USA, its the worst there with regular school shootings). Music can and should be part of solving these problems, but to be realistic, those who run and teach at schools already have a lot on their hands.

A related issue is that government schools don't have the advantage of private schools, whose students are either rich or otherwise hand picked from the brightest (e.g. with scholarships).
 

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I made the simple point that if that is the case, it'll most likely be because CM is not attractive enough to the overwhelming majority, and no amount of "education" (or other strategy) will make any difference.
Education will make a difference. If you listen to Mr. Mackey, who says "Classical music is good for you, m'kay."

 

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That's just idiotic, sorry. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are not developing countries. They're as wealthy as France, in fact wealthier than Italy and Spain. And classical music in those countries is as popular as ever.

Again, people who think kids can't appreciate classical music and/or it can't thrive in the modern world really do need to drop the Americentric bias and look at East Asia. What are they doing right that other countries are not?
Its significant that the three countries you name have been dominated by the USA since WWII, in terms of economy and foreign policy. Japan already had a classical music scene before that, though. China, of course, has had a different history - but there, growing prosperity has made the classical scene catch up fast. Singapore also has a strong classical scene.

I don't think that what's happened in these countries is transferable to the West, at least not fully. They've got more homogenised populations, cultures founded on respect for education (part of what the late Lee Kuan Yew called Asian values), and overall a more communal approach to society as compared to the more individualist tendencies prevalent in the West.
 

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This is a much better reply than the previous idiotic ones about stages of economic development. And I agree that of course East Asia's experience with classical music is not transferable fully to the West. That's a truism. But it is an indication of where the effort needs to be made: music education and public exposure and prestige.

Nothing, not least taste in music, is culturally essentialist. And it would be bizarre to admit defeat that the Western classical tradition will always be inherently less popular in the West come what may. Whether it is or not is a choice people make.
I didn't mean to refute what VoiceFromTheEther or Kreisler jr said. Its your mention of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea which caught my attention (as I said, all three dominated by the USA since the Cold War) and also of "Americentric bias."

I think that an underlying issue to all this is that if a country looks after the fundamentals (e.g. economy, education, health), its more likely that arts and culture will be looked after also. In the USA, classical music probably isn't going as badly as it looks, but I think that the damage done to the industry there in the past few decades are more about local factors than anything else.
 

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Yes, this is all what I was arguing. :) A decline in music education and a decline in the cultural prestige of 'higher' forms rooted in the European tradition are central to the story. People who want classical music to survive have to make the argument for the value and importance of that tradition. They get it Taiwan, there's no reason why they shouldn't in the United States (or the UK, Germany etc.).
As I said, I think the USA is a different kettle of fish, so to speak. The classical industry there has become exposed due to a combination of factors (e.g. poor financial management, loopholes in the tax system and also issues to do with labor laws). This is why in 2008, some orchestras went bankrupt and others where right at the brink. The full impacts of Covid-19 are yet to be seen.

Overall though, I think that classical will survive as long as it continues adapting to changes. I guess what the USA example shows is at the heart of everything, including cultural policy, is good financial management and planning for the future. No use in eating today so that you can starve tommorrow.

Equity is a huge issue in music education. As I mentioned, Venezuela started dealing with this fifty years ago with El Sistema. It more or less built classical industry in that country from the ground up. Similarly, Lang Lang has done a lot for China in helping set up music schools throughout the country. These combine business with charity, because he is the founder of a chain of tuition companies there. He's recently donated pianos to disadvantaged schools in the UK, where students who don't go to a private school have little chance of learning music:

 

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Yes, if the hypothesis that they are in some ways a few decades "behind", similar to Europe (with US rock'n roll) in the 60s is correct, they might follow a similar trajectory. However, I am not sure if similar factors for a counterculture movement like in late 60s/70s Europe exist in East Asia... so it might also be quite different.
Probably not much of a counterculture in the Western sense, although you had pop groups visit Japan in particular.

I think that during the immediate postwar decades, Asia was recovering from the war, dealing with the onset of the Cold War and also effects of decolonisation. I think that in this context, their boomers grew up in vastly different circumstances than the ones in the West.

Modernism didn't begin in the US in the 60/70s. Very loosely speaking it was a result of major cultural changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution, and then the first world war.
Don't you mean postmodernism? Modernism starts to wind down in the 1950's. Where that ends and postmodernism begins depends on who you ask, but 1968 is a year often mentioned.
 

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Yes, I didn't catch that oversight.
I actually think that most people on TC are fine with modernism, or at least the experience of modern life. You'd have to go back to living before the industrial revolution to avoid any aspect of it. I think that what lies at the heart of many debates here is disagreement about the legacy, or the consequences, of modernism rather than modernism itself.
 

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Well I'm certainly fine with "Modernism" and I'm not fine with the political meal being made out of it.
I think now that political discussion here has been curtailed, its only ideology that is left. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all have some sort of ideological bias. That's not necessarily a problem, but how it seems to work out so badly in online discussions is.

Just to clarify, the comments made about modernism, in general, are not to evaluate its implications on the human experience, whether in part or in entirety, whether positive or negative.
I think there are links between the experience of modernity and artist's responses to it.

Modernism, or whatever label one may affix to changes in the 20th century, may be considered a contributing factor to the decline in CM listenership in western nations. To reiterate, the adoption of change should not mean that one tosses out the baby with the bathwater.
I think that its contribution to any decline, in terms of the music alone, is overrated. There might be a stronger argument in terms of how ideological approaches informed by modernism negatively impacted on music, but I think that's more or less limited to those who where working in music rather than the audience.

Moreover, personal opinions, especially those leaning toward those political, are unrelated to the question of how to bring more people to CM in my opinion.
I think social justice is political. If you look at what reformers in music education like Zoltan Kodaly did, and also Jose Antonio Abreu (who founded El Sistema in Venezuala, which I mentioned), their work was at least in terms of its impact, political. It must be said though that their aim was to build up music education, and their first priority was to achieve their goals, not to serve purely political interests. Abreu, for example, worked with whoever was in power. His program gave many gifted young people a way out of poverty, drugs and violence. His longer TED talk is also on youtube, but in this short clip you can see some of the poor conditions he was working in.

 

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Agree - people have unique ideological bents and preferences. I think that these apply to a more or lesser degree across different aspects of our lives - for example, philosophical or artistic. Also as you point out, these discussions and nuances don't lend themselves well to online discussions and there are many shades of gray.
That's my point. Online discussion of topics like this can go well if we try to drop the need to convince eachother and just talk. Not impossible, but rare in my experience.

Another very good point you articulated is that many composers (keeping to CM), especially during times of social change, expressed their interpretation of events. Art imitates life. The Eroica, which did not immediately meet with universal public acclaim, expressed not only struggles in the composer's life, but also his interpretation of social and political upheaval. It is amongst the most frequently performed symphonies in the world today.
I think that history and aesthetics inform, rather than detract from, discussions of music. Music doesn’t come out of a vacuum.

That was a thoughtful and diplomatically worded post, thanks. After observing all the lengthy debates here about the role of classical music in today's society for several years, I would conclude that it is indeed hard to avoid their ideological undercurrent. Here at TC, "classical music" mainly means an 18th and 19th century European aristocratic and wealthy bourgeois tradition, and implicit in assumptions that its current cultural role is not as great as it ought to be, as made by the OP in this thread for example, is a judgment on the relative worth and importance of 18th and 19th century European aristocratic and wealthy bourgeois cultural values.
A lot has changed since the 19th century, which was the time of the industrial revolution. I think that since then, we have became a society of consumers. I would argue that the origins of this aren’t a break from what happened in the 19th century, they actually stem from it. While many of us are now alienated from playing and creating music, there is undoubtedly more music everywhere, and we as individuals can choose to listen to whatever suits our needs at any given moment.

Posters operating on this assumption here often indignantly argue that there is nothing political or ideological about their comments. Yet, 20th century modernism and current popular music over and over emerge as alleged villains, and the ideological implications become clear.
I don’t think its useful to play the blame game. I’m more interested in solutions, and I think that requires political effort to bring about social change through education.

When I point out that in fact classical music can be and often is appealing to young people, and that the discussion of this thread and others like it is largely based on a false premise, the point is largely ignored. This also suggests that an ideological agenda motivates most of these threads.
We know that many young people are accessing classical online. As regards this forum, all you can do is say your opinion, even if you feel its different. The worst thing for a forum like this is if everyone started parroting everybody else. We need a variety of opinions here.

 

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Aptly spoken. I do think that many posters are sensitive to this and endeavor to walk a fine line between posting information, and subjective interpretation, while presenting information in a way that does not seek to convince others. 😊
Yes it is about interpretation. Even if the facts are the same, inevitably we'll all interpret them differently. Same with experiences. On the internet, its easy for complex issues to become polarised. Reality is never that simple.

Fully agree about the unhelpfulness of assigning blame and that political organization and will is required. People who sell music could also be instrumental (no pun!) in this. From a US perspective, with an arguably decrepit school system, parents need to have a role in assessing and changing what and how their children are educated.

CM would also benefit from a public relations initiative, which could be part of driving public interest and thus political intervention.
I think that there are a number of ways of looking at this. There are various levels of interaction, if you like, with classical music. They can be boiled down to something like this. Listeners who:
  • Listen to recordings
  • Go to concerts
  • Can perform music
Within these categories there can be variation, e.g. listeners and concertgoers can range from casual to serious, performers can be amateur or professional.

I don't think we've got too much of a problem with the first category now - thanks to digital technology, classical is more widely disseminated than its ever been. I think that the second category needs maintenance, but at this point things generally aren't too bad.

I think the third category is the problem area, and that's where my point about equity comes in. I think we're beyond mere public relations. Substantive changes need to happen. In the UK there's been statistics coming out for some time suggesting that most children who learn music go to private schools. Its not new, but there is growing realisation among educators of the importance of access to music to by all children. I mean as part of their general education. There is no one size fits all solution, but its good to know that there's awareness of the problem.

Not to be a snob or a Debbie downer, but I believe that article is including essentially anything that's instrumental as classical. Virtually every artist listed would be described as "crossover", "contemporary instrumental", "electronic", "film", etc.. I don't think any of the listed artists would be remotely popular amongst the TC membership.
There's a few contemporary composers who are taken seriously enough at TC (e.g. like Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich).


Also quite a few of the most famous composers - e.g. Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Rachmaninov, Ravel, etc.


The main takeaway from the article is that many young people will listen to classical - or various offshoots of it - on their ipods. I think it might be a trend away from the stigma associated with classical among young people. In any case, the classical industry is taking heed of this sort of data to attract young people, with change in repertoire to accept what was previously thought as too lowbrow (e.g. orchestras performing film, video game and television music, opera companies putting on productions of musicals).
 

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Extracurricular music lessons offered at schools can be beneficial, but the idea that children should be required to learn to play instruments (or learn music theory) at a public institution is tyrannical. The amount of unnecessary things children are forced to do should be minimized.
You really shouldn't worry, then. Relax. Its not a matter of them being required to learn it, because most children in state schools don't get much of an opportunity to learn music in the first place.

Incidentally, by performance I didn't necessarily mean playing, but singing. Back in the 16th century, the composer William Byrd said that "since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learne to sing." Today, most children aren't even taught to sing and hold a note, and that's way before they might get to an instrument. I wonder, have we progressed that much since Byrd's time?

Yes, sorry. I shouldn't have been so absolute. Reich would be considered classical music by most, my issue was more with most of the other artists.
I don't have your concerns about the composers I mentioned, or others on those podcasts like John Adams, Eric Whitacre, John Williams, Ennio Morricone or Einaudi. One thing is that they all trained as classical composers.

I think that many young people aren't nearly as sectarian or self conscious about music as previous generations where. Basically, the categories we might argue about here matter little to them.

We may have different takeaways, but my takeaway was that young people will listen to some crossover artists that play pop-song sized segments of instrumental music.
They obviously do listen to those, among other things. I don't see that as a negative but as a positive, since its obviously being harnessed by the classical industry to generate income.
 

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True.

For a few semesters I taught after school chorus classes an a local elementary school administered by the local Park District. Parents had to pony up a registration fee to the Parks, just as they would have to for a class in painting, folk dance, or other things.

It went well for a while but the parents were actually way more meddling than I would have expected, so I quit.
That's a bit of a shame, but you can do nothing more than try your best.

I'm not saying this is good or bad, but when people here talk about the decline in classical music, my impression is they just aren't talking about a decline in listeners of someone like Einaudi. This is the disconnect I see with the BBC article.
Put it this way, there's been talk of a decline for ages, but classical music has never gotten to the stage of entirely sinking. I don't see a major cause for concern in terms of the number of people listening to it. The concert format is changing, and I see it more as adapting to new areas of demand and not as a decline. The old format that we've had since the 19th century is still continuing. I think the real problem is with equity, in terms of socio-economic disparities involving access to music in the education system (as part of general education).
 

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I can understand what Hurwitz is saying and the reasons for the conclusions he's making, but what do you think about it?
 

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As long as a lot of the reference recordings are still readily availiable in the future, I'm fine with the vision Hurwitz describes. If it turns out to be true. I really hope middle aged and seniors can get into CM in large enough numbers that the CM recording industry doesn't collapse.
I see. The conservative approach - keeping things as they are - is a pragmatic one, at least when applied to the USA. Hurwitz has talked about how the financial bubble started to burst in the '90's. With recessions in 2008 and now with Covid, its obvious that the way forward will continue to involve difficulty because of constant change (especially economic and technological). Radical change isn't advisable in these circumstances, but at the other extreme is the danger of complacency. Longer term, there has to be nourishment and renewal for continued growth.
 

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I might be wrong, but I don't think young people will be interested in CM without a few years of the experience of making music.
We're investing less and less time and money in this foundation for them. Educators, parents and the kids themselves don't think it's an unfortunate situation. Someday we'll all have very capable virtual reality.
There's definitely a general problem with equity, in terms of access to music education of some sort (even at the general level). Even though that's fairly easy to agree on, the solution isn't so easy.

I think our goal should be keeping the CM industry alive, as opposed to making it popular, since I firmly believe CM does not appeal to more than a minority of listeners (and I don't know of an efficient way to fix that).
Keeping things going is fine, but basically in terms of the most conservative approach, two main results are conceivable:
1. Things stay the same, but its more or less a situation of stagnation.
2. Things get worse as there's not enough people to replace an increasingly aged audience.

I think that it makes sense to take on a low risk approach in the USA, given the problems in the classical industry there which occurred over the past few decades. At the same time, a little risk can go a long way, if its managed properly. I think it makes sense to try and aim for something even slightly better in the future than more of the same or a worse result.
 
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