Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Classical Music in Danger?

Last week a letter to the NYTimes from a retired Metropolitan Opera Orchestra violinist suggested that Classical music is in danger of dying out because of rock and roll; he offered as a solution to the problem that young children be taken to animated films in which classical music is featured either as subject matter (as in some Bugs Bunny cartoons and one famous Disney feature-length animation which shall remain nameless) or as background music (as in many Warner Bros. animations set to Rossini).

Readers were invited to contribute to a dialogue to appear on Nov. 25.  I submitted the following response:

Les Dreyer’s suggestion that schoolchildren be exposed to classical music through animated films is rather like suggesting that they might learn to enjoy vegetables if fed canned green beans.  It is not so much classical music that is in danger as active, up-close, exposure to live sound.

I recommend locavore listening: Parents engaged with their children in the sounds of their own singing voices; music teachers enlarging their own ears to legitimatize the musical expression of the challenged as well as the gifted; listeners enjoying music of all kinds in intimate spaces like cabarets and living rooms.

A few well-intentioned flaws will yield more long-term nourishment than adding to the steady diet of pre-heard, over-processed “music” that has become our era’s standard.  I propose a new post-commercial-recording standard: Better than perfect.

That my letter was not included among the published responses was most likely due to the Times's commitment to commercialism -- not surprising in the light of their revenue stream.