Evolving or Regressing?

February 12, 2016

The recent conversation about the Super Bowl Half Time show raised a few questions for me, which I want to share:

  1. Isn’t suggesting that classical music needs to embrace the popular culture and adopt itself to it in order to survive deeply conformist and, as such, antithetical to the spirit of artistic pursuit based in honest striving for excellence, authenticity and depth?

  2. In the world filled with short, simplistic pop songs, isn’t complex narrative of classical music a phenomenon that is truly radical and challenging to the status quo in ways no less important than political statements?

  3. Isn’t the job of music critics and musicians to advocate the art-form instead of “blame the victim” and suggest that classical music is losing audience because of its own lack of “cool?”

  4. What does it say about today's audience when given an opportunity to hear fantastic performances of great music, two hundred years ago available only to the elite, it expects concerts to be "more entertaining?” 

  5. Is the harmonic language in late Beethoven quartets too simple for the overly developed contemporary listener, or is it perhaps their individual senses are so dulled down that the only way to keep them entertained is to engage visual cortex, then add some text and music in the background?

  6. How can a professional music critic celebrate the fact that classical music was represented in the Super Bowl by a youth orchestra doing more dancing than playing as a backdrop to a commercially successful but musically insignificant band?

  7. If nobody expects pop artists to write an hour long complex masterpieces, or dress in a way that is not provocative, then why is it considered normal to ask classical musicians to “embrace mainstream” and lose tuxedos, formal atmosphere and any hint of challenge to the audience?   

  8. If the only way to survive in the music world today is by assuming complete ignorance and lack of interest on the part of listeners, what future development can possibly happen in music?

  9. Is it really that unreasonable to expect any effort on the part of a person to process complex artistic ideas? If so, does this mean that we live in culturally regressive historical period?

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