Classical music night clubs are the way to go ...

Classical music is defined, in part, by where it's played. If it's at Avery Fisher Hall, it's probably classical; if it's at CBGB, it's probably not. So-called classical musicians have been happily challenging this traditional divide for years: hence the evolution of the downtown music scene, the erstwhile stomping ground of major artists like Steve Reich or Meredith Monk, who have yet to be fully acknowledged by classical music's old guard.

Now a younger generation continues to assail the bastion. Matt Haimovitz, the cellist, has played at CBGB. Renée Fleming has sung jazz at Joe's Pub. And sites like the downtown club Tonic and Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offer a catholic range of music, including the funky string quartet Ethel (at Tonic) or a new-music series called Darmstadt (at Galapagos).

Which is how I found myself Sunday night in Galapagos, preparing to hear a recorder quartet whose last New York City appearance was at a traditional uptown location: Weill Recital Hall.
"It's not true that young people don't like classical music," said Richard S. Weinert, president of Concert Artists Guild, which is presenting this German-based quartet, QNG. "Young people don't like recital halls."

He has a point, and it's not just young people. Even 40-somethings today may be more comfortable attending the decidedly down-market Amato Opera than the glittering Metropolitan Opera at 10 times the price. The studied formality of the concert hall is increasingly unfamiliar to today's audience, not to mention ticket prices that can put off even diehard music lovers. The music itself is probably not as much of a barrier as you might think.

From today's New York Times. Pliable says I guess this meets Benjamin Britten's criteria for a true musical experience: "Music demands more from a listener than simply the possession of a tape-machine or a transistor radio. It demands some preparation, some effort, a journey to a special place, saving up for a ticket ..."

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Anonymous said…
I would suggest that the likes of Steve Reich and Meredith Monk are "yet to be fully acknowledged by classical music's old guard" because these two individuals don't write classical music. Classical music, in the "old guard" sense, is generally pleasing to the ear.

There's no reason why people who like such "music" can't listen and have their fun (if that's what they really like), but if these composers wish to be acknowledged by those who like "classical music", they're looking for disappointment.

If they stopped trying to please "the old guard" (with whom I identify) and simply remain true to themselves and their own adherents, they'd feel less frustration from never being accepted in such circles and people like myself won't be annoyed the next time a conductor tries to include Reich into a programme of Beethoven and Rodrigo.
Dear Pliable,

I appreciate that this post is eight years old but Weinert's comment is ridiculous. There may indeed be people who "don't like recital halls" because they are formal or traditional or grand.... that is what I would call inverted snobbery. Whether any of these people are young or old is besides the point, because they are listening to music for the wrong reasons anyway.

In 2006, the trend of performing classical music in unconventional spaces may have just been beginning. In some circles it remains popular now, often because it is 'cool' to do so and, yes, this inevitably attracts the attention of the "listeners" I described above, even though they are not so much listening as schmoozing... joining in with the fad for fear of being labelled unprogressive if they don't.

I have no issue with composers who write works for unusual spaces if they are doing it for acoustic reasons (e.g. choirs in caves). But squeezing an orchestra into a nightclub is going to be extremely detrimental to the sound, so why do it? Simply because it hasn't been done before is not a good enough reason.

And concert halls are specifically designed to suit orchestral music, and when I attend such a place and the music begins, whether it is 18th century or a world premiere, I can tell you that social mobility, class wars and being fashionable are the last things on my mind. I'm there to listen.

Buried beneath this war between traditionalists and innovators, there are fortunately some composers out there today who are quietly focusing on beauty. See: Hans Abrahamsen.

A young person.

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