Why Classical Music Still Matters

Why Classical Music Still Matters

Why Classical Music Still Matters

Why Classical Music Still Matters

Synopsis

"What can be done about the state of classical music?" Lawrence Kramer asks in this elegant, sharply observed, and beautifully written extended essay. Classical music, whose demise has been predicted for at least a decade, has always had its staunch advocates, but in today's media-saturated world there are real concerns about its viability. Why Classical Music Still Matters takes a forthright approach by engaging both skeptics and music lovers alike.

In seven highly original chapters, Why Classical Music Still Matters affirms the value of classical music--defined as a body of nontheatrical music produced since the eighteenth century with the single aim of being listened to--by revealing what its values are: the specific beliefs, attitudes, and meanings that the music has supported in the past and which, Kramer believes, it can support in the future.

Why Classical Music Still Matters also clears the air of old prejudices. Unlike other apologists, whose defense of the music often depends on arguments about the corrupting influence of popular culture, Kramer admits that classical music needs a broader, more up-to-date rationale. He succeeds in engaging the reader by putting into words music's complex relationship with individual human drives and larger social needs. In prose that is fresh, stimulating, and conversational, he explores the nature of subjectivity, the conquest of time and mortality, the harmonization of humanity and technology, the cultivation of attention, and the liberation of human energy.

Excerpt

Classical music has people worried. To many it seems on shaky ground in America. For more than a decade the drumbeat of its funeral march has been steady. The signs are rife: a wobbly CD market, symphony orchestras struggling to find money and audiences, the press and the Internet fretting over the music’s fever chart. The public radio stations that were once the mainstay of classical music broadcasting have been replacing music of any kind with talk, talk, talk. The recording industry is less and less willing to subsidize classical albums for the sake of status and tradition; it has cut back on new recordings and stuffed the “classical” category with treacly high-toned crossover projects that brilliantly manage to combine the worst of both the classical and popular worlds. And classical music is long, long gone from the television networks that once upon a time maintained their own symphony orchestras and broadcast such fare as Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts—in prime time, no less.

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