Classical music beyond the pleasure principle
'Music must serve a purpose, it must be something larger than itself, a part of humanity, and that, indeed, is at the core of my argument with music of today - its lack of humanity.'Pablo Casals may have been speaking fifty years ago, but his ideas are still very relevant. The current trend to reposition classical music as entertainment bleaches it of humanity and purpose, and ultimately removes its raison d'être. The diagram above from a recent post attempted to capture this graphically and music teacher Liz Garnett has taken my theme and developed it admirably in a post on her own blog titled The 4 Es of classical music.
At the core of classical music's present problems is an obsession with duality. A work is either a masterpiece or it is consigned to oblivion. A musician is either a ludicrously rewarded superstar or is consigned to the rank and file. Similarly music is either pure enlightenment or pure entertainment. Perhaps the solution is a middle path, a combination of entertainment and enlightenment. Such a path leads from perenially popular Vienesse operetta through Rutland Boughton's 'psychic drama' The Immortal Hour - which ran for 216 consecutive performances in London - to Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. Bernstein's musical brought a new audience to classical music and is still breaking box office records, but where are its successors? More on The Immortal Hour in Music of the magicians.
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