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A New Mouvement

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The media and record company executives seem to believe that the answer to this misere is to present classical music in an easily digestable manner, beefing it up with sex (Anna Netrebko), mashing it up with electronics (Lara St. John) or mixing it the »homeboy-style« (Deutsche Gramophone’s Yellow Lounge ). Maybe they should be asking the right question first. Which,  to put it simple, is: Why do these problems occur in the first place?

Postmodern pessimists will answer: Because modern culture is becoming increasingly hollow. Worried pedagogues will see the origin in the lack of support and suitable discovery-mechanisms for young talents. And economists will tell you that there is simply not enough demand. They could all be right to a certain extent, but reality may be just a little bit closer to the actual subject, classical music.

There are three fundamental reasons for its present decline. Firstly, the CD market is saturated in a sense. There is simply no need for yet another recording of, say, Vivaldis »Four seasons«. Secondly, interpretations remain unimaginative or fail to display a genuinely own and distinct vision by the artist. Which, of course, may be a result of the first point – since, as every musician has the opportunity to delve into a plethora of recorded versions of a piece, it may be difficult to find ones own approach and not to be influenced by what one has heard. Thirdly, the music is being presented in a conservative and hardly attracting way. Try to go into a record store and find a Wagner CD, with a cover that really incites you to buy it. Hard, isn’t it? So, to sum things up, not only are we witnessing the same music being recorded over and over again, in the same old fashion it has always been played, on top it is being sold in the same old way it has always been sold. That hardly sounds like a good proposition.

The basic problem of the actions taken by the record companies is that they believe the formulas of popmusic can simply be copied. Just to remind every one: Pop music is in a crisis as well! Actually, in a deeper one than the one facing classical music. The old and worthy labels have chosen business managers, statistical analysts and DJs (what a strange trumvirate) as their saviours – hardly the right people to do the job. Even though one can regularly hear Verdis Gefangenen chor blaring from a Porsche and Mozart is »so chilling« after a night of clubbing, the understanding of what this music is really about is not exactly perfectly developed in these groups.

And when the approach of short skirts and long legs is taken, it is mostly rather embarassing than enticing. There is a massive lack of understanding towards the feelings and needs of young people. Contact between companies and consumers has broken down.
Still, it would be rediculous to assume that classical music were out of date and for the elderly only, as we will point out in a future article. The success of artists such as Bryn Terfel clearly indicates that there is a viable potential far away from primitive marketing ploys and the mere copying of what has worked in the past. The first step has to be to tackle the three fundamental problems. We need excitingly new renditions of compositions which have not yet been worn out, which are presented in a new and fresh way by gifted musicians. And for those who tend to think there are no more great discoveries to be made in the field of repertoire: Don’t forget that for quite some time, no one even knew about the »Four Seasons«. The second step is even more important and lies at the very core of the current situation. Even though some believe the opposite, there is no lack of talent around.
There are enough young people performing classical music, but the business is still ruled by overly conservative thinking. It is our firm belief that the young and open minded will only be able to realise their ideas, if they take control of the business as well. They will need to take things into their own hands. This is actually not so much a question of age, as of attitude. We need the input of those who have gone before us, just as much as we need the music of past generations. But we can no longer hold on to ways of thinking that lead the music we hold dear into a certain demise. This is not a call for a revolution, rather an apeal to common sense. We don’t need classic for the masses, classic as played by rock bands or the abolishment of every thing that once was. We need a new movement in classical music.

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