|Middle school band--Yeah!|
Ormandy has been gone for decades, and there has not been an abiding conservator of the Philadelphia Sound since. The orchestra has polish. But gone are the specifics of string fingerings, bow speeds, and other techniques extending well beyond the string section that made for a special mix of extreme power and blending. Some sections don't even cultivate a similar sound among themselves (think of the horns).
It could very well be that these concepts of discipline and unanimity, the institution above the individual, are simply passé.
It's sad, but not tragic. The Philadelphia Sound was made for an age in which orchestras were expected to exist simply for art's sake, holding an extremely specialized conversation among themselves. Today, the job of an orchestra is more outward looking, and the debates likely to follow a report expected in six months by consultant Michael M. Kaiser are long overdue.
|In Philly, all they needed was a charismatic conductor....|
And there's more,
The challenge is steep. The fact that the orchestra has raised only $20 million in new endowment money in a year is troubling. Of greater concern is that even the $100 million goal wouldn't be enough; twice that is needed. Others have set their sights higher: The Curtis Institute of Music proposes to raise $265 million by its centenary in 2024. That's ambition.
Despite the need for endowment dollars, the twentieth-century orchestra, opera house, or what-have-you needs to put more butts in the seats. And those butts must be of a different demographic than the mostly white and graying audiences seen in our concert halls. Is it a matter of education? The view that this music and all of its trappings appeal only to a snobbish elite? A repertoire that has become more a museum of past masterworks than music that can appeal to a broader base? The cost of tickets (a most point when compared to popular music concerts).
Let's face it: people are avoiding the concert halls in droves. The younger audience that every orchestra craves is too busy raising children to spend precious leisure time shelling out a fair amount of money (think of dinner, tickets, parking or other transpiration, babysitting) to make attendance possible.
And then there is that old, "I don't get classical music."
|But how do we get it done?|
The blame can't be laid solely on the back of education, although too much music (and art, and drama, and....) has been cut from too many schools. My own middle school general music class was horrible; don't get me wrong, I loved band and yet despised music class. This elderly blue-haired teacher would play records for us all day and simply tell us that this was great stuff. I never knew exactly why it was great stuff and, being the typical eighth grader, I had a tendency to doubt my elders. No, my music education began with lessons (guitar, organ, eventually other things) and also listening to the handful of classical recordings at home. The only one I remember was something called "Russian Fireworks" by the Royal Philharmonic. All the biggies were there. There had to be more records at home but there weren't many, and I remember none of them.
So how did I get off the ground. I'd found things that I liked (that Russian stuff) and went from there. The local library had a fair number of LPs and I'd spend hours listening to Toscanini conducting Beethoven symphonies. I can now figure out the music I listened to in my youth because those are the LPs that I still own. It's a very eclectic collection, but was set by finding what I liked and going from there.
|I started here...|
|....and then went here.|
I suppose that's how I teach music to the untaught. Take Cindy for example, "I don't know anything about what you do." OK, so I started with a few shorter things of varying periods, nothing too complex nor having too many instruments or voices. String quartets and Renaissance choral stuff works really well. And then you go from there.
Then there is a friend of a friend, Kathleen, who attended her first live band concert a few months back. It was intended to be in the style of the "classic wind ensemble" (too few clarinets, too many trumpets) and included many of the "greatest hits" of that repertoire. Fell flat on its face for her; she probably didn't want to hear another such concert again. But again, my friend took her to one of my concerts (and no, I'm not patting myself on the back) and her mood changed greatly. Granted it was a holiday concert, but we did close with a 14+ minute work (that's long for a single movement wind work). She loved it. We'd given her a better place to "start."
And that's about all there is to it.
Some call me a wine snob because I know just a little about wine and I know what I like. With regard to varietals, I don't like Merlot but some people do. That's their choice (although there remains an undercurrent of quotes from the film, Sideways). For me, it's all about finding something I like and not paying an arm and a leg. Who'd have thought that a Sangiovese Rose from Australia (!) could be so good. Or a $6.99 mass-produced dry Riesling? For me, it's about the wine and the food: what goes best with what. I'm not a snob in wine, coffee (though again, I am somewhat hard to please) or music. I know what I like.
There's the old adage, "I don't know much about art (or insert classical music, theater, etc) but I know what I like." Is there really anything wrong with that?