The Death of Classical Music
Music as we know it is dead. It died a few years ago when it became a devalued commodity that is freely accessible. Music for music’s sake is worthless. Except for the few reissued CDs and trendy vinyl pressings that some overpay for.
Note, I said AS WE KNOW IT. Or as we knew it. In today’s world, it doesn’t pay to record music. The money invested in the recorded sound is soon distributed in a nanosecond to anyone in the planet who wants it for free, which is why we may never see a studio recording of a classical piece ever again. And popular music isn’t far from this either.
While it doesn’t pay to record music, does it pay to create music? That is the million-dollar question. Those born after the year 2000 don’t understand the process of purchasing music, except for the occasional .99 cent karaoke download. Does that mean they don’t value music?
Obviously not. DJs who mix pre-existing music pack auditoriums, and the traditional rock bands that have been around for decades are more popular than ever on tour. Those born after 2000 won’t pay for the music they love, but will support the artists who created the music they love by overpaying on stub hub to see them on a big screen in a football stadium. At least current pop performers have an outlet to make a living.
But classical music. What are we going to do? After the renaissance of recorded classical music on the 80-minute CD (no more having to switch sides per movement!) at the end of the last century, the 21st century has not been as kind to the genre as its pop counterparts. Unfortunately, those Beethoven CDs flying off the shelves were generally bought by septuagenarians whose loss of hearing hardly benefitted the “perfect” sound of compact discs. They have since died, leaving behind collections found in basements, St. Vinny’s, and public radio stations across America. The boomers and those before them had exposure to symphonies, opera, piano sonatas and string quartets. They knew Bach before they knew The Beatles, and they loved the music.
But they didn’t love it enough to share with the younger generation who turned to R & B, blues, and Rock and Roll. Instead they held a tight grip on their beloved art form. They hoarded it. As a result, it became less accessible – by design. They were a classical music clique.
And now everyone is dying in that clique. And taking decades of lost opportunity with them.
Admittedly I am misanthropic. I go by the name Musical Misanthrope, with the sole purpose of exposing opportunity and fraud in the world of music. Classical music, like any other fine art, will never die. But there are generations of people waiting to experience it. As the years go on and we see the attrition of the clique, we will see an interest amongst Gen Xers and Millennials.
But instead of gathering at the record store, one-upping each other on which Bruckner 7th is the best, they will be looking for an experience. My guess is it will thrive in ways we don’t know about yet. Beethoven’s fifth has lived hundreds of years. The art will not go to the grave with the clique; only the method by which it has been distributed, performed, and hoarded.