The world of classical music has become little more than a walled in ghetto for music lovers. It can best be described as a niche market in today’s business lexicon. Ghetto in the sense that ghetto dwellers usually stay in their neighborhood, rarely venturing out to interact with their neighbors down the street or around the corner. They tend to stay to themselves, content with their inbreeding, slowly dying out as the sounds of Vivaldi or Beethoven play quietly in the background. Perhaps the better question might be what lessons should classical music take from rock music to make it more palatable to today’s music lovers, and to prevent its eventual slide into oblivion.
Music is everywhere. It literally infuses the air that we take in. Doesn’t matter whether it is rock music, hiphop music, country music or folk music. We hear it without hearing it. Yet classical music is not a part of this mix. It is separate, walled off from the muzak mix tape of our lives. Classical music is old, and unapproachable by today’s standards. It is not commercial and speaking to today’s sensibilities. For example, there are many genres within the rock music genre. Janet Jackson does rock, so does Bon Jovi and REM or the Clash, or Jimi Hendrix. Some of the aforementioned artists are more commercial than others. They are all basically household names and a part of that wall to wall breathable music that we walk through daily. Their collective sound is unique, vibrant, alive. Their music is understandable and can be related to today’s various lifestyles.
In an effort to find a bigger audience classical music tries to wrap itself in the trappings of pop or rock music without changing or challenging the actual sound of the music itself. The classical music is sped up or it’s slowed down, but it’s still the same, bland and with no appeal or outreach to the people who buy music today. Besides, today’s audience has its own ideas about what is good music and just because classical is considered good by some, does not mean that it will be judged as good by others. Simply by being classical makes it old, not necessarily good or worth listening to by today’s standards. Classical music, as with all music, reflects the time in which it was created. “Timeless” is not a true description of any music. The “time” or era reflected by most classical music is long gone.
To put it bluntly, today’s music reflects the diversity of global culture, while classical music, quite frankly is the music of Europe and it’s descendents in the new world. Classical music is not and never has been rooted in the new world, and that is the problem. The rhythm has changed and is not found in classical music. Rock music is fragmented along lifestyle, age, race and social class lines. Classical music, must figure out how to diversify in order to appeal. So what can be done? Basically the musicians have to change. Rather than repeating old works, maybe create new works in a different style that speaks to today’s ear. It is a well known fact that classical music grew out of old world folk music. These themes were incorporated to draw the masses. That is not happening today, but it needs to , if classical music is to gain a newer and bigger acceptance from today’s music lover.