Making classical music a human experience

In his latest blog post, Greg Sandow comments on some promising outreach developments by the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. He makes a very salient observation:

One caveat, though. Opening the doors — getting out into the city — is only the beginning. The biggest change has to be in what classical music institutions actually present. Performances have to feel like living art, or more generally like real human experience, and not like religious rites or some kind of gushy romance novel, where the content doesn’t get much beyond “isn’t it beautiful!”

Perfectly put–no wonder Greg’s a professional writer. As I discussed in my post reflecting on my experience at a lieder recital, there will always be room for quasi-religious performances, especially for those whom classical music fulfills the role that for others is taken by formal religion.

“Real human experience” means, among other things, being able to respond and express and move; to be a participant and not just an observer. And it is interesting that many forward-thinking religious people–I’m thinking especially of Matthew Fox–are saying the same thing about worship experiences.

Just as some in classical music are saying we need to incorporate elements of other genres (pop, rock, non-Western music, jazz, etc.) and embrace new technologies, so does Fox’s “creation spirituality” movement.


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