A review of 3 books on the subject in The New Republic laments at length. Here’s an excerpt:
The discourse supporting classical music so reeks of historical blindness and sanctimonious self-regard as to render the object of its ministrations practically indefensible. Belief in its indispensability, or in its cultural superiority, is by now unrecoverable, and those who mount such arguments on its behalf morally indict themselves. Which is not to say that classical music, or any music, is morally reprehensible. Only people, not music, can be that. What is reprehensible is to see its cause as right against some wrong.
The article is an energetic analysis of classical music’s position in American culture in the 20th century. The upshot seems to be is that classical music’s defenders see any attempt to cater to the audience as dumbing-down, and therefore bad. This attitude alienates potential new fans.
It’s too bad. But it’s easy to see why audiences aren’t attracted to the classical music product.
Visiting the web site of an NYP, BSO, or SFS, you’ll find white bow ties, wine-tasting events, and invitations to “experience the lush, romantic virtuosity of Rachmaninoff”. It’s all so very, very… refined.
Compare this to the raucous delight of the audience at Video Games Live, an upstart series of concerts featuring video game music:
Sure, a big part of the fun is the pop-culture irony. But these concerts also feature music from more recent games that takes itself quite seriously. And the audience does as well.
The attraction is obvious. It’s the gentle childhood memories of Frogger and Donkey Kong. Or the immersive fantasy worlds of Halo and Zelda. People have spent a lot of time with this music and internalized it with fond memories.
It’s much harder for the audience to develop a connection to that lush, romantic virtuosity of Rachmaninoff.
If this trend plays out like blogging vs. the MSM, we might see upstart orchestras like VGL compete rather seriously against the “MSS” (mainstream symphonies). Not only stealing away the audience, but also the performers. Now that could get rather interesting.