The shrinking Cultural Omnivores issue is an interesting one since they functioned primarily as “swing voters” in the realm of audiences. This sub-population tend to go to both highbrow and lowbrow events, not favoring one over the other–hence the name, “Cultural Omnivores.” Apparently, one of the studies explaining decline has shown that there are fewer and fewer of them, and this population happened to be a significant proportion of Classical Music audiences by some counts.
Another interpretation of the decline of this segment of the total audience population is that there are now fewer “fox” audience members leaving a higher proportion of “hedgehog” audience members to determine the landscape of highbrow and lowbrow audiences. The main interpretation is that, with fewer swing voters, we have audiences moving to the extremes, much as what might be happening with other similar phenomena like the growing disparity between the rich and the poor (both with people, and with arts organizations) because we’re losing the “middle class.”
This is all a separate issue from the reason I’m posting this blog post (now that I once again have net access at home–I have tons of blogging to catch up on). Namely, there’s this interesting comment, from our friend, thad, whom I blogged about a bit ago due to a comment he made about the idea that we needed to bring in the club babes to orchestra concerts to draw in the youth. I’ll let his comment speak for itself:
Music, for the young, is tribal. They need to see people like themselves in the audience if they are to bond with the performance.
The young avoid classical concerts not because the music isn’t cool enough for them, but because the audience is full of deeply uncool old people. Change the latter – directly, by any means necessary – and you’ll awaken interest in the music.
Contrast this with some of the attitudes regarding the obsession with youth culture that I posted here.
While I’m not in the cohort which defines the majority of cultural omnivores, I’m probably as omnivorous (or more so) than most–not just in my tastes for shows and concerts, but also in my choice of groups I perform with–I love that diversity. I love it when I see old people, young people, children, people of all races and ethnic backgrounds coming to the shows I play, or when these are the people I play shows with. If everything turned into a generic hipster homogeneous universe for the Creative Class, then not only would classical music be dead, but pop, jazz, rock, klezmer, bollywood, noise, and the other thousands of musical genres out there.
It would be like a literal “melting pot”–a metaphor I particulaly dislike since as we know, once you melt all the colors together you get this bland purplish-brown hue that’s undifferentiated throughout. Basically you lose all the variety that makes everything exciting and any spice would become irrelevant to the feast since the overwhelming taste is a bland blended mush.