Music diversity for a new millennium?

Greg Sandow has recently posted a blurb from Ramon Ricker’s blog post, Changing US Demographics and Classical Music.  This is very much an issue and theme I’ve been exploring a bit here.  I especially enjoyed Janis’ comments to Greg’s post.

I’ve had at least one response at Greg’s site get eaten, so i thought I’d go ahead and post my short response to his post here, just in case:

Hmm–I actually thought I posted a comment about this issue on your “City Opera’s back — with an improvising orchestra!” blog post, Greg.  But it seems to have been eaten or something.

I’ve been seeing something along these lines for some years now–having worked on the inside of some presenting organizations and now just playing with non-standard (read: non-Euro-American) ensembles I’m not at all surprised that this would be a trend.

See, when you say “Alt-classical” for years i referred to non-Western “Art” music (e.g. Hindustani raga; Ottoman fasil; Egyptian waslah; Thai piphat) as “Alternative Classical” music.  I guess even wiki has just defaulted to the more cumbersome “Non-Western Classical Music” so…

Point being, with changing demographics, there’s going to be little reason for folks of non-European descent and heritage to favor Western Classical music when they may very well have their own art music traditions (same with pop music).  I think we in the states (and possibly other European countries) overestimate the popularity of both our “high  (e.g. Classical Music) and “low” (e.g. Pop/Rock) art.

There’s a fascinating study of popular music by Deanna Robinson that set out to test the “cultural imperialism hypothesis” (basically the idea that cultural transmission is a one way affair from Western culture to the rest of the world) called Music at the Margins: Popular Music and Global Cultural Diversity that sought to demonstrate how pervasive the cultural imperialism is only to come out with the tentative conclusion that Western pop music isn’t nearly as popular as most people and cultural critics thought.  I tend to agree with that conclusion given my own experiences and what little research I’ve done on my own on the subject matter.

And though it looks as if my response Ramon’s post did indeed get posted, I’ll go ahead and post it here too, for posterity’s sake:

Very nice–love the Gretzky quote.

Rena Shagan, in her ‘96 edition of “Booking and Tour Management” discussed the trend of presenters and presenting organizations to book a more ethnically diverse season. one of the rpesenters she interviewed was bemoaning the fact that he just couldn’t book as many classical music acts as he would like because of this general thrust for diversity.

While I was working as an assistant to the organizer of my university Performing Arts Series in the early 90s I was seeing almost as many presskits for world music/dance/theatre as not.

I don’t think it’s that much of a coincidence that I perform more regularly with an Arabic ensemble in Louisville and a World music group in Indianapolis than with Classical music groups–and I’m seeing a growing number of classically trained musicians performing in groups like these.

Maybe part of that is the growing demand (because of the changing demographics of the US) for non-Western Art Music, or the shrinking demand for Western Classical Music while the universities continue to churn out classically trained musicians–likely it’s both–but it’s happening whether we want it to or not.

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