Sunday, May 31, 2009

Should Classical Music Try to be Fashionable?

Posterity is ruthless in weeding out music that panders to fashion.
This article by Andrew Clark is well worth reading.

1 comment:

Gary Bachlund said...

Dear Elaine,

Thanks for posting a critique which otherwise I would have ignored. The answer Clark sums up is, "In that sense classical music remains deeply unfashionable. That’s why it has lasted." The article's length was therefore unnecessary for me; it could have been as easily conflated to -- "Has classical music suddenly become a follower, or even a victim, of fashion? ...classical music remains deeply unfashionable. That’s why it has lasted."

If there is one thing a creative voice making its way through the world should do, in my estimation, it is do "march to the beat of that different drummer." Therefore those who chase the Zeitgeist are chasing -- in direct translation -- the ghost of the time. That of course changes.

I was at a performance of Bach's "Jesu meine Freude" here in Berlin, and among the things that struck me was exactly how un-Zeitgeist-like was the audience and their reaction to this masterpiece. Unpopular? Unfashionable? Not to those attending. To those milling around the square outside as we exited the concert, definitely.

And why not? E. E. Cummings taught us to consider not appealing to "a lot of other people" but to "nobody-but-yourself." I think this most apt advice for a world which Cummings observed "is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else."

One of my early composition teachers attempted to enforce "everybody else" onto me, and the resultant friction between freedom and enforcement led me to not return to composition for fully twenty years or more.

I think most creative artists learn this at some point, that one's individual voice is often drowned out when chasing the Zeistgeist, or, more specifically, when it chases you with the full intent of silencing an independent notion.

But is not creativity about independent thinking? I should answer yes. That which is not becomes mimicry, which seems rather the opposite of independence.

So here's to artistic freedom and ignoring the fashionable!

Best regards from Berlin.