The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained

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During the hoopla surrounding the Royal Wedding last year, I remember reading something interesting on Facebook. Someone made the statement that she liked the pomp and ceremony because “it was good that people still knew how to show respect for people to whom it was due.” (She was of course speaking of the royal family.)

I remember thinking when I read that how opposed that kind of thinking is to what we value in America. In fact, with all due respect to our European friends, we don’t believe people deserve more respect just because of the family they are born into.  The Europeans are welcome to have their traditions and I love and respect them, but democracy is too ingrained in me to put people from a powerless monarchy family on a pedestal.  I don’t think they are due any more respect from me than any of you reading this.
Now I am not saying I am right and others are wrong.  I am just saying that democracy is part of me and it affects how I view all aspects of the world.  I am pretty sure it is how most people in the US view things. And one of those things is music.
With that in mind, take a few minutes and read this article entitled “The Awfulness of Classical Music.”
Note that the author (Richard Dare) is a classical music lover and is heavily involved in the business of classical music. This is not an attack on classical music; it is more of an attack on how classical music is presented in a democratic society.
Much of what he says resonates with me.  People of all ages like orchestra music.  It is inconceivable that many people would not like classical music (at least some of it) if they are exposed to it.  It is virtually impossible not to appreciate the complexity and its beauty of Beethoven for example.
So the author’s claim is that the reason classical music is dying is a packaging problem.  The snobs who run that world have managed to make it inaccessible for the common listener. Here is a quote that that is especially interesting.
One step therefore we might take to make classical music less boring again is simply for audiences to quit being so blasted reverential.
 
The most common practices in classical musical venues today represent a contrite response to a totalitarian belief system no one in America buys into anymore. To participate obediently is to act as a slave. It is counter to our culture. And it is not, I am certain, what composers would have wanted: A musical North Korea. Who but a bondservant would desire such a ghastly fate? Quickly now: Rise to your feet and applaud. The Dear Leader is coming on stage to conduct. He will guide us, ever so worshipfully through the necrocracy of composers we are obliged to forever adore.
Dare goes on to make two major points:
First, today’s sterile listening environment forced on listeners in the concert hall is neither natural nor traditional.  The classical composers played to audiences that are a far cry from what we have today.
Second, composers of any era were just people like us.  They wrote bad music along with the good. They had personal problems.  They struggled just like you do. Admire them and their music but be careful about putting them on pedestals.
Interesting points from a classical music insider who is entrepreneurial in his approach to marketing classical music.  I think he is on to something.  Classical music is indeed marketed very poorly to our democratic society.

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Latest Comments

  • Jim Dearman

    It is an interesting perspective. People are so scared to even admit they don’t like classical music. We tiptoe around like someone is going to slap us for suggesting that we might not like Bach.

    And why can’t people clap between movements of a sonata by the way?

  • Lydia

    Great article Greg. I can see both sides of this one. I love the tie-in to the royal wedding silliness;)

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