Our third of six conversations, smartly facilitated by Melanie, addressed the intersection of the popular and classical music industries. We identified a couple noteworthy distinctions between the two spheres. For one, the performer of “popular” music largely contributes to the genesis of a work, whereas the performer of “classical” music acts an interpreter or reproducer of a composed piece. It follows, then, that the classical musician (arguably, unlike the popular musician) is beholden to several voices of authority, that of the composer, historical performance practices, recording technology, “great” music-making institutions, etc.
The stolid concert ceremonies that Alex Ross discusses in Listen to This, the reading for this week, only encourages a pop-classic divide. As our fellows Christina (bassoon) and Mike (horn) justly noted, the orchestral audition process undermines the potential for originality, forcing classical performers to be mindless technicians, not unique, “popular-music” personalities. (In other words, we have too many Capuchin monks, not enough Beyonces.)
The conversation, fortunately, was not a Chopinian dirge for classical music! The fellows, always envisioning an ever-brilliant future, devised innovative ways to recruit new audiences, such as a “Pay What You Can” concert series (à la Panera Bread or Radiohead).