This is an edited (and expanded) version of a comment I put on Mixed Meters today. It's another post-mortem about classical music. I'm not sure why I feel the need to respond to these claims (which have been made ad-nauseum elsewhere), but it's a Sunday morning, and I have the rest of the day to occupy myself with feeding the hungry musical beast (i.e. practicing and writing).
There used to be a self-selection method to keep music contemporary. Most of it wasn't written down during the Middle Ages. The stuff that was published during the Renaissance was written in notation that changed, so it became virtually useless until the 20th century when people figured out how to read it and decided to make modern editions. Monarchs held onto their libraries during what we call the Baroque period (which made a lot of music inaccessible--like music by Vivaldi), and after the keepers of the libraries died pages would get moldy, would get destroyed by fire, or would be used to wrap fish.
A few astute people kept the good stuff safe and in good condition, and made sure that it made its way into the hands and ears of the best later 18th-century composers, even though it had gone completely out of fashion. (I'm talking about Bach, Handel, Baron von Swieten, Mozart, and Haydn here.)
Most of the early 19th century was devoid of Baroque elements, but when Schumann et al went and published Bach's music (for the first time), it had a resurgence among musicians. Audiences (non musicians) didn't get their "Renaissance" until the 20th century, when people started making recordings.
The preservation and study of old music became a whole field of music (that would be musicology), and we now have more music from the past at our fingertips than any intelligent musician could dream of having. And more is coming.
The past is vast, but the present is now. The audience for music (any and all music including "classical music") has a far greater proportion of people who do not have a functional grasp of the materials of music or the proximity to performances to experience it without using some form of electrical energy to get it to reach their ears. We now have music critics who don't have practical experience as practicing, composing, or performing musicians, and, like me we have people writing about music without a "gatekeeper" to decide if what we say has validity.
I don't believe it's worth the time I could be spending learning new (to me) Renaissance, Baroque music, or new 19th and 20th-century music, practicing my instruments, writing music, or writing blog posts, to dwell on whether the music I care about is living or dying.
I'm long past hoping that more than a healthy handful of people will share my views on anything, and I'm grateful that these people still read blogs.