“Classical Music Is Dead”…is dead.
The fat lady has sung. For the fat lady. She sang about other fat ladies.
After a long and fruitful history, the cheap journalistic trope “Classical Music is Dead” died today. Nobody knows its exact age, but some trace her birth to 1926, when Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt declared that “Concerts are poorly attended and budget deficits grow from year to year. The general level of musical performance is visibly declining. Only the flattest, least challenging music enjoys success.”
“Classical Music is Dead” (CMID)’s last breath came today from Mark Vanhoenacker, who, after much success declaring the death of the fork, bemoans the fact that the sorry state of classical music – overdressed white guys playing music by dead white guys for nearly dead white guys – has just now, in 2014, become extinct. Obviously, if Greg Sandow says that some other people said they aren’t going to chamber music concerts as much as they used to, and the fact that more people like Pearl Jam than classical music on facebook, it must be over. CMID’s death was signaled when Mr. Vanhoenacker started throwing around scary numbers and percents and mentioned Jeff Bezos.
CMID had a long and prosperous life, and, since i’m either too lazy or too busy with my dead art form, i’ll defer to Alex Ross’ compilation of CMID’s greatest hits:
“The economic crisis confronting the American symphony orchestra is becoming increasingly acute.” — New York Times, 1950
“There exists a primal apathy toward classical music in America.” — Newsweek, 1970
“Fewer classical records are being sold because people are dying. Today’s dying classical market is what it is because fifteen years ago no one attempted to instill a love of classical music in the then impressionable children who have today become the market.” — Stereo Review, 1970
“Classical records are in trouble. In fact, the problems that presently beset the industry may soon begin to affect not only the record buyer but the musical health of the country as a whole.” —New York Times (same writer as above), 1980
After a brief renaissance during the dot-com boom, CMID and her devotees have come to realize that it has been the same old writers writing the same old scary things about classical music. It all just sounds the same, and I don’t understand it.
Sadly, along with the death of CMID comes the death of “Classical Music is still alive! I swear!” Now that we’ve stopped debating if classical music is dead or not, we can all go back to our dead art form: rehearsing for concerts in empty halls, teaching kids skills they don’t need, and recording our albums for everyone to stream over the internet for free.