“In Ten Years, Nobody Will Listen to Classical Music”

A buddy just emailed me the above cited sentiment, as expressed by his 12-year-old son. None of the kids listen to this. They don’t even know what it is.

My friend is a well-respected professional and his kids are in good schools.

What’s the problem and what’s the solution?

I have no idea. We have to ask further why anyone should listen to classical music. Why do anything worth a bit of effort (at first) that doesn’t provide immediate gratification. The latter point is baloney to many of us. I fear younger people expect financial return for any output of effort. Not their fault. Most of us don’t find the love of music to be effortful, but think again of your reaction when you are asked to try something new and unfamiliar.

You know the old sayings: words like “irrelevant” “serious” “boring”. I thought Bruckner was the dullest composer ever without eve hearing a note of his music. I investigated a bit further and discovered he was a very complicated man who wrote lumbering symphonies that can soar and plummet — a mess many of them, and irresistible.

The worst thing is when children are exposed to music, music lessons “because it is good for you.”  Prune juice is good for you, too. I think we live in a very buttoned down society. Our responses are heavily diluted as opposed to 100 years a go when “our” music flourished. Then, you had to seek out performances and recordings. They were expensive. You had to teach yourself to read a score, if you could find any! There was no other way. Today, after being bombarded with every conceivable electronic media, how can classical music compete? I think the young are being raised to be emotionally constipated. Instant gratification demands that sex comes before love and jollies before thought. (I love kids — I think as a rule they are far more mature and intelligent than my generation) Sex, drugs and rock and roll are not emotion. Nor do they promote emotional availability. Music does.

Relating the music to a composer’s life often works for me. Mozart was foul-mouthed and always seeking sexual gratification. Bruckner was a nudist who routinely proposed marriage to teenage girls. Puccini’s upstairs housemaid committed suicide because Mrs. Puccini suspected an affair. Bach spent a week in jail for getting into drunken fights. It’s easy enough, some would say cheap enough, to tell these tales. More challenging is relating them back to the composers music.

For example. The Marriage of Figaro — Beaumarchais’s play and Mozart’s opera — is subtitle One Crazy Day.  Figaro is supposed to marry Susanna. However, the Count desires sexual relations with Susanna before the wedding. The day is spent giving the Count a taste of his own medicine, but there’s danger underneath. In those times the Count had life or death authority under his servants. Here’s how Mozart introduces One Crazy Day:

You can hear the joy of the impending wedding and the rolling confusion of One Crazy Day. Mozart wrote this at the height of his financial success. He knew money would always be in short supply, and he lived one step ahead of his creditors. You can hear that kind of uncertainty in the music.

Want your kids to love music? Leave them alone. Play it around the house. Let them see you enjoying your iPod, make it just out of reach for them. You’ll drive them nuts. Before long they’ll be like the 16-year-old kid at Kroger who heard the Figaro overture on the radio and chased me out to the parking lot to ask what it was — and he was nervous to be overheard by his buddies.

I just gave him the info. Mozart did the work.

Comments
  • OperaFan

    Bruckner was a nudist?! I guess you can’t tell a composer by his score.

  • What A Shame

    My niece and nephew, 22 and 24 now, both play piano and violin since they were little. Both get college degrees in Music (as one of the double-majors). They don’t listen to classical music at free time either. They just don’t want their friends to treat them as jerks or nerds. — Confession: I am 49 now. I did not listen to classical music before I was 30.