A Dead Language

"Old soldiers don't die, they just fade away."

Yesterday's post still needs contextualization, as in my definitions of terms and my background.  When I say "Classical music is dead" (and irrelevant) I mean, in both cases, the language--the style of writing music most common from 1750 to 1900 that used harmonic motion to create drama through periods of tension and release.  
A linguistic model may be helpful: Latin is dead, but that doesn't mean we discard texts written in Latin, nor does it mean it doesn't have a significant impact on modern, living languages.  In the same way, the music written in the Classical idiom will live on for the foreseeable future.  It's popularity, however, will never again achieve the popularity of the 19th century--at which time Italian operas were the blockbuster films of today.
Unfortunately, there are large corporate (non-profit) institutions dependent on Classical music's enduring popularity.  Capitalism requires perpetual growth and abhors stagnation or decline.  While these institutions are not capitalist per se, the growth model is as American as baseball and will forever cloud our vision.  Unfortunately, it's perhaps time to think about preserving Classical music as we have preserved classics in other arts.  I know it sounds like cultural Hospice, but at least it disabuses us from false hope.
Again, take the example of Shakespeare.  His plays continue to be performed every year despite the antiquated language.  People may not understand all the nuances--or the humor--but they can still have a deep experience--thanks to the timelessness of archetypes.  But his popularity is nowhere what it was in his time or even just a century ago.
The Classical music tradition got accustomed to being the most popular cultural juggernaut in the 19th century and is having trouble sharing the cultural pie with newcomers like recorded music (the aural tradition) and movies--especially the latter, which have been the most relevant art form in the past couple decades.  But that, too, is changing/waning as people are watching more streaming video on the internet.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: art, classical

Leave a comment