Day 24: Original Foreword [Part 1 of 2]
Music, as an art form, is thriving at an unprecedented rate, but certain genres are slowly diminishing in their seeming relevance to contemporary culture and may eventually become insignificant. At present, the standing of classical music is suffering a severe decline—not necessarily in terms of its ability to generate revenue, but in its perceived cultural value. From ecclesiastical music to chamber works and opera, classical “art” music has been a foundation of culture that strengthens its people. As Lawrence Kramer explains in his book, Why Classical Music Still Matters, today’s audiences generally share an apathetic response to this culture-shaping role, “we no longer hear classical music’s desire to be explored, not just heard (10).” In our modern world, the developing role of classical music as purely a form of politely enjoyed entertainment needs to be challenged, not only ensuring its survival, but also allowing it to flourish.
Kramer points us towards one possible solution: “what’s needed…is a way to refresh listening: to reconnect the listener with a community and culture of listening, and to do so as far as possible without anxiety or defensiveness (16).” In this regard he cites the new “museum” culture, wherein communal appreciation of art without “stuffiness” is attracting visitors in droves. Nicholas Cook also points to the visual medium as a key to re-engaging audiences, pointing out that many significant musical innovations have not taken place in the concert hall, but in the opera, ballet, or movie theater, where the listener’s conscious attention is engaged in multiple domains (178). Indeed, with the lack of a visual stimulus found in the typical concert, the intensity of the message that the listener receives is purely internal. This is especially true in solo performances, where the performer can only go so far in his/her effort to engage the emotions and imaginations of the audience.