Making classical music “trendier” might be the wrong way of getting younger people interested in it. Writing about classical music’s scene in Australia, Daniel Ward in The Spectator suggests that everything about it runs counter to what Gen Y stands for: “Its enjoyment requires lengthy periods — sometimes whole hours! — of disconnection from one’s phone and all forms of social media. Its content cannot be expressed in 140 glib characters”. But he adds that this is exactly “what makes it great”.
Ward says part of the problem is that younger listeners have no patience with “quaint” works with origins in aristocratic entertainment – he mentions a current “youthful antipathy to Mozart”. Instead, he believes they prefer the grittier end of the spectrum: “members of my generation actually itch for Shostakovich — they’re just waiting for another young’un to make the first move.” And he suggests Gen Y would not take exception to Cage and might ‘flock” to concerts of Stockhausen’s helicopter music, which “would be, like, weirdly awesome and, like, make for a totes cool Facebook post.”
It does not help either, thinks Ward, that classical concerts typically “are full of parents (or, more accurately, grandparents and great- grandparents)”, and that a Bach concert can look like “the three-o’clock bingo at a retirement home”.
The answer is not to try popularising classical music, he argues – “rock musicians do rock music much better than orchestras”. Instead it must start with education, which requires a school music pedagogy “that doesn’t genuflect to the tastes of teens” and purges the “bilge” contained in the former governments draft national music curriculum.