We all think of Lady Gaga as a real envelope pusher: she's doing new things in music, performance, and with videos right now; her costumes are otherworldly; and she refuses to be tagged as any kind of "type" at all. Whether or not you like her music, she's a good inspiration for anyone who's feeling frustrated by conventions or who just needs a pick-me-up after a tough day at school or work. But she's not the only eccentric in music history.Reaching new audiences remains a preoccupation for classical music. Which means the quote above, from a website targeted at college age readers, makes interesting reading. The article showcases videos of ten entertainers who paved the way for Lady Gaga's liberating style and, unsurprisingly, not one of them is a classical musician. Which raises some interesting questions.
Who is pushing the classical envelope? Is classical music frustrated by conventions? Should it be making better use of the new digital tools? Does classical music have enough eccentrics? Videos and costumes are powerful words in the copy above, so does theatre have a role in the concert hall? Should audiences be able to see the music? Ravi Shankar played at Woodstock, Morton Feldman didn't; is world music popular with young people because it follows rock rather than classical performance conventions? Should classical music be performing outside the comfort zone? Was the great artist seen below, who combined exemplary musicianship with a love of music from the non-formal scene, the kind of eccentric classical music needs?
More questions than answers. But there is another important question, does the classical envelope actually need pushing? All the links above point to articles on this blog about envelope pushing; but it is also true to say that I have taken a dovish position regarding new methods of presenting classical music. But just recently I have had cause to question that position.
On Sept 5 Future Radio is broadcasting an exclusive interview I have just recorded with a senior musician who I have tremendous respect for. And in that interview, in answer to a question about the future of classical music, my guest says "Nobody should be deprived of classical music, least of all by silly conventions". Watch this space, meanwhile here is the link to Lady Gaga.
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