Topic A

The concert music blogosphere continues to be focused on the ongoing discussion of what is roundly called the "decline" of concert music. (In fact, one could argue that this issue is the reason the concert music blogosphere is as robust as it is.) Here are some links to recent posts on the subject, mostly from familiar players in the discussion (a tip of the fedora to Lisa Hirsch):

Matthew Guerrieri
Marc Geelhoed
A. C. Douglas
Alex from Wellsung
Greg Sandow

It's not clear to me that concert music is in "decline" in any meaningful sense of the word. There is today more of the music available in more formats than ever before and some musical institutions are reporting record ticket sales for the coming season, even while others report lower sales. Most important, from my particular perspective, a thousand compositional flowers continue to bloom, despite ongoing style wars offensives from all points on the stylistic continuum.

If "decline" or even "death" is not the issue, what is?

In the (increasingly distant) past, concert music held a place at the center of intellectual/cultural life in the West. That is no longer the case, and hasn't been for a very long time, probably since the West nearly obliterated itself in the Second World War. In fact, as Alex Ross masterfully demonstrates in his forthcoming The Rest is Noise, the centrality of concert music (especially opera) to the Nazi horror triggered a cultural backlash that continues today. From the other end of the political spectrum came stylistic requirements imposed on composers under penalty of ostracism, disappearance, and sometimes death. No such political strictures exist today, in part because music just isn't that important to the powers that be, though one could say that the part of the Composers' Union in the propaganda machineis now played by the Academy of Country Music and Clear Channel radio.

So it seems to me that the discussion is really about the place of concert music in our cultural and intellectual life is and what it should, or rather could be. I don't know the answers, but I do think it's an important conversation.

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