How Should Classical Music Change in 2018?
Brin Solomon, Staff Writer
Let people clap between movements.
I want the atmosphere of concert halls to open up, to make room for the joy that pulses at the heart of so much of this music, to welcome strangers and stalwarts alike into a space made for feeling deeply. I want classical institutions to abandon the notion that this music is the Single Greatest Art Form, blessed with a singular power to purify its devotees, and instead accept that it is one art among many, and that the ability to balance a phrase (or appreciate a phrase well balanced) has no correlation to the contents of a person’s heart. I want people to lose enough respect for music that they can love it instead.
I want to see orchestras respond to issues of sexual assault before outside press coverage launches a public relations disaster. I want seasons without a single cis white male composer to be as commonplace and unremarkable as seasons with only such composers are now. I want the same for conductors and soloists. I want to see people be allowed to stumble and recover, to see an end to the cult of the Perfect Musician who sacrifices everything to practice eight, 10, 12 hours a day; I want us to accept the necessity of rest.
And if anyone says none of this is possible—I want to know why.
Hartmut Welscher, Editor-in-Chief
What if classical music culture became the sum of the stories we tell about the music? I often think we have too much history and too few stories in the genre, too many expert opinions and too few personal narratives. If you look at classical music from outside the industry’s gossip mill, the surface still looks unperturbed. Let’s make some waves instead.
I’d like musicians to be less shy about public debate, whether that debate is about their interpretations, their marketing strategies, or the monetization of every aspect of their existence. In 2018 let’s acknowledge the simple fact that all press is good press, and speak our minds.
Rebecca Lentjes, Staff Writer
In 2018 I would love for us to focus on the musical and political voices of those who have experienced sexual abuse or harassment in the classical music world, rather than those accused of perpetrating it.
Parker Ramsay, Staff Writer
I’d like to see a shift from an atmosphere of salesmanship to one of sincerity. Serious artists with incredible intellectual and technical chops continue to be sidelined because they allegedly aren’t “marketable.” I would love for promoters not to fear challenging programming choices and to quit pandering to society’s tendency to only engage with that which makes them comfortable. For God’s sake, we have music by dead composers that’s still considered “new music.” In 2018, I would love to hear the names of Elliott Carter or George Crumb at the tips of listeners’ tongues as if they were Bartók’s or Prokofiev’s. (Oh, and I want people to stop fawning over bad minimalism, Philippe Jaroussky, and the length of Yuja Wang’s skirts.)
Volker Hagedorn, Contributor
The ideal concert should look like this: A small to medium-sized ensemble plays interconnected works both old and new. The composers show up answer questions. Maybe a few readings by a poet? After the music, people hang out and chat and drink affordable wine. The artists, too, stick around instead of disappearing to the nearest fancy restaurant. And I don’t want to have to wait for a festival for this to happen. Every city with a little self-respect should have an event like this regularly. Not possible, you say? Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw has one every Thursday.
Irene Suchy, Contributor
What do we talk about when we talk about music and politics? Often, Wagner, World War II, and Adorno, it turns out. I want us to update the conversation and find the connections between classical music and the politics of right now. Making it, and even hearing it, means taking a stand—even if that stand is simply staying far away.
Zack Ferriday, Editor
Classical music is actually accessible. We enjoy reasonably-priced tickets and seats in halls that sound good no matter what you pay. But introductions and explanations, stories about and reasons behind the repertoire, the kind of thing you can see at Berlin’s Piano Salon Christophori, have the potential to crack open the classical music world for those who don’t already know what they’re about to hear. For a form that prioritizes metaphysical experience of an art form over a direct reaction to it (sitting and listening instead of dancing), aids to interpretation would be valuable.
To make space for these stories, cut the endless walking on and off the stage, trim the bouquets of flowers, and cull the God complex that, as we saw in the final weeks of 2017, can lead to dangerous abuses of power.
Merle Krafeld, Editor
Program more women composers. There are so many names, especially in new music, that it really shouldn’t be a problem: Unsuk Chin, Rebecca Saunders, Olga Neuwirth, Sarah Nemtsov, Betsy Jolas, Liza Lim, Jennifer Walshe, Brigitta Muntendorf, Du Yun, Ashley Fure.…The stereotype of the male genius still influences how programs are structured and harms the career perspectives of women—early on, they are pressured to give up or not even test their talents. VAN isn’t perfect on this either: male composers and performers still outnumber women in our magazine. We are, I am, part of the system and the problem. But it’s not too late to pursue positive New Year’s resolutions in 2018. ¶