This past month, I have had several encounters and interactions with what has become a mythicized subgroup of the concert going population. This special league of individuals are oftenthe topic of much discussion and controversy and whether one speaks to a general manager of a large artistic institution or a young computer music grad student, one will get an ear full of how to handle this clique. I speak, of course, about the aging subscriber; the person that folklore tells us will only enjoy a concert of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on the second half with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D on the first or will settle with either Bohème or Carmen at the opera. This person is politically liberal but “likes things the way they were”. This patron goes to the symphony, opera, or chamber music concert to relax and rewind from the stresses of what I’m only assuming is retirement. This person gets audibly upset and frustrated when the Beethoven and Mendelssohn is preceded with a ten-minute piece from the last half century. In my mind, this person is more rare to find then the artistic planners, general managers, graduate music students, and classical music critics say they are.
Every year around this time the major orchestras, opera houses, and presenting institutions release their new seasons. I am personally one of those people that refreshes the Met website up until noon when the brand spankin’ new productions are announced. This year, and the last few years now that I think about it, there has been this pretty intense discussion about how much new music and how much music by women is being programmed each year. Simply, women composers need to be performed more often. The sad truth is that they are also lumped into the new music category which makes their music that much harder to get on a program. My goal as a current educator is to show equal parts new music and old music as well as music by men and music by women. A first grade girl once told me that girl’s cannot be composers because they aren’t as good as boys. Of course this broke my heart and I essentially tossed out the curriculum that day and spent the class listening to works by women composers and watching concerts with women conductors. Let’s blur the any type of boundary now…
Let me tackle the old vs. new music thing. The critics of “THE (capital THE) ESTABLISHMENT” believe that the people listed above are the problem and are stifling progress. But as a composer who would love a commission, I too would like to hear some dead guy music at the symphony. The music written today is both indebted to and inspired by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and forward. I personally love being on a concert with “THE CANON” than on a new music ghetto of sorts. My music personally feels right in that context and some of my peers music (which I love and have loads of respect for) might work best on a program of all new music.
A couple months ago, I was at the Met and saw L’amour de loin. It made my heart happy to see/hear three things:
1. The number of young people was insane. They. Were. Everywhere.
2. The number of people in the house. It was a full house which I had yet to see at the Met over the years.
3. The number of people described above that loved the music and found it MELODIC! Thank God of course it is and that to me is some progress!