What shouldn’t change about classical music


In our vastly amplified, broadcast and digitally connected world, the vibrant spaces where classical works are ideally performed are precious preservatives of natural acoustics.

Of course, we have to be careful not to let the mood of these experiences become scarce, as if the audience is entering sacred temples. Yet even newcomers I’ve taken to hear a renowned orchestra at Carnegie Hall are often stunned by the shimmering, resonant sound. Perhaps today we are missing an opportunity to sell a classical concert as a break with the routine, an invitation to turn off the devices and sit in silence among others – listening, sometimes for long periods, to works. that demand our focus, music that can be majestic, mystical, overwhelming, tender, heartbreaking, frenzied, dizzy or all of the above.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, electronic resources have considerably broadened the range and palette of sounds and colors. Olivier Messiaen, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Osvaldo Golijov and many other composers have created works that imaginatively integrate electronic sounds into traditional ensembles – with startling results.

Nonetheless, I hope that composers and performers will never give up the magic of unamplified sound in natural acoustics. Think how the Broadway musical changed from the early 1960s when amplification became commonplace, often to excess. I can only imagine how glorious it must have been to hear Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers in “Girl Crazy” in a theater without amplification – or John Raitt, who could have been a baritone by Verdi, sing the “Soliloquy” “from Billy in” Carousel “. “Those days are over.

During my time in this field, I was continually impressed by the entrepreneurial energy of artists who, realizing that traditional career paths were becoming limited and that large institutions were neglecting new generations of creators, turned to ventured alone. They form collectives and ensembles of composer-performers, such as Bang on a Can, which presents experimental music concerts and festivals; and the International Contemporary Ensemble, founded by flautist Claire Chase, which has been a passionate voice calling on young musicians to form their own groups and perform anywhere, anytime.


Comments are closed.