|Author||Topic: the Future of art Music|
|posted: 8/4/2005 at 9:13:10 AM ET|
As a composer, performer, and educator, I am constantly concerned with the future of art music. A recent newspaper article about the Pittsburgh Symphony budget deficit is the impetus for this posting. The article mentioned a deficit of $500,000 or more for the 2004-05 season and attributed the deficit to lower than expected ticket sales for the classical subscription series. Ticket sales for the classical subscription series have grown only 2% over the past 22 years while ticket sales for the pops concerts have grown 8%. In my opinion, this is reflective of three national trends that I feel need to be addressed.
Because of outside influences, music education in our schools has been watered down. In an effort to be more inclusive, classroom music, music ensembles, and college music courses for the general student have indirectly equated vernacular music and art music. There is nothing wrong with being inclusive, but I feel it is the music teacherís responsibility to point out the similarities and differences between vernacular music and art music. Each offers its own rewards, but art music involves more understanding of musical elements and their relationships, and therefore functions on a higher intellectual plane. I feel it is the educatorís responsibility to help the student grow in the intellectual understanding of music and not succumb to pressure from administration, parents and students by allowing vernacular music to be equated with art music.
Most performers display a lack of interest in music being written by living composers. Unfortunately, the trends of composition in the middle and late 20th century contributed greatly to this problem. However, performers should realize that there are many composers writing art music that is accessible to both performers and listeners as it is based on the traditions established prior to the mid- 20th century. John Winsor, in his book "Breaking the Sound Barrier: An Argument for Mainstream Literary Music", makes a wonderful case explaining why music went astray in the mid-20th century. I feel his book is a "must read" for any educator, performer or composer. A way for performers to show their audiences that music composition is an art that is still alive and vital is to include a recent composition composed in a "mainstream literary music" style on every program.
Many of todayís composers emphasize intellectualism and innovation over perceivable craft. There is nothing wrong with innovation except that it has become an end within itself. Intellectualism and innovation are rewarded through composition contest prizes and grants that are judged by other composers, therefore perpetuating a style of music that is no longer accessible to both performers and audiences. I would like to quote from the final chapter of my book "A Composerís Guide to Understanding Music with Activities for Listeners, Interpreters, and Composers" regarding composing trends. "Throughout musical history, the balance between the classic (of the mind) and romantic (of the heart) modes of thinking has alternated. The center of the pendulum can be thought of as equal treatment intellectualism and emotionalism. The pendulum swings that occurred prior to the twentieth century have not eliminated the other mode of thought. They have just changed the emphasis. During the early to mid-twentieth century, the swing towards classicism went to extremes by over emphasizing the intellectualism and rejected anything associated with emotionalism. The composer, Igor Stravinsky, stated that "music is powerless to express anything at all". He later retracted that statement, but it clearly illustrates the rejection of emotionalism in music. The intellectualism that dominated much of twentieth century music, and still exists today, has been a contributing factor to alienating audiences and performers from new music. The majority of the relationships between unity and variety are mostly perceivable through in-depth score study, rather than by active or passive listening."
Educators, performers and composers must work together to ensure the future of art music. I welcome your feedback regarding my comments and invite you to visit my web site at http://cooppress.hostrack.net to learn about the programs that Co-op Press has established to encourage partnerships between composer, performer and audience.
Dr. Sy Brandon
Millersville University of Pennsylvania
|posted: 8/4/2005 at 11:27:01 AM ET|
Hello Dr. Brandon,
I enjoyed reading your post, and agree that music should be taught in schools, starting with grade school.
There is one thing I'm not clear on - I love music, classical, broadway musicals (not all), dixieland jazz etc.. I don't like contemporary music, it sounds like loud noise to me. In fact, I've been taking piano lessons for about 4 1/2 years and I'm in my 60's talk about a late start - I'm not clear on what art music is.
Both my father and mother were musicians. My mother was a contralto (Juiliard Graduate) and my faher was an accompianist. I remember that my mother said she liked German Leider - as crazy as this seems, I don't know how this is classified.
I usually go to the freebe's that Juilliard gives. Sometimes I attend the pre-college concerts, I wish you could see and hear the beautiful music that these young kids make.
I also attend the concerts given by the College Level group - I sometimes wonder how all these talented musicians will make out once they graduate. It's a rough business, and multiply these grads with all the other conservatories.
As for concert attendance, it can be expensive. Carnegie Hall charges $35-45 to sit in the "ski-slope" section. The better locations can be over $100 depending whose performing, the same holds true for Avery Fisher Hall. I think Avery Fisher hall has a special deal for students. I'm not sure about Carnegie Hall.
Maybe it comes from being raised in a musical family, but I think there will always be an audience for music, can't imagine not having music.
Now back to practicing - if I only could come close to playing what I "hear".
Many thanks for taking the time to write a very important and interesting post.
North Coast NSW, Australia
|posted: 8/4/2005 at 6:58:06 PM ET|
I would like to echo suzyq's last comment, the points you raise are important ones for anyone involved in music education.
""Unfortunately, the trends of composition in the middle and late 20th century contributed greatly to this problem""..and in the first half, as well..Stravinsky is a prime example of ""Sovietization"" and a sure-fire way to cure a kid of any attraction to Art music.
Khachaturian's Piano Concerto In Db Major is another formless mess (although Sparatus is brilliant)
"'Art"" music, suzyq, is what is called "'Classical"" in the popular press, ie: music not written just as an entertainment.
I think that admission prices are a large part of the problem, but much of the blame can be sheeted to to parents..if there is no exposure to Art music in the home, the teachers job is twice as hard.
It is not impossible, however. I have just come home from teaching the composition techniques of Saint Saens and Debussy to classrooms filled with Aboriginal and Pacific Islander kids whose musical tastes run to rap, and rap, and for a change, hip-hop, and Carnival Of The Animals held them enthralled
Take me to your Lieder...
|posted: 8/4/2005 at 10:54:39 PM ET|
I agree with Pete about exposure. It is very important at an early age, even while still in the womb. Kids who grow up listening to rap, rock, country etc., and have no exposure to classical music, will probably not even know it exists. I grew up with classical music, as my mother was a concert percussionist, and have embraced it ever since I can remember. I do however like many other types of music as well. I have tried to pass this love on to my three boys, but only time will tell. As suzyq put it, prices are quite high, especially in the larger cities, but the same holds true for other types of music. I have seen sold out classical concerts in my area, as well as rock, rap or country, and I have been to shows that barely cover the expenses. I know one thing for sure, the drastic changes in our society in general weigh heavily in this problem. When a society's values and moral fabric deteriorate, then entertainment becomes tasteless drivel. The amount of anger many people harbor is evidenced in music, cinema, television, and many facets of everyday life. This stems from an alarming exodus from religion and belief in God. Our world has become far to secular and self absorbed, with the gold standard replacing the "Golden Rule" As long as the "Moral Majority" remains held in check by liberal extremists, the problem will only escalate. We must find a way to groom our children for change. This can be accomplished by loving parents who can foster respect for life, and do everything possible to keep their children from becoming immune to the social evils which are ever increasing. I work in our local school district, and I see the evidence first hand. Many students have absolutely no respect for people or property, so how can they possibly appreciate culture. I hope and pray that this alarming trend makes a u-turn soon. I am cautiously hopeful that this will happen in my lifetime.
I am a fragment of my imagination
North Coast NSW, Australia
|posted: 8/5/2005 at 4:16:19 AM ET|
Many of the problems you mention are addressed down here by schools involvement in music on a National level, called Crocfest
http://www.crocfestivals.org.au/modules.php?op=modload&name=PagEd&file=index&topic_id=0&page_id=27 I have two groups performing this year, but classical music does not get a run.
Take me to your Lieder...
|posted: 8/5/2005 at 9:38:51 AM ET|
I agree wholheartedly with what has been written in these posts.
In teaching kids today I wonder if it is possible to use a "bsck door" approach to teaching classical music. For exampla start with whatever is popluar and gradually show how all music is related. Maybe it's possible to reach some students, some is better than none. I'm not a teacher, so I don't know if this approach is possible or would work. I just think if you start with what the kids know and listen to, at least you have their attention for 2 seconds.
There is/was a program to bring music back to the schools in New York City, but lack of funds and every other kind of lame excuse have been made. Here I go again with what my father said, music or any of the arts is a discipline and learning will help in schoolwork - he said it a lot better than I just did. I think that some of the better public shools and some private schools have programs that have music programs, though I'm not sure. Sometimes I see school buses parked alongside Lincoln Center - maybe there's hope.
It's good to know there are educators who are bringing and teaching music to all students - you never can tell, exposure to music is what counts. They might squirm in their seats now, but end up enjoying music has they get older.
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