That was the classical music year that was

Below are the five most read Overgrown Path posts in 2018. This blog does not have the trillions of web bot visits that Slipped Disc boasts of. But as other blogs fall by the wayside an Overgrown Path has retained a select audience and a degree of authority. So it is not insignificant that the most read posts are those dissenting from the populist strategy almost universally adopted across the classical music industry. If no one agreed, no one would continue reading. But, in fact, since withdrawing the blog from social media* the number of RSS subscribers has steadily increased. Which suggests that grovelling to your audience is not the only viable game in town.

The post titled 'Classical music's biggest problem is that no one cares' dates from 2017 and is the blog's most popular story ever. It opines that classical music's biggest challenge is not ageing audiences, disruptive business models, institutionalised discrimination, unsatisfactory concert halls, Brexit impact, or whatever 'issue' is trending this week. Instead it proposes that the biggest challenge is adapting to a global creative culture in which audiences are terrified of leaving their own algorithmically defined comfort zone. The post goes on to suggest that not only is the classical industry in denial about this challenge, but it is also proactively aiding and abetting the implementation of artistic filter bubbles in an increasingly desperate search for that mythical big new audience. This suggestion was confirmed in 2018 with classical music descending at accelerating speed into an artistic Kali Yuga.

The dawning of this Kali Yuga meant that in 2018 I spent less time in the concert hall than for many years, but more time listening to recorded music. It also meant I spent less time listening to the Western classical tradition, but more time with the other rich traditions that are now increasingly marginalised in our supposedly inclusive culture. Many will find the viewpoints expressed in the posts below unduly negative, and that is a judgement I accept. But just as we can learn much from different music traditions, so we can learn much from different wisdom traditions. Tibetan Buddhism's sacred texts tell us that the greater the negative emotion, the greater the wisdom. The corollary to this is that without negative emotions there is no wisdom. This teaching offers a plausible explanation as to why in social media, where approval in the form of 'likes' and 'friends' are coveted, there is so little wisdom.

Much of my music in 2018 came from recordings made years previously. If I had to nominate one album from the many I found infinitely rewarding during the year it would be the double CD of Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha (tabla) and Kamala Chakravarty (tanpura); this was recorded at Pandit Shankar's Hollywood home in 1971 but not commercially released until 2015. Writing about it I quoted this passage from Srdjan Beronja's book The Art of the Indian Tabla:

In its basic purpose, music was always considered as a means to reach the Divine. Generally speaking, the purpose of music is not to entertain, accumulate material wealth, be an establishment tool of comply with politics or some other ideas. Its purpose is to comply with the laws of the universe as music is based on these laws. With music it is possible to achieve spiritual development, what is called atma-vidya or 'soul knowledge' in Sanskrit. A person needs to develop music in his atma (soul) and to achieve nada-vidya or'sound knowledge'.
It is my wish that 2019 brings all of us more sound knowledge and, most importantly, more soul knowledge.

* Header graphic comes from an article titled 'Facebook Tracks Non Users Too' and was used in my 2018 post 'Two billion Internet users are not on Facebook'.New Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


kenpat said…
Regardless of everything I hope you and yours and all who visit here have a happy and healthy new year.
P.B. said…
I was among those who found your blog via Twitter, and when you withdrew from social media, I was introduced to the lovely world of RSS feeds. Through your blog, I have been introduced to the most fascinating yet darkened corners of music, corners that you have very ably illuminated. Thank you for that.

When a writer consistently publishes insightful and intelligent commentary on the field s/he has chosen to write, readers will find his/her work wherever it is published. I wish you a Happy New Year and am looking forward to reading more of your discoveries, thoughts, and travels. Cheers!

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