The death of classical music

Slate asks the question, “Is Classical Music Dead?” The answer? Pretty much. Sales are down, symphonies are closing, and younger generations have little interest in the music.

To some degree I think this is a problem of classical music’s own making. At some point the culture of classical music aligned itself with the wealthy elites – rich, stuffy, mostly white people. The fact that that demographic is fading has been obvious for years. It’s also true that cuts to art education haven’t helped. And the lack of support for new classical music is an issue.

But I think there’s another reason, one I’ve talked about before. I think our attention spans and ability to focus are getting weaker, primarily because of this culture of interruption we live in. It’s one thing to take three minutes to follow a pop song as it plays of the radio. It’s something else to follow the development of a set of themes in a sonata, or listen for the voices of particular instruments as they weave in and out of a symphony. And it’s shame were losing this ability because that kind of active, focused listening can be a great source of pleaure.

I predict that within 20 years the only way to capture people’s attention will be to lock them in a room full of televisions showing snuff films and bestiality porn while the sound of industrial machinery blasts over a stereo. Even that will barely generate a yawn.

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