If you’re reading this it’s because I’ve set this to auto-post as I will be performing with the IU Southeast Orchestra. We’re performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Majoras well as the short work known as “Blumine” which for a few years served as the second movement to the Symphony before the composer excised the movement from later editions. We will be playing it as the second movement for this performance.
As it stands tonight will only be my second rehearsal with the Orchestra as I was sick with the flu during one week and the previous (what would have been the first) rehearsal was canceled due to weather. I hope to get back to the blogging, but we’ll have to see if I can manage in depth blogging about Mahler while I’m currently occupied with some of the recent projects I’ve been talking about here.
The title here could just as easily have read “Changing US Demographics and Music” but it is the title of a blog that Ramon Ricker had posted some time ago. Mainly the realization that the population on the streets of Amsterdam looke nothing like the audience he was seeing at a Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concert (they were playing Mahler 6).
As we waited for the concert to start, I looked around the hall and noticed that the patrons didn’t look like any of the people we were seeing on the street. The concertgoers were stereotypical “Dutch people,” in my mind—good sized with mostly fair complexions. But the people on the Amsterdam streets were much more diverse. There were many more dark-skinned people—I suppose from Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East. I thought to myself, “The people in the streets can’t be listening to European classical music. I’m not hearing it anyplace out here. The demographic of Amsterdam must be changing. But if it continues to change who will be coming to these concerts in 50 years?”
Now, scroll over to US orchestras? In my mind it’s the same as the Amsterdam example. As I look out at the audience at a Rochester Philharmonic concert, the attendees don’t look the same as the general population of Rochester. I ask myself, “Why were US orchestras formed in the first place?” My guess is that the population was predominately of European descent at that time, and they probably wanted to experience or recreate the culture of their homeland. It felt natural to them.
Thinking about the well-documented changing demographic of the US towards greater numbers of citizens with other than European (read: white) ancestry, I can’t believe that this population, in 50 years or probably less, will want to sit in a concert hall and listen to Mahler. It’s not in their DNA or culture. And that’s not a put down. They also don’t get exposure to this music in schools. If I keep going along this line of thinking, I don’t see a bright future for “classical” music in general or US orchestras in particular. Sure this music will be with us, but will professional musicians be able to make a living playing it? That’s already difficult to do today in all but the largest US cities.
I was tempted to call this the “Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D Major Project” but thought that might incline me to have an end point for the project.
As it stands, what I’ve decided to do (since I’ve decided I should go ahead and do this performance of Mahler 1 with the IU Southeast Orchestra) is start a blog detailing some of my thoughts, trials and tribulations regarding the process of learn, learning about and ultimately performing the work (the concert date, if I’m not mistaken, is 2011 April 17 – so mark your calendars!).
What often happens when I learn a new piece is that I’ll at least learn something about the work. Whether I’m just coaching a group of youths for a performance, or as in this case, learning a work for one of my own performances I will invariable want to find out something about the music and composer (if the latter is possible).