In a typically thoughtful contribution to my post Why not play the premier league composers more often? Richard Bratby - who is professionally involved in classical music - mused "speaking solely from my own experience - there is a very noticeable falling-off in ticket sales when a symphony orchestra programmes pre-Beethoven repertoire, irrespective of the quality of the performance or the music, or the energy with which it is marketed. But why?" Now Kea has answered Richard's question with the following comment:
Wagner, Mahler, Shostakovich, etc, all sound more or less like film music (or -- more accurately -- film music sounds more or less like recycled bits of Wagner, Mahler, Shostakovich, etc) and therefore don't require any intellectual involvement or serious effort to listen to. Understanding the music of Bach, Mozart or Haydn, etc (or for that matter Schumann, Brahms, Webern, Cage, etc) actually requires people to listen actively rather than being pulled along by emotional propaganda and rhetoric, so it's no wonder they are declining in popularity. There is, in fact, quite a lot of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, etc, on US public radio. Comments I've read from people living in the US suggest they are very unhappy that these composers are heard more than e.g. Elgar, Glazunov, Pettersson, [insert other film-music-sounding composer here]I have to say that I totally agree with Kea. In fact I considered writing a post saying very much the same thing. But, quite wrongly, I shelved it rather than face a social media storm triggered by the very politically incorrect suggestion that Wagner, Mahler and Shostakovich sound like film music. (Before tweeting please note that the key line in the comment is that "film music sounds more or less like recycled bits of Wagner, Mahler, Shostakovich, etc".) Kea's comment is particularly relevant as BBC Radio 3 and others are currently touting film music as the new classical, and the observation that great music "actually requires people to listen actively rather than being pulled along by emotional propaganda and rhetoric" says it all in just fifteen words. Music from before Beethoven (and also, incidentally, from after Shostakovich) no longer makes the box office hum because dumbing down has dispensed with active listening, and, instead, tries to win new audiences by media fuelled emotional propaganda and rhetoric. If classical music wants to expand its audience it must revive the lost art of listening.
Header image is, of course, from Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice which, famously, used the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony in its soundtrack. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.