Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Change or die?

From an article on the decline of classical music criticism by Greg Sandow in the Wall Street Journal:

One thing any publicist wants is advance coverage, preview articles about whatever's being publicized. Once, the opera publicists said, they'd get these automatically. But that had stopped. "You're doing 'La Traviata'?" an editor might say. "You did it three years ago. What's the story now?"

For orchestras, this could hit even harder. "You're playing Brahms? You played Brahms last week!" Classical music can look predictable to the outside world, and (to be honest) not very interesting. Same old, same old. Great classical masterworks, played by acclaimed classical musicians.

So the classical-music world needs to look at two things: what it offers and how it talks about what it offers. Why are we playing Brahms? What does Brahms give us that Mozart, Feist, or Bruce Springsteen can't? And how, exactly, is this week's Brahms performance different from last week's?

Some classical-music institutions are learning to answer these questions. But as for the many that haven't -- in an age when new arts groups compete for coverage and popular culture keeps getting smarter -- why should they expect any press coverage at all?

This is exactly the problem that MYO wants to tackle. There will be an audience for the ASO in the future if the students in youth orchestra now learn to love 'classical' music and discover how culturally relevant orchestral music of all kinds can be.

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