Academic Approach to Classical Music
by Neil F. Paynter
Classical Music is an old tradition derived primarily from folk song and dance,
and secondarily from ecclesiastical music. Infusions of folk elements into this
tradition have continued up to contemporary times.
academic approach began in the 19th century when classical music and
musicians gained an elevated social status. Up until then musicians were
typically vagrants, ne'er do wells, and at best humble servants. When the
economic support of classical music shifted from the aristocracy to the
bourgeoisie, musicians like many other craftspersons became “professional,” and
the art of music a respectable discipline worthy of being studied at an
along with it's place in academia and the specialized school of higher learning
known as the music conservatory, came an academic approach which cast aside
practical learning and “tricks of the trade” in favor of theoretical knowledge.
Since the early 19th century, the standards of classical music have
been increasingly set by mere academics – persons with little performance
experience, and a great deal of “book learning.” Even those graduating with
performance degrees in music know relatively little repertoire, and have
performed only in highly controlled environments. Real
musicians who work their way out of taverns and the like are often co-opted into
the academic environment as they gain notice.
consequence of the rise of academic classical music has been increasingly dull
and lifeless performance practice, and vanishing audiences. Academic musicians
bemoan the lack of a sufficiently cultured public, and redouble their efforts
to educate audiences. For example, the practice of lecturing during concerts is
ubiquitous now. This does nothing,
however, to make the performances more exciting and captivating.
there anything that can be done before the academics succeed in killing off a
great musical tradition? It's possible that some musicians will rise to the
occasion and provide the public with thrilling performances that attract large
audiences. People do not need to be educated to like any music. If a
performance is exciting, people will appreciate it. Things are as simple as
Neil F. Paynter is a composer and performer.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.