Classical Music As a Weapon?

Watch for the downbeat...(Photo: fluterscooter.com)
Watch for the downbeat...(Photo: fluterscooter.com)

Why Do Government Entities Use Beethoven to Beat Bad Guys?

The first time I heard a story such as this, it was amusing.  Lately, however, it makes me increasingly angry.  Washington Post music critic and syndicated columnist Anne Midgette recently wrote a piece on the New York Port Authority using classical music to drive off gangs and vagrants.

This is not a question of taste.  Rather, it is a question of when music lovers are going to stop allowing the music they love to be the butt of an official joke.  Too many vagrants/vandals/street gangs loitering?  No problem.  Let ‘em listen to Wagner arias…that’ll take care of it.

How about we play smooth jazz?  A few hours of Kenny G every night ought to do the job.  Or maybe put the Archies on a loop, or Pat Boone singing heavy metal, or Tiny Tim singing anything?

The point is, classical music has been kicked around a lot.  It has been kicked off the Grammy stage, though it was barely there to begin with.  Yet when I speak with people who are attending concerts for the first time, many are excited by what they hear and eager for more.  The biggest problem classical music has is it’s image.  It is portrayed as stodgy, staid, and stale.

Yet every day, new, young artists are showing up in classrooms and on stages around the world to both perform the recognized masterpieces and be challenged by music written today.

They are taking their instruments into bars, schools, subways, prisons, and anywhere else they can find a few ears, and offering them a taste of something different.  Chas Wetherbee, former Columbus Symphony concertmaster and current member of Carpe Diem String Quartet (which is highly successful and very busy), put it very well.  To paraphrase…If we ask people to step into our world and listen to classical music, we must also be willing to take a step into theirs.

Using classical music as a weapon or punishment (as one instructor in Britain does)  guarantees that those exposed to it only in that way will never darken the door of a performance.  Until we offer elite performances of this music without seeming elitist (or punitive), classical music will continue to suffer.  Audiences will dwindle, revenues will fall, and the argument that it needs to be preserved and deserves to be funded will fall on deaf ears.

Read Blasting Mozart to Drive Criminals Away (Sydney Morning Herald)

Watch Carpe Diem String Quartet play the blues

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