Apropos the just concluded online, blog-form symposium, Engaging Art — A Public Conversation, held by ArtsJournal in conjunction with the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, and the conference, Every City, Music City held in Nashville, Tennessee and also just concluded, three past posts on S&F seem to us to be particularly apposite: "An Audience For Classical Music" from July 2004, "The Classical Music Concert" from August 2004, and "More On Classical Music Concert Audience Etiquette" from January 2005.
As a teaser, here's the lede graf of the first:
During the past decade or so, one has read often of attempts made by various classical (or "serious", or "art") music entities — symphony orchestras, chamber groups, recital organizers, even opera companies — to gain a larger audience for their "product", and it's nothing short of depressing to observe that, virtually without exception, they've all, to greater or lesser degree, pursued a model that's not merely wrongheaded, but positively suicidal. That model, in keeping with the rabidly populist and promiscuously equalitarian Zeitgeist of our era, and using promotional techniques employed in the world of mass entertainment, has at its core the concept of reaching out to The People; or using less euphemistic and less generous terminology, prole pandering. While such a concept is perfectly appropriate and spot-on in the world of mass entertainment, it's an ultimate kiss of death in the world of classical music for the simple and should-be (but astonishingly, largely isn't) obvious reason that, much as one wishes it were not the case, classical music is not, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever even marginally be, an object of mass or even widespread appeal no matter how vigorously and assiduously it may be promoted. Classical music is, by its very nature, a fundamentally elite enterprise, and should never be viewed or promoted as anything other.
And of the second:
As someone trained as a classical musician who was virtually raised in a concert hall (Philadelphia's Academy of Music), and for whom live orchestral and chamber music concerts were the mother's milk of his youth, I find just the prospect of the diminishment or, worse, the eventual demise of the classical music concert to be a thing unthinkable. Or rather, a thing I'd rather not have to think about. As matters seem to stand today, however, there's nothing for it for someone such as myself but to think long and hard about it. Classical music concerts (the unadulterated sort), nationwide, are, so we are assured by any number of doomsayers in the print media, slowly dying out for want of enough audience to adequately support them except in our largest metropolitan centers. And even there, we're further told, the going today is fairly rough, and bound to get insupportably rougher unless a viable solution can be found for the apparent growing problem.
Did I say problem? Why a problem? I mean, if it's all true, and the marketplace really can't support the classical music concert, perhaps the thing has outlived its pertinence and importance for our cultural life, and ought to be permitted to go gently into that good night spared the always humiliating if heroic last-ditch efforts to provide it synthetic life-support.
And here's the thesis-introductory graf of the third:
Champions and promoters of [a] more relaxed code [of concert hall etiquette] are forever citing the more free, even rowdy, concert audience etiquette of the 18th and 19th centuries as justification for, and proof of the validity of, a call for a return to that earlier practice. A more relaxed code is not some new, postmodern idea, they say, but was the norm and expected (with the tendentious implication that it was also sanctioned) by the very composers who wrote most of the classical music that today constitutes the by far largest proportion of the repertoire of classical music concerts. Like most such justifications and "proofs," however, those justifications and proofs are made up of many half-truths and carefully selected facts, typically put forward out of context.
We think these three S&F posts will make for especially interesting and pertinent reading when considered within the context of ArtsJournal's just concluded online symposium the posts of which, along with their attached comments, can be read at the above provided link.