The Woes of Chamber Music

. . . are discussed by Anne Midgette in Sunday’s New York Times. She writes

MY epiphany came when I told a friend I was going to a chamber music concert, and she — well-educated, well-heeled, operagoing — made a throwing-up gesture into her hand.

For Gil Morgenstern, a violinist and concert presenter, the epiphany came when an acquaintance informed him that the two most boring words in the English language were “chamber music.”

Our reactions? Shock. Denial. Anger.

In short, stages of mourning. Because these moments were startling confrontations with a reality neither of us had realized: that for many people, chamber music is dead.

Many people are worried about the so-called “death of classical music.” I’m not worried about it dying; I think that professionally-performed classical music is in the midst of big change, and that large, tradition-bound institutions need to make changes that embrace new cultural realities.

Greg Sandow gets frustrated, sometimes even testy, with those of us who insist that music education, especially hands-on instrumental playing, were key to the past of classical music and will be necessary to its healthy to a healthy future. He thinks most often in terms of the short and mid-term needs of classical-music professionals and institutions.

I’m more interested in the future of classical music-making, including amateur. Well, especially amateur music making. Our culture has turned “music” into something you buy and listen to passively. There’s a small class of music producers creating these music-products-for-sale. Less people are buying,

Music as an activity. Music as self-expression. Music as social interraction. Music as celebration of community. I’m much more interested in that. Because having more people,
“everyday” people, engaged in the process of making music and making art is one of the things that can heal a sick society.



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2 responses to “The Woes of Chamber Music

  1. Anne-Lise

    ‘Because having more people,
    “everyday” people, engaged in the process of making music and making art is one of the things that can heal a sick society.’

    Music making teaches you that you have to work together and that you (have to) depend on each other while you have a joined responsibility (‘If I don’t practice or show up for rehearsal or even listen to the others, we won’t sound nearly as good as when I do’).

  2. Elaine Fine

    You’re absolutely right. Music is, among other positive things, an activity, and a means of social interaction. Maybe Anne Midgette’s well-heeled and educated “operagoing” friend has never had the opportunity to experience music as anything more than a consumer activity. It is sad. I guess there must be a lot of people like her in New York these days. I don’t even know of anybody here in the “downstate” Midwest with that kind of aversion to chamber music.

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