Jonny Greenwood with composer Krzysztof Penderecki (Photo by Polish National Audiovisual Institute)
This week my Facebook feed was barraged with angstful hand-wringing over comments by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who told the BBC he finds classical concerts “off-putting.” Greenwood wasn’t dissing classical music—he performs it, after all—but he felt like classical concerts should model their formats after indie rock shows.
A host of blog responses popped up with suggestions on how to “improve” classical concerts: encouraging people to clap between movements, getting rid of formal attire, tuning back stage, and so on and so forth—nothing original, nothing useful, and all of it completely missing the point.
Look, classical concerts are off-putting—to some people. Any type of concert is going to be unappealing to somebody. But off-putting-ness is a feature, not a defect. That’s why teenagers perennially hate their parents’ music and vice versa. If your concert doesn’t put off someone, you’re doing it wrong. Yet for some reason, in the classical world we try to be all things to everyone. That, in my opinion, is the only real thing wrong with classical concerts. (more…)
For decades now, classical music proponents have tried to make their organizations more accessible in order to attract audiences. This has always been a misguided and ineffective technique, and in fact I think it’s part of the reason we’ve seen shrinking interest in classical music even as other “high art” forms gain status and popularity.
The failure of classical music versus other art forms really hit home for me recently when I read this article: a young, cultured non-musician goes to hear an orchestral premiere of a composer he knows in another context and grapples to try to understand the music. He feels he “should” get it, but his lack of experience with classical music prevents him from enjoying the performance. If making music accessible were relevant this wouldn’t have happened (more…)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players presented their final concert of the 2009/2010 season tonight, 26 Apr 2010, at the Herbst Theater in downtown San Francisco. On the program were pieces by Greek composer Manolis Manousakis, American Tan Dun, Chinese Guo Wenjing, and Frenchman Philippe Hurel. This program was presented coherently and engagingly, because proper attention was paid not only to selecting and preparing the music, but also to lighting, staging, and technological aspects—a rare achievement. (more…)
This is a discussion of the programming changes that CBC Radio adopted between 2007 and 2008. It looks at the unintended influence of the societal trend toward anti-intellectualism in the CBC’s programming decisions. I begin by examing the motives for the CBC’s changes, and why they might have adopted the attitudes that they did. I then explore the confusion between anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism, discuss the problems that these have caused for the CBC, and suggest an alternative approach.