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The Death of Classical Music: Resurrection and Rebirth

classical music
Classical Music Magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is classical music dead?
With all of the negative press regarding music union contracts, faltering orchestras, cutting of music programs, and the seeming demise of classical music, I would like to offer a different perspective. 

Before we can embark on answering the provocative question "Is classical music dead?" we must first address the very definition of classical music. After all, what is classical music? 

If we exclaimed "All birds are dead!" but are incapable of identifying a penguin or ostrich as members of the bird family, then we have made a false statement based on our own biases about birds. If our definition of birds includes the requirement of flight, then both penguins and ostriches are not considered birds. In the same way, if "classical music" has a very definitive and narrow definition that excludes contemporary forms of media, music, and technology, as well as a limit to specific geographic location, then we have made the same false assumption when we assume that classical music is on a downward decline. 
English: Classical music. Public domain. Old e...
English: Classical music. Public domain. Old edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia, the all-knowing collective mind of the unknowing masses defines classical music as: 
 The art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times.

Yet anyone that has studied music outside the realms of Western classical music is aware that there are a myriad of equally complex musical systems and styles beyond the scope of music of European origin, music that now mixes and blends with European traditions in a beautiful fusion of contrasting styles. 

Defining classical music as "art music" excludes hybrid forms of classical music that incorporate popular music forms, as well as many traditional forms of music that were once considered "popular" like waltzes, dances, and even the music of the troubadour. And while we often tout that classical music is simply "art for art's sake" numerous composers made a living off the popularity of their operas and other musical works with a clear practical vision coupled with an artistic one.

Is classical music purely acoustic?  

Classical Music In The Park
Classical Music In The Park (Photo credit: Photo Gallery)
I think that after a century of electronic music the definition of classical music easily includes the works of Stockhausen, Shields, Cage, Spiegel, and Varese. While much purely electroacoustic music may seem to have more in common with sci-fi film music that a string quartet, the reality is that contemporary composers incorporate electronics and technology in their works on a regular basis.

Should only music performed by professional organizations be considered classical?

Well, no. After all, some of the most innovative musical works are being performed today by colleges and universities, private individuals, and online. In fact, I would dare to say that the cutting edge of musical expression now clearly lies outside the American concert hall, though many large musical organization attempt to combat the love affair with decomposing composers with commission programs and workshop opportunities.  

The truth of the matter is that music unions, the demise of music education, and pop radio have not killed classical music. 


Classical music is alive and well, morphed into a thousand new permutations of its former self. 

The greater issue is expanding classical music to include the new diverse and technological savvy audience of the 21st century. 

Expand classical music beyond the concert hall and into cyberspace, from the ears of a select few to millions of headphones, outside the citadel of academia and into the homes of every citizen. 

Then we shall see the resurrection of classical music. 

 
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