Monday, December 01, 2014
Classical music is already in the 'post source' era
In response to yesterday's post about a student newspaper article that positions Wagner as a a contemporary and confederate of Hitler, reader Monte Stone has commented: "Not really surprising. We're already in the 'post source' era. next comes the 'post chronology' era". Monte's comment demands expansion, as it applies not just to an errant student journalist, but to so many aspects of classical music. Just as the distance between journalistic source and reader introduces a distorting refraction, so the distance between music source and listening experience - both live and recorded - introduces a distorting refraction. Music depends on a direct chain of transmission*; from the source of musicians on the concert platform or in the recording studio, to the audience listening in the concert hall or via audio devices. 'Audience engagement' is the buzz phrase of choice, but in the 'post source' era chains of transmission are becoming longer and longer: with digital distribution networks trading fidelity for accessibility, and the concert hall trading direct communication between performer and listener for marketing driven disintermediation.
Classical music will only win new audiences if listeners are involved with and moved by the music - that is what engagement is all about. Listeners needs to be as close to the music source as possible, both emotionally and technically. Short chains of transmission generate engagement, long chains generate disengagement. Despite this, in the 'post source' era the chains of transmission are growing longer, not shorter. Classical music is struggling to engage new audiences. As Monte Stone says, not really surprising.
* Chains of transmission are central to the wisdom traditions of Buddhism and Sufism. The header graphic shows the recently released recording of Sufi invocations and songs made in Aleppo, Syria shortly before the city was ravaged by civil war. The short transmission chain field recording, which was made by Jason Hamacher and released on his new Lost Origins label, demonstrates engagement par excellence - listen here. No review samples used in the post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.