by Liza Figueroa Kravinsky
A facebook comment made me realize something about the classical music crisis.
I recently fell in love with “Somewhere In Time,” a very romantic “chick flick” that was overlooked in 1980 but has since gained a cult following. I consider this to be one of my guilty pleasures; since to some, it seems schmaltzy. It turns out there is a Facebook page of fans of this movie. That made me feel better about myself, so I sheepishly joined it. One of the fans commented that the film’s beautiful score by John Barry, with its sweet string melodies, is the reason she got into classical music. Hmm.
Could schmaltzy sanguine romantic new music be one attraction to classical music? After all, wasn’t one of classical music’s strengths melodies and harmonies?
“Nooooooo! For shame!” some might say. Too accessible! We need theory, complexity, and depth to be legitimate - not heartfelt kitsch! So we keep that film score in the “pops concert” side show and make way for Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, with sprinkle of thorny contemporary music from the academy, because we need to stay serious!
Why does music have to be “serious?” Really – WHY? What exactly does “serious” mean? I spent years in the pop and film music industry, and never met a musician who wasn’t serious about what they are doing. Isn’t this “serious” atmosphere what drives younger diverse audiences away from the classical concert hall?
What exactly are pops concerts? What is pop music? Accessible music with a beat? Why aren’t dance beats serious? Is it because they are African American? Why aren’t beautiful melodies serious? Too feminine? What’s wrong with accessible? Too close to the commoner? Is that what we really think of our potential audience? I think that’s what they think we think. Yikes.
I think the musical answer to the classical music crisis will be shocking to its institutions. It is scary and goes against the core of our “serious” thinking, and that’s why we’re slow to do it. Instead, we “innovate” around the edges while the years pass by. But the answer, though not comfortable, will be accessible new music. Maybe danceable. Maybe hummable. Maybe schmaltzy.
Liza is the founder and principal composer of the GoGo Symphony