The vast majority of blogs (and I admit, the ones that are the most fun) are of the outrageous-shocking-appalling-humorous variety...daily snapshots of a world gone mad or brain dead, depending on your point of view. They entertain us and satisfy our need to feel superior, which is easy to do when you watch a clip of, say, Sarah Palin reading crib notes scribbled on her palm during a interview staged on her own behalf. While attempting here to express the urgent NECESSITY of art music to our survival as a species, I realize that no one can really compete with our popular culture for quick digestibility and gratification. Should we even try?
Last night I had a rehearsal with my trio at exactly the same time as the Super Bowl; no surprise that the hall where we have been working was easily available. While a teragatrillion citizens were being stupified by The Who and high sodium snax, we were exploring subtle shades of dynamics and phrasing in Mozart's glorious, quasi-operatic trio for clarinet, viola and piano, and trying to find the intrinsically "right" tempi, colors and moods for a selection of Max Bruch's achingly beautiful pieces for the same instrumentation. This was our third or fourth rehearsal, and the layers of understanding are beginning to build, both collectively and individually. This process takes preparation, patience, willingness, diligence, inspiration and intelligence, and a magical belief that this music WILL at the end of this mutual effort take on a life of its own, and jump out of our hands and hearts into the hungry souls of our listeners where it could possibly nourish them far longer than the corporate happy meal of popular entertainment.
There is a trend now away from older traditions of concert presentation, programming and marketing, the goal being to lure more and younger patrons into the fold. Of course this is sensible, but it's nothing new. Art music presentation has never stood still, it is constantly evolving, as it should. But I think it's a mistake to believe that the answer to this problem of a dwindling audience base exists in dumbing down our aspirations to the level of the popular media-driven culture. There is a big difference between crackers and cassoulet, even though they are both tasty.