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Stupid Things people Say About Classical Music

  Ever since starting my blog here at, I've been trying to debunk myths about classical music .  Here is a recap of  some of these myths , half-truths and canards .  Some of these are myths about classical music which people who know little or nothing about it  accept blindly , and others are  myths  spread by the so-called experts  who really have an agenda of their own or are simply deluded .

   Classical music is "stuffy, boring and  elitist ".  Some people assume that  concerts and opera etc are "stuffy" merely because  classical musicians  tend to dress formally at concerts .  By no means all do ;  there has been a growing trend for  solo performers and  conductors to  wear their own  style clothes  and for men to avoid using  black or white ties , although male  orchestra members still tend to use  these ties .  So what ?  It's the music that counts . People don't go to concerts to  see what the musicians are wearing, but to enjoy the music .

   Concerts and opera performances are "boring " ?   The music itself is "boring"?   Then why the heck do so many people faithfully attend these classical performances ?   If you go to  performances , the chances are that the audience will be applauding and cheering the  musicians , not sleeping .  The fact is that  clasiscal and opera fans are every bit as passionate  and  enthusiastic as sports fans .  They cheer their home orchestras or visiting ones  just as enthusiastically as sports fans cheer their favorite team .  However, unlike sports fans in stadiums,,   they don't trash  te concert halls or opera houses after performances . 

   They argue about their favorite conductors, pianists, violinists, cellists and opera singers the way sports fans argue over   Michael  Jordan vs  Magic Johnson  or this or that quarterback , pitcher or   goalie .  They also argue over whether Beethoven or Mozart is the greater composer ,or whether Verdi or Wagner is the greater opera composer . 

 Is classical music "elitist ?"  The term elitist  applied to this kind of music implies that  orchestras and opera companies  are trying to exclude people who are not rich  and white .  Wrong !   On the contrary , they very much want to increase the audience for classical music , and to reach people whether  they are black,white or  purple . 

   Another myth : You have to be wealthy to attend the opera .  Not at all .  Of course , tickets aren't exactly cheap ,  and  ones at the Metropolitan opera can run up to $250 or more .  But you can get perfectly good ones there and elsewhere for much less .  These tickets are expensive because it costs a lot of money to produce world-class opera , and there are so many people involved in the enterprise eyond the singers ; the orchestra,chorus,  stagehands,  production staff , musical staff ,  people who work on costumes and lighting etc .  And remember - tickets to  see your favorite pop stars  or to see Broadway musicals can be just as expensive . Most  opera goers are in fact  middle-class people who go  because they love opera .  You don't have to dress formally at all ; many people gp  to the opera straight from work .  Some people dress formally on opening nights of the season at the Metropolitna opera, but  opening nights are special gala events .

   You can also see live performances from the Met  in your local movie theater for only about twenty dollars , as well as  on the internet , or see them on PBS  stations and listen to Saturday matinee performances on the radio . 

   Classical music isn't "relevant" . It's all just  musty and moldy music from the distant past .  It doesn't have anything to offer  people today . Well, relevant is a loaded term, because what is relevant to one person is not necessarily relevant to another .  Every kind of music is relevant to those who are devotees of it , and classical is no exception . 

   Yes, music from the past is a major part of classical , but there is absolutely no lack of  new or recent music by a wide variety of  living or recently deceased ocmposers .  Hans Werner Henze is a German composer just as Beethoven was , and he is one of today's leading composers , but his music co-exists with Beethoven's.  It may  may not be played as much as Beethoven is now, but  in the future he might be as famous  as Beethoven is today .  People still read the novels of  Dostoyevsky,  Tolstoy, and Jane Austen today , but they also read those of today's  leading novelists .  Where is there a conflict between old and new ?

   Here is a  misconception about classical music spread by the so-called experts .  " There's something wrong with classical music today because most of the music performed is from the past .  In past centuries classical music was a much more vital and healthy art form, because most music was new ."  Well, this is a half truth .  When Mozart and Haydn were alive  ,composing and  performing int he 18th century , the symphony orchestra as we know it was a new thing .  It had only been in existnece for a brief time, and they simply did not have the huge acumulation of repertoire we have today .  

   They had no orchestral music  from past centuries ot draw on.  In addition ,  there were only a tiny fraction of the symphony orchestras and opera ocmpanies which exist today , and  concerts were pretty much sporadic, ad hoc affairs .  America  did not  get its first  permanent orchestra until  the New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 , and  for its first decades ,it played only a handful of concerts a year . The musicians were  free lancers and amateurs  and  could not earn a living from the orchestra alone .

   Now there are hundreds  of orchestras in America ,  in all 50 states .  There are also an enormous number in Europe, and more and more in  Asia and elsewhere .   Today ,orchestras play not only music by beethoven,Mozart, and Haydn  , but works by  who knows how many different composers  from different centuries  and  who  are not only "Dead White European Males " , but  women ,Asians, Americans ,  and  Latin Americans etc .

   Many people  assume that  people who attend concerts and opera are "snobs " . This may be true of some of them, but on the whole, they are no more snobbish  than  fans of other kinds of music . 

   For all its problems  today ,  classical music  is still very much alive and kicking , and one of the greatest glories of humanity .



Posted: May 09 2012, 09:50 PM by the horn | with no comments
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