Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear Cleveland, turn off your teevee

The pied piper's magic flute freebies tune isn't only for the grimy ears of the uncultured masses spending money on discount major label hits at Wal-Mart. But believe you me, after constantly hearing the neo-tongue-in-cheek defiance of some of the ads on WCLV, I'm further convinced that the stereotype of classical being the playground of decrepit oldsters & junior mad king Ludwigs is a badge of honor to select yokels, thus unintentionally comic stuff like

One such effort is already underway. Prior to last Friday's matinee concert, the orchestra sent buses to pick up listeners at Beachwood Place and Crocker Park in Westlake.
Not the the largest hamburger helper, Beachwood & Westlake being mostly composed of upper crust crackerdom. Despite personal disappointment in Blossom instead of Severance initially getting the full 18-and-under-free treatment -- a steady diet of saccharine Sousa pops & firework-saturated 1812 Overtures, Mahler must be rolling over in his grave; alright, I inveigle slightly, but stacks of Marshalls or no, the sound on the lawn still sucks -- we'll see if the following theme
"We want to make sure there's no excuse about money, getting here or the welcome you get once you're here," Binnie said. "We're going to turn our plan on its head and say, 'You know what? Come check us out and then tell us you don't like it.'"
bears long-term fruit. Might want to vary the repertoire too; less Mozart (sorry, Mitsuko), more Martinů & maybe slip a bit o' dissonance in the brew. I hear all the maltshop kids think that Stravinsky's just dreamy, daddy-o. & how about cutting down on the all the goddamn cross-country & international voyaging. New York doesn't have an orchestra or three?

Classical music, like poetry, is always & forever going to be a postmodern niche. All the nephilim striding the earth have gone into hiding or have been slain, only their great works remain, seldom heard outside those lucky to be touched by the immanence of their spirit. Is there a solution? Je ne sais pas. Is this a/the solution? The majestic chords of the allegretto from Beethoven's seventh ring & my blood simmers every time. My kids only grimace.

Economic concerns aside, a wider array of entertainment options exist now than in the heyday of a Karajan or a Masur, let alone past centuries, which surely adds to the amount of patrons disguised as empty seats. The mutability of taste is an easy corollary, perhaps too easy. The institutionalized "speed" of modern life, in which we're purposely drained to the point that our downtime is spent being spent, nudges us away from ever taking a crack at the unfamiliar. Fucking yikes, back to economics, always back to that monster, it seems. 
If the orchestra is to be "worthy of extraordinary philanthropy," Hanson said, "we have to demonstrate that the orchestra is prepared to change."
What a depressing comment on where we permit our priorities to be placed, praying to Cthulhu for a private sector bailout, a cuckoo for cocoa puffs followup whenever we're lucky to receive one. Don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting we divert all of the Pentagon's budget, on the books or no, to the arts. They can keep a tank or two for parades. I'm a nice guy.

Anyway, classical lacking the ubiquitous nature of rock & pop in the cultural landscape, is it, at the end of the evening, merely a case -- at least for their category of "young adults," for they already have inexpensive programs aimed at cultivating whipper snappers --  of exposure? Which came first, the classical music listener, or the poor kid forced into lessons with an old & cranky, wrinkly fierce Ukrainian babushka who brooked no slack, thereby perpetuating the cycle because said poor kid after having quit in disgust had no other ear candy but scratchy Zeppelin & Sabbath LPs, which hints at yet another possible generalization, briefly inferred earlier: is a dearth of youthful paying customers a matter of a subtle distancing over the decades of emotional identification away from the sensual, often intellectual lines of classical towards the shake n' bake immediacy, hip-twisting sexuality of rock and/or roll?

Classical isn't the province solely of the rich, the old, the white. I'd wager Monopoly money that a sizable number of us devotees on the tubes are proof of that simpleton assumption. Unfortunately, the orchestra's revenues are probably going to continue losing commas like every other sector of the economy outside of corporate & military concerns -- hmm, there's a way to get some government scratch. Stick Welser-Möst in a machine gun turret, stuff the timpani full of grenades, plastique in every Stradivarius & tell the feds they're anti-terrorist measures. Maybe I was too harsh on the 1812 Overture.

After all, who loves explosions more than kids & policymakers?


sunshine said...

Well, I think that it's good that they are letting kids in for free. However, the kids can't go on their own, therefore, Mum or Dad need a ticket too!
How about discount family rates? I guess it doesn't really matter. It all costs money. Free or not. :)

I think that what we, as parents, expose our children to will always stay with them. I make sure that while we are in the van, we listen to anything BUT "pop" music.
CBC radio has some great classical, jazz, blues and folk programs and I'd say, 90% of the time we listen to that. (the other 10% is pop, I'll fess up.)

While they may not "love it", they do know some pieces and can name them, just by ear which I think is great.
Massimo loves to play the name that genre game. :) He'll say.. "Hmmm, this is either Blues or Chad" (Chad being Jazz..)
How cute is he???? OMG so cute!

Anyhow, my point is this... expose your kids to it. They might not like it now or ever but at least they will have had the opportunity. And hey. If it's free for them and you can afford a ticket for yourself, take them to see it live. :)

Great post Randal. Loved it. (I just hope that I made sense.) ;D


sunshine said...

"Anyhow, my point is this... expose your kids to it. They might not like it now or ever but at least they will have had the opportunity. And hey. If it's free for them and you can afford a ticket for yourself, take them to see it live. :)"

The above paragraph was not aimed at you personally. I know that your kids have been exposed to lots of different music. It was just a general statement... which I realize that you probably realized. I just thought I sounded a bit like an ass when I read it back to myself....

Demeur said...

Randal Randal Randal How oh how would you could you expect our precious youth with such cultured ear to sit through but ten minutes of etherial melodies without some half clad babes on strings as back up or some Bernstienesque mop top dancing wildly front and center? What were they too cheap to buy one guitar for the philharmonic? Not even a smashing Strad for an ending... Bummer dude.

thatgirl said...


Randal Graves said...

sunshine, that's certainly the key, exposure. I'm under no delusion that it's going to be everyone's bag -- hell, I dig music more than almost anyone I know, but my kids are fairly indifferent to it despite all my efforts -- but with the old models crumbling or long turned to dust, especially in this economy of widespread fuckery, something else has to be tried.

And I always sound like an ass, don't worry about it. Do it again though, and I'm sending those two tanks over the border!

demeur, are you suggesting we add some Townshendian shenanigans to all the explodery?

thatgirl, I never get that when I post death metal. Ingrates.

Tengrain said...

Graves, you swine!

My parents always said, "You need a fifth to play the fifth on the fourth."



Tom Harper said...

Classical music really is a national security device. Muslims hate classical music. It goes further than hate, actually. It's been scientifically proven that classical music creates a certain resonance in the brains of Muslims, making them unable to concentrate or exercise normal motor control. It has something to do with their inferior Asian genetics and the accumulation of too much falafel in their bloodstreams, or something.

David Barber said...

Got to say, Randal, I am quite a fan of classical. I need to be in a certain mood for it though. Great piece, although I'm not an avid listener so I wouldn't know the name of a piece but would enjoy the listen.

My kids (4&6) are too young yet but they do love a bit of rock music (my car) and then the shit of Abba and the likes (my wifes car) They also laugh at me when I listen to a bit of Andrea Bocelli, but a swift kick soon sorts that out. lol!!

Apologies for not being over that much. Work has been taking its toll. Thanks for boobing over to mine. I was on a word count with my latest Two Blokes but what's the "greatest line"??

Peace, mate.

S.W. Anderson said...

What classical, like opera, has lacked throughout my lifetime is an avid mass audience. That's not an indictment of the public or the music. It's just the way it is.

Look, if there was a mass audience for it, classical would be unstoppable. It would be all over radio, the Internets, there would even be a Classics TV channel on cable or satellite. It's a niche thing because it has a limited following. Its presence is magnified somewhat beyond the actual audience draw because, perennially, a certain number of very rich people see supporting it as a classy way to impress others with their generosity.

The remarkable thing is that despite its nicheness, there are still great orchestras and concert halls, and it's available in fine recordings.

If you want to promote classical in Greater Clevelandia, see if you can get an orchestra of exceptionally good-looking young musicians to turn out not in white tie and tails, and evening gowns, but in the sometimes bizarre attire of rock icons. Back performances with every kind of kitschy electronic effect, visual and aural. Be sure to ply the audience with 10,000 watts of thumping bass, no matter what the musicians are playing. Finally, get a celeb, maybe Jon Stewart, Joy Behar or The Donald to attend your season opener. You might start a trend.

Demeur said...

Indeed, but smashing a Stradivarius could get quite expensive.

susan said...

I'll be giving my age away (again) if I mention public museums, art galleries and classical music concerts once were free. It used to be considered part of what having a civil society meant. Now everything is expected to turn a profit, which makes things like paying 100 highly trained musicians as well as making a tidy sum very difficult. We'd all be better off if they applied cost benefit analysis to the military and scrapped the lot. More tubas for everyone.

Chef Cthulhu said...

What do you expect with a bunch of under-educated, anaesthetized kids playing video games while their parents watch The Apprentice?

Here's an idea - use some Handel, Mussorgsky and Strauss for the next "Call of Duty" video game. A modern, innovative solution where kids can listen to "The Great Gate of Kiev" while they get their war on.

Beach Bum said...

As usual I find myself groaning over the cultural situation down here in the sticks. We have a fine orchestra here in Columbia but its tied to the university and its always easy to buy tickets at the last second for center aisle seats. Making matters even more fun is that the only classical radio station is part of the state NPR network.

I agree with Cthulhu but I've seen the kids augment the combats games with CD's of Zombie and Manson

Demeur said...

Guess we'll have to sneak in a little Wagner.

Randal Graves said...

tengrain, one bourbon, one scotch, one bach.

tom, I think your synaptic pathways have shorted out. Treat yourself to a little head stompin' of the local citizenry, clear that right up.

david, Abba? Yikes! And you work too much. Have you thought about finding a job in the adult beverage industry?

"We - are going - to die!"

SWA, there is a classics channel on digital cable. :)

I'm under no delusion that the latest recording of Tannhauser or Carmen is going to top the charts, but I think it's a bit more complex an issue than "the masses have spoken, the free market has rejected you in favor of this."

My point is, and this applies to other genres of art and/or music, that it's underrepresented on a structural level. The arts are the first thing cut when schools budget because anything that can't be quantified as "contributing" to the economy via the creation of the next class of workers, is seen as frivolous. Thus, philanthropic largess of the rich is often the only thing that stands between fewer concerts or outright oblivion. Not every orchestra has the name recognition of ours to (hopefully) continue getting loot.

Yeah, a bit more doom & gloomy than perhaps it truly is, but I always see the glass half empty and expect even tougher times for the arts in the nation as a whole. As for your suggestion, I'll pass. :)

demeur, if we don't smash them, then the terrorists win.

susan, plus, if we follow my plan to equip the nation's orchestras and chamber music societies with weaponry, we have nothing to fear.

chef, that's a fantastic idea, much more effective and epic than some half-assed synth or pseudo-rock soundtrack.

BB, the problem with center aisle is that if they're off and you throw tomatoes, you're easily caught.

demeur, kill the rabbit, kill the rabbit, kill the rabbit!

S.W. Anderson said...

"The arts are the first thing cut when schools budget because anything that can't be quantified as "contributing" to the economy via the creation of the next class of workers, is seen as frivolous."

In my area, sometimes before arts and music, sports programs and even (forgive me for saying it) school libraries have taken a beating when budgets shrink.

You realize, of course, my suggestion for starting a trend was snark directed at what seems to sell pop-culture wise.

Chef Cthulhu said...

Demeur, I listen to most of my classical when I am reading. I find I take the info in much faster and more thoroughly. Except when Wagner comes on; I find it highly disruptive to the process

Randal Graves said...

SWA, sports? That's quite surprising. They've taken hits here (pay-to-play, for example) but usually aren't the first to suffer.

chef, with Richy, you almost always have to watch it, too.

Susan Tiner said...

I was fortunate enough to attend a public school with a rich music program and am still involved in music and the arts to this day. My son is a musician too. My daughter didn't get the music bug, but she appreciates visual arts and theater. I agree with you that it needs to be part of K-12 education!

Great post Randal.