Saturday, November 11, 2006

Stealth classical music?

"Classical" music, like all labels, may have outlived its usefulness.

My first-year seminar class is putting on a concert in a few weeks as a class project. The goal is to get non-music students in the door, to an event that includes at least some classical music.

They have decided to hold the performance in a large room near the food court in the Student Union Building, and to have free desserts, so there will be somewhat of a coffee-house atmosphere. Or what a few of them think of as a coffee-house atmosphere. In doing some "market research," asking friends what they though of various titles for the concert, my students discovered that few of their friends knew what a "coffee house" is. In this age of Starbucks, where the music is not live (usually) but the CDs being sold, the association between a coffeehouse and live music no longer exists.

They also discovered that nearly 100% of their non-musician friends said they wouldn't go to something with the word "classical" in the title. (They had been thinking about "so you think you know classical music.")

"Classical music" supposedly refers to everything from Gregorian chant to Steve Reich and Kronos. It is an increasingly counterproductive label.

My students are calling their event "A Musical Buffet," and will emphasize the inclusion of jazz and African music and not use the word "classical." And they'll do some of that formerly-known-as-classical music, too.


Scott Spiegelberg said...

What about a move to "Art Music?" Or stop with the labels as your students have, calling concerts "orchestral music" or "chamber music" or "choral music." But I'm not sure labels are the problem.

Mike said...

Eric, I just wanted to let you know that your blog & ideas have been a huge inspiration to me... I found the classical music in jeans concert to be a really interesting experiment & it's been great to read the reactions), my after-thought with it was you should encourage your students to do something like it & you seem to be already doing that... very neat!

I just wanted to let you know I'm a sophomore at Manhattanville College & have been giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with my junior & senior recitals & that some of the things I've read here have influenced me and generated some ideas... I'm also considering starting a blog for cello as I blog already & keep a music journal... so anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the inspiration.

-Mike Lunapiena