Best time in history to be a classical music listener

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Best time to contemplate...

..."Mozart play his own piano concertos"...on a Fortepiano. That would have been a real rare treat!

Parla

In the 1960’s there was a

In the 1960’s there was a debate between Glenn Gould and Yehudi Menuhin on the recording of classical music. It was Glen Gould’s contention that it was only through the recording that true perfection could be realized. However in seeking true perfection what can often result is nothing more than clinical sterility. An imperfect performance within a concert hall can have a more significant impact on the listener than a prepackaged and re-edited recording of the same recording with all its imperfections removed.

camaron wrote:Jane has

camaron wrote:

Jane has pointed out to how the actual production/creation of the music (as opposed to its consumption) is not going through great times.....

Well, I was talking about "consumption", really. My point was that the cultural structures, the institutions and shared understandings, which underpinned this consumption have more or less gone. The classical music listener now is just another eccentric - like someone who does Morris dancing in the market place, or someone who wears Victorian clothes when they are around the house. The people who stand outside this bizarre practice have absolutely no comprehension of what is going on inside.......

As for this super-abundance: the issue is how people make choices about it, rather than "availability". The reality is that those choices are simply made for them by corporations etc. Chidren want to listen to the music they hear, and they only hear the pap which pours out of the TV. This, they are told, is what is valuable; this is what is beautiful, admirable etc. Put on Beethoven's violin concerto and they cover their ears........ 

Rose-tinted glasses

There is always a danger of romantasising the past and doing down the present. And the idea that the average man in the Dog and Duck in 1955, who probably left school at 15, would be knowledgable about Stravinsky's Firebird or be able to express a view on Sibelius's third symphony strikes me as unlikely.

 

Worth noting, too, that the national curriculum requires all school children to learn about and listen to "the great composers". And that over five million people listen to Classic FM and over two million to Radio 3. So the idea that classical music is an alien world is not true.

 

But the truth is that classical music is a premium product - even what might be deemed an "affordable luxury". I find no shortage of people in London who will come with me to a classical concert or who can have some form of intelligent conversation about classical music. But interest in it is among more discerning people. The sort who also enjoy fine Burgundy or a Cuban cigar.

 

 

 

 

AlexX wrote:

AlexX wrote:

There is always a danger of romantasising the past and doing down the present. And the idea that the average man in the Dog and Duck in 1955, who probably left school at 15, would be knowledgable about Stravinsky's Firebird or be able to express a view on Sibelius's third symphony strikes me as unlikely.

 

Worth noting, too, that the national curriculum requires all school children to learn about and listen to "the great composers".

Yes, I agree it is easy to romanticise the past. Obviously, we are only talking about a minority interest for a particular social class. Meaningful culture is only ever propagated and cultivated by the educated middle-classes. The working classes are, in general, inimical to artistic and intellectual pursuits. Ditto the "upper classes", who are mostly philistine blockheads. In this respect, they have far more in common with the working classes than they do the middle classes.

My point is that you no longer expect a typical middle-class university graduate to know anything at all about classical music. (Or literature, for that matter.) They listen to pop music, instead, and watch HBO boxsets in the evening. They believe that is "high" culture. In addition, we have to note the massively increased power of capitalism to control mass culture. On the whole, what ordinary people now like and value is now decided in marketing offices in global coroprations. In essence, we have tidal wave of garbage coming straight as us 24 hours a day. It comes at us through the TV, the internet, our phones. These conditions make it very difficult to find what is truly valuable, even for educated people who have some aspiration to be "cultured".

As for the national curriculum: I think that is what they call p*ssing in the wind. The battle is already over. Playing a classical CD to little kids once in a blue moon cannot compare to the all-engulfing trash-culture that washes over them every minute of the day. Not even the teachers will like or undersand this strange music, so the kids have no chance. They can only come to love it through regular exposure and through meeting people for whom it is a real part of their lives. They must understand that it is not just music, but the greatest music. And, of course, no-one believes that anymore.........

'They must understand that it is not just music'

I do suspect that classical music has a tendency to make listners better people.

While many other forms of music provide an instant buzz - and some rap encourages criminal behaviour - classical music encourages thoughtfulness, reflection and the desire to think about the big picture. It is thus something that encourages long-term behaviour, rather than short-term gain.

Sunglasses.

I do not think it is any danger in pointing out the benefits of certain irreplaceable benefits of the past, if you have experienced them. I am apparently (much) older than you, Alex, having listened extensively and attentively Classical Music for some decades. I cannot speak for the people in the 50s, but for the late 60s and onwards and in places in Europe less advanced than UK, there were young people who had a genuine love, interest and care to learn more about anything significant in Classical Music by trying hard to learn, attending significant concerts with icon musicians and collecting discs of high musical quality through research and knowledge.

Nowadays, working and living (the last few years) in the affluent triangle of Far East (mostly in China- South Korea, occasionally in Japan), I can assure you that there is practically no Classic FM or any equivalent (and if it exists, listeners are a deplorable minority), concerts are only social events of superficial character and a proliferation of excellent (but very rarely brilliant) musicians strive to survive, quite often feeling like free lance waiters to receive the next -often- trivial order, performing anywhere even in some circus of music called...Festival!

Going to your introductory post, allow me to respond to your four points in favour of our time to listen to Classical Music:

a) The "back catalogue" might be bigger and more varied but to the detriment of quality. Nowadays, you might find a series of recordings, which pass like shooting stars for few weeks or months in the charts and, then, they become archive items for those few who might have a special interest either for the performer or the work in question. A great deal of the new releases are "first recordings" or "new stuff" and, along the way, the usual repertory with some excellent recordings but very little brilliance that makes the difference in Art (the debate of Gould and Menuhin: excellence of an artificial recording versus the real thing of a live performance). In the meantime, reissues, reissues of the Golden Past keeps the Music playing.

b) Sound quality is almost perfect nowadays, but it worked fine from the years that hi-fi has been introduced. Some of the best listening in my life has been with my first LPs and a hi-end equipment of that time. But even now, who opts for the best possible sound: expensive source, hi-end gear and the most advanced loudspeakers (all of them reaching sometimes the cost of a luxury car or a house)? On the contrary, cheap streaming services or downloads, a saturated field of gadgets and devices lead a great deal of people to listening to Classical Music in a more trivial and superficial way.

c) The access through streaming services gives an amazing way of accessing almost anything, but you still need guidance. Otherwise, one ends up "into endless browsing" as very aptly Camaron underlines. Box sets are cheap but they lack needful information about the recordings, artists involved, production details etc.

d) If you expect to get the real answers about Classical Music through the internet sources, you'll get only the surface of what is all about. As for the recording companies, for all their "efficient responses", they keep shrinking, dwindling and becoming...deceased through endless mergers (see what happened to the then mighty Decca, Philips, EMI etc.) or "mutation" (Astree, Opus111, Valois becoming...Naive and so on). As for the "recordings of high-quality" you see in the pages of Gramophone (and also in other esteemed publications) they represent the best...available, because there will be always something better than other. The question is how significant, worthy this "contemporary' best is.

In short, there is no shortcut to happiness. You have always to strive hard with all your means to reach the greatness of the true Art. In this quest, you need time, resources and enough concentration.

Parla

Taste v value
janeeliotgardiner wrote:

confidence to make value judgments. No-one dares say "This music is better" or "This music is truly great". Everything is now a matter of taste.

I believe that value in aesthetics is inextricably linked to taste. While it may appear simple to say that Beethoven is better in value than pop, getting to explain it fully will, imo, in the end resort to taste.

Is there such a thing as

Is there such a thing as "good" taste, tjh - an educated taste, an informed taste, a developed taste?

bitter, and not only, sweet

Yes, jane, one can certainly say that there is a developed taste.

But why does it necessarily taste "good"?

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