Imagine a future in which all artists are starving on the streets

Imagine a future in which all artists are starving on the streets


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2017

An apocalyptic vision from two young Australian violinists.


  • John Borstlap says:

    If classical music is presented as ‘fun’ and entirely compatible with general taste levels of ‘younger generations’ of today who have no idea about the art form and have to be tempted to attend classical concerts. that will really mean the end of classical music. Only education, as part of the general curriculum, and more and better attention in the media, can solve the funding and audience problems of classical music, not juvenile travesties.

    • Sue says:

      That and an attention span larger than a gnat!

    • Robin Bermanseder says:

      In this ‘Age of Cynicism’, how can formal music education overcome
      the perception of indoctrination? The embittered youth of today have instant access to
      a broad sea of ‘music’, the propaganda of modern news, and the manufactured truths
      of the established popular music empire. A toughened audience.

      I fear something new is needed to break through. Wish I knew what it was.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The ‘new’ approach of something that may seem ‘old’ (classical music) but which is in fact contemporary all the time, i.e. which remains ‘relevant’, may be to explain it not as something historical but as a territory of experience that is the opposite of the very thing that creates embittered youth: the modern world with its confusions, emptiness, superficiality etc. etc. In other words: classical music offers an experience of interiority as an alternative to the outside world, a place of restoring the Self and inner sanity:

    • David Osborne says:

      Agree, sort of. As long as there is first a free, serious and open debate about what that education should look like, because up to now it’s been a very big part of the problem.

  • Jackie says:

    We don’t have to educated about classical ballet to enjoy it, or to enjoy pop art, performance art… really, no art form has this idea that its audience has to be educated from a young age in order to become consumers as adults. I think the whole notion is false and dangerous. I don’t deny that many works are a difficult sell at first to an adult who is new to “good music”… but many aren’t. I want to trust that a lot of classical music works on its own, and not that it needs nerds with their nerdy analyses to help sell it.

    “Only education, as part of the general curriculum, and more and better attention in the media can solve the funding and audience problems of classical music, not juvenile travesties.” Good luck with that. Others can’t wait to do our bidding. One hears often how the world has to adjust to what classical music needs (and who has decided that?), not the other way around. Sounds like the end is indeed near for us.

    All I will say, I see these much maligned millennials at Groupmuses in New York and they love it. “I never knew music could be so deep”. Yep, that’s the way forward. Provide an exciting, gut punching experience and people will come. No musicological jargon or stifling concert experience needed.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It is difficult to know where to begin to unravel the muiltitude of misunderstandings in the background of this comment, so they better be left alone in the shadows where they belong. Only this: “exciting, gut punching experiences” happen all the time in classical concert life, and they are best experienced and enjoyed undisturbed by the antics, chatter, coughing, moaning, yawning and burping of people in neighbouring seats…. social common sense has developed the custom of some decorum so that the music can be taken-in in the best possible way: in silence. This is not ‘stifling’ but normal behavior in a concert hall. People who want to dance and scream during Beethoven VII or the Sacre, should play their CD’s at home.

      • Jackie says:

        Who said anything about burping or dancing to Beethoven 7th for an un-stifling concert experience? Of course, the best way to refute someone’s argument is to ridicule it to exaggeration.

    • Sue says:

      May I recommend a musician called Andre Rieu. No musical understanding required.

      Next you’re going to tell us people can read Shakespeare or Milton without prior education.

      • Jackie says:

        Play a Bach cantata, a Vivaldi Concerto, Schubert songs, or a piece by Part or Shostakovich, to someone who’s never heard classical music before. It might be naive to think they will like it without lots of prior education and time to learn and absorb. About as naive as to suggest that classical music doesn’t necessarily require sophistication to elitists, without knowing the vitriol is on its way…

        • John Borstlap says:

          It is certainly true that classical music, when played to someone who has no prior knowledge or understanding of the ins and outs of the art form, but who has a natural sensitivity to music in general, will pick-up something and – dependent upon hte type of piece and the sort of person – may have a ‘complete’ musical experience. Music does not require prior theory or knowledge but a perceptive attitude and a natural sensitivity for music (which is a given). I have seen remarkable cases of immediate perception by entirely ‘ignorant’ people. But that has nothing to do with stiff concert decorum creating barriers to perception.

          Also I have witnessed obvious impairment in terms of musical understanding of brilliant musicologists, theorists, famous lecturers, locked-up behind the bars of an arrogant intellectualism. There are even well-known musicologists like the British [redacted], writing book after book of self-congratulating prose about his impressive knowledge but completely ignorant about his own ignorance. Such people can be compared with sonic artists who don’t understand music and think it is only the sound it makes:

          Getting to know a broader range of classical music does deepen the experience…. it is not necessary to debunk sophistication and learning.

      • David Osborne says:

        Hi Sue, good news. Some people can read Shakespeare or Milton without prior education.

    • Nick says:

      WOW!!! How come that Pletnev’s recital is half–full?, or the MetOpera is half–empty?
      And why is it that pop is played at stadiums 30.000 + and are full, and classical is played in halls of 500-2000 and these are half empty?!! May be Jacky knows the answer? If not education, than what?

      Please, do not bother answering. The question is rhetorical. I know the answer.

  • Walt says:

    Part of the problem has been a death of original, groundbreaking and truly significant classical music composition. What passes for “new music” in the last 30 years has been countless John Williams imitations (no knock on him, great composer) bizarre festivals of obscure composers (who deserved to be obscure) strange ethnic obsessions (let’s say a Chechen vocal song cycle) and I don’t know what else. The works of truly great American orchestral composers from the 1930’s on were completely ignored so that the half dozen or so works of Copland and Bernstein worth listening to could be played oh, 100,000,000 times. As a sidebar, at least the truly great American composer Samuel Barber gets his due, occasionally.
    Don’t get me started on the minimalists……

  • Kitty Stark says:

    Fortunately there are talented young musicians in Europe who have different ideas. Check this out, quite an enlighening post.

  • Geoff R says:

    I never studied music at school and even now I do not know the difference between A flat and B minor. I can’t read music and I rarely sing (the world applauds). But from my late teens I have come to appreciate Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and Sibelius plus many, many more. My parents were not at all musical. I did not go to university. I bought rush tickets at the Festival Hall and standing tickets at Sadlers Wells.Then it was LPs and then cassettes and CDs. Now I try to go to concerts that I find appealing. Last night I went to a recital, the program was all Prokofiev, next week it is all Bach.
    So what is the answer to the question “How to engage the young generation with classical music”? I hope to help engage my 8 year old granddaughter by taking her to hear Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf as a birthday present in May.

    • John Borstlap says:

      All this is the right attitude and the solution of the problems of classical music – getting people to just try it and the perceptive people will come back and will want more. You are the ideal classical music listener.

    • David Osborne says:

      Absolutely spot on Geoff R and what a wonderful birthday present!

  • V.Lind says:

    It may not be a matter of education as much as simple exposure, and that is harder and harder to come by for the young, they of little range as they bury their noses in their phones and listen to pop/rock/hip-hop stations on the radio, which they then download on to their iPods. It’s generations in now, so very few are getting taken to Peter and the Wolf and the like by parents, who are also pop/rock generation.

    I sat across the dinner table a couple of years ago from a man in his 50s who disdained classical music because “it all sounded the same.” The flaming ignorance of this so floored me that I could not possibly respond — and this was a man who favoured rap, which, whatever its cultural merits, is surely the “samest” attempt at “music” ever known since some early chants and some eastern exponents of same that may be subtler than the untrained western ear may detect.

    At least growing up in the good pop-rock years, there was a wide variety to their contributions. But someone who thinks Wagner sounds like Mendelssohn sounds like Bach, or opera sounds like violin concerto sounds like symphonic explosion — there is simply no civil comeback.

    • geoff R says:

      Yes, V Lind it is exposure. We took our 5 year old to a kids’ look at a string quartet. Wow I can touch the cello, and talk to the musicians and sit on the floor with the other kids and hear the instruments. Exposure. Take the orchestras, the quartets and the soloists to the primary schools. No classes. Exploration of music by minds that love to explore.

  • Madam Dellaporte says:

    I was pleased to read a week ago that in Germany more and more people between 25-35 prefer to go to classical music concerts. Heart-warming news.

    A conducive fact to today’s decline of young audiences is also that at schools teachers try to “get down” with the kids and rap with them, instead of expanding their experiences.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That is a leftish-egalitarian-anti-authoritarian idea about education: you don’t share available knowledge which helps children to mature and become normal adults, but you ask them first what THEY like to do.