The Crisis in Modern Classical Music

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The Crisis in Modern Classical Music

When told of the fact that classical music is in jeopardy, most Americans would find the idea incredulous.  This is, however, the truth, and more serious than most who even recognize the fact realize.  Those who do recognize the facts and are working to counteract the present problems, generally acknowledge a few common things as causes.  Modern musical technology and financial shortages both have negatively affected the attendance at orchestra concerts.  However there are issues from the inside of classical music as well.  New, fresh music is not being regularly introduced into the mainstream of classical music.  Instead, it relies on the same music that was created long ago.  The world’s symphony orchestra’s are facing a severe crisis that is threatening the very existence of classical music.

The time period’s in which the majority of our modern classical repertoire is from are the Romantic and Classical periods.  These stretched between the mid- to late Classical period, about 1790, to the late Romantic period, about 1900 which yields a time period of approximately one hundred years.  Famous composers from this time include Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms, and many others.

In order to understand the literature of the crises at hand, one must be familiar with the classical music system when much of the repertoire was composed.  Composers wrote music for a living, meaning that whatever income they earned was based on their output of music.  This explains why the list of compositions for many artists is extremely high.  Amongst the symphonies, the opera’s, the songs, the masses, and the chamber music, the output for the common successful composer numbered well into the hundreds.  A perfect example of this phenomenon is Robert Schumann, a Romantic composer who wrote well over three hundred songs during his lifetime.

There is, also, another reason for high musical output.  Composers wrote pieces for only a limited number of performances, maybe about ten.  This is because, like today in all other forms of music, new work was embraced and requested regularly.  The general public did not want to listen to the same work repeated over and over, especially because their only form of entertainment came live.  People had no way of deciding that instead of listening to Beethoven’s Fifth being performed again at the symphony hall, they would home and listen to something else of their chose.  This is where technology has had both positive and negative consequences towards classical music.

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While technology is the mark of a thriving civilization, some of its products have had some extremely serious consequences to modern classical music.  Most noteworthy of these technological advances have been the ability to record and replay music at will, with devises like compact discs and cassettes.  Even more recently, the birth of the Internet and its music sharing capabilities has came into view.  When one can purchase a CD for unlimited, nearly perfect performances of their favorite works, or obtain a free copy online,  the need to attend a concert is nearly eliminated and the main source of income ...

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