“It’s not that people don’t like classical music. It’s that they don’t have the chance to understand and to experience it.” – Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Mozart. Beethoven. Bach. These are names you’ve probably heard orchestra students say in the halls, but do you really know anything about the people behind those names? Classical music, which concerns most Western music from 1600 to 1900, is a vast genre but is now enjoyed by only a small minority. Only 2.8 percent of albums sold in 2013 are considered classical music. Critics worldwide have expressed their fears that classical music is on death’s door. Despite all this, classical music still affects your life much more than you know.
Almost all music that we listen to today is based on some classical chordal formula. Even the simplest songs have a catchy tune that lines up with a sequence that is pleasant to our ears. Jazz, pop, and especially rock have many classical harmonies that we don’t pick up on while listening. Artists like Adele and Jonny Greenwood, the lead guitarist for Radiohead, were classically-trained musicians who switched over to other genres of music. For all those students who enjoy jazz, many of your favorite artists, such as Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans, spent much of their childhood playing classical music. Classical music provides a base knowledge of music that allows for branching into other genres.
While most classical music is written more for the ear than the eye, some of it still exists on the stage. Opera, for example, still draws audiences around the world despite being a 400-year-old art form. Go to your local AMC Theater and find a live stream in IMAX surround sound of any given opera currently playing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, or go to McCarter Theater to see a live opera. As obsolete as classical music seems in this day and age, you still have access to it should you choose to indulge in it.
Even at PHS, classical music is all around us. We have three orchestras, one of which—PHS Orchestra—tours internationally. –This year, PHS Choir and PHS Orchestra collaborated to perform L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (The Bewitched Child) by Maurice Ravel, an impressionist classical opera.
Though many would consider classical to be dead and replaced by other genres, it is still being created to this day. Contemporary composers like John Williams, Robert Moran, and Philip Glass still write pieces that debut at Carnegie Hall or accompany blockbuster films. As an art form that has developed throughout the centuries to fit the needs of the listener, classical music will likely never vanish from modern society and instead flourish as the basis for the music that continues to brighten our lives.