Classical Music: Too Elitist or Not Enough?

I spend a good deal of time dreaming up bold and unconventional success solutions for the arts. While these proposals typically receive serious consideration from some corners, there are others who emotionally shoot them down immediately without any rational thought whatsoever. It seems the closer someone is to a position, the more threatening a fresh alternative can feel. Even if the current model is clearly not working.

All too aware of this human tendency, I pride myself on considering the merits of any and every proposal. Even if my gut reaction is “NO!” Especially when that’s the case.

And so it was last week, while witnessing a keynote presentation by Brittish novelist and music critic Norman Lebrecht at the Dutch Classical Music Meeting. Author of Who Killed Classical Music? Lebrecht is renowned for thoughtful but provocative, controversial perspectives.

In a talk entitled Reframing the Classical Music Experience, Lebrecht declared that one word that has been taboo for decades in the classical music world. We shy away from it at all costs. But as organizations look for new solutions that enable vibrancy and sustainability, we no longer need to fear this concept. In fact, we should embrace it:

E – L – I – T – I – S – M

Why shouldn’t we be elitist, he asked? Classical musicians represent some of the finest talent on Earth. They spend a lifetime working tirelessly to perfect their craft. We should celebrate that phenomenon, making classical events a special, elite experience.

I cringed. Designing more accessible classical music experiences was core to the “Artistry and Relevance” chapter in my book The Savvy Musician. My message is one of adamant anti-elitism. Or better yet, resolute pro-people-ism.

Is Lebrecht completely wacky, I wondered? Or was my violent resistance simply caused by a closed mind, too attached to personal viewpoints to imagine new possibility? Could becoming more elitist actually help classical music?

Forcing myself to stay open and logical, I pondered whether a valuable lesson could be gleaned from his shocking contention. And after a week of working through this puzzle, here is my epiphany-in-progress.

Elite Access

Without a doubt, there are times where feeling elite motivates. For example, I fly a lot, and cherish my status. Elite Access. That’s what the airline calls it. Going in a special line, getting bumped to first class, raking in miles faster than the other guys. It just feels special, and encourages loyalty. As bizarre as it may sound to a non-frequent flyer, elite status helps define a part of my identity. “I am an elite world traveler.” Spectacular!

Lebrecht suggests that the classical music experience become more selective. More tuxedo…More long pieces…More expensive tickets…More sophisticated audiences…Would adopting that paradigm help build loyalty and, in turn, revenue?  

Hmmm…

Maybe the problem is that classical musicians today are too much in the middle.

“Anti-elitist” proponents make their concerts more friendly by featuring unusual venues, introducing pieces verbally, permitting the audience to clap between movements, and substituting business casual for wedding formal. But from an event perspective, these shows still pale in comparison to their popular music counterparts. The audiences still listen politely. Performers still hide behind music stands, sit respectfully center stage, and disappear during intermission. There are no light shows, mosh pits, dance competitions, Lady Gaga outfits, or sing-alongs. Such experiences may be profound, but not particularly populist.

On the other hand, consider more “serious” events such as traditional orchestra concerts. The hall is still breathtaking. The pieces are still long and glorious. The musicians still look as serious as brain surgeons. But these otherwise high society events are made slightly more accessible by the availability of cheaper tickets, pre-concert lectures (lectures?), and a conductor who shares some words from the stage. Slightly more approachable for the uninitiated, but also less exclusive.

Splitting the Difference

One gargantuan challenge for most classical organizations is expanding their fan base. The current audience consists primarily of seniors accustomed to time-tested conventions. But they hope to attract younger folks as well, who have different expectations about what a concert experience should deliver. So, in an attempt to be all things to all people, ensembles design some type of middleground that isn’t particularly elitist or populist. Said another way: In an age where many people seek extreme, niche experiences, these groups split the difference.

Two Classical Musics

Maybe we need two classical musics. Classical-A is exclusive, hardly available to the masses. For Elite Access, you must pony up, dress up, and pay up. Anyone who learns this club’s secret handshake is far above average. They are exceptional human beings with exceptional taste.

Classical-B provides hip, fun, interactive entertainment presented in user-friendly formats. The only audience these events discriminate against are ultra-snobby stuffed shirts, who eat caviar while wearing a monocle on their yacht. Of course, Classical-B still features extraordinary virtuosity, beauty, and many other unique dimensions its creators can access. But this is first and foremost an art of the people.

Cages & Rainbows

Norman Lebrecht may have rattled my cage, suggesting that expanded elitism might be good for classical music. It’s doubtful I’ll be joining that camp anytime soon. I’m too busy fighting for new audiences. For the opportunity to touch many more lives, not fewer.

But perhaps there’s a pot of gold on both ends of this rainbow.  The trick is committing to one side.

What do you think?

rainbow

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • RSS
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • Mixx
  • Blogplay
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz

413 Responses to “Classical Music: Too Elitist or Not Enough?”

  1. What computer brands allow you to create your own pc?

  2. How do i change to fluid breadth in the New Blogger Template Designer?

  3. I bought a new wordpress blog however it doesn’t have the blog stats which usually shows site hits onto it. The blog provides over a mil hits so I need it. And blog stats are on my other wordpress blog so how is it upon my new one?.

  4. Egizi says:

    Hi We are so happy I found your website, I truly found people in error, whilst My partner and i seemed to be checking about Yahoo regarding something else, Anyhow I will be right here currently and also could just like to state appreciate it lots for a remarkable submit along with a over-all interesting website (I furthermore appreciate the theme/design), My spouse and i don’t include time period to plod through everthing on the minute yet I have stored the idea and also added in with your rss feeds, when I have time period I’ll be back to study more, You should do sustain this awesome career.

  5. I realize there are lots of chrome addons that help manage saving photos, but the things i is specifically looking intended for is, one that can allow me to simply insert the picture link but it will surely download the picture from that link.. Reason getting, the images I was saving is usually has their particular own specific link instead of on the same web page itself..

  6. Jae Wooden says:

    Hai jika kamu bingung mencari tempat-tempat wisata untuk mengisi waktu luang kamu silahkan kunjungi website kami. Kami menyajikan banyak tempat-tempat wisata menarik, mulai dari wisata kuliner,wisata sejarah, wisata alam, taman bermain, pantai, dan lain sebagainya. Yuk, tunggu apa lagi kunjungi website kami di sini.

  7. patio gazebo says:

    Magnificent site. Plenty of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks for your effort!

  8. Geasley says:

    Hi, we read your website from time to time and when i personal an identical 1 in addition to my partner and i was simply just wondering in case you obtain plenty of junk e-mail statements? In that case tips on how to end the idea, any kind of plugin or perhaps whatever you may suggest? When i get so much lately it’s traveling me personally crazy therefore almost any help is incredibly much liked.

  9. I are thinking of buying a joomla design template from design template monster and importing this into joomla… How hard could they be to transfer? Is it plug-and-play easy? Or will I need to configure extensions etc … Thanks..

  10. How can I discover cheap, reliable wordpress web-site designers that I can out source my webdesign work to?

  11. Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there.

  12. clean nine says:

    Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thanks However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss drawback? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  13. Hey excellent blog! Does running a blog like this take a massive amount work? I’ve no knowledge of coding however I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyhow, should you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject however I just wanted to ask. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Powered by Wordpress | Designed by I Design Blogs