A Classic Case of Traditional vs. Contemporary

Yesterday while at a city luncheon, our guest speaker was Joel Smirnoff, the president of the Cleveland Institute of Music.  A very intelligent man on the history and art of classical music, Joel’s presentation was titled, “Music and the Young Musician, Past and Future.”

As Joel talked about his musical upbringing, he then contrasted it to the upbringing of today’s classical music student, intrinsically tied to the technological age.  Today’s student has a far greater ability to experience the wide variety of classical music with just a click of a button, while at the same time losing some of the depth and soul to each piece’s originator.

Joel then went on to talk about the need for classical music to once again reconnect with the younger generations around us…allowing today’s young, classical musicians to “break the boundaries.”

Though I began to wonder at what extent will “the powers that be” allow today’s classical musician to break the rules.  Since these students are from the technological age of electronics, will the traditionalists allow these same electronic devices to find their way in the orchestra pit as a standard instrument?  Will we one day allow for the turntable to sit alongside the violin?  And if so, to what extent can you break the rules before you no longer honor the purity of the term “classical?”

As with Smirnoff, I don’t believe classical music will ever become mainstream in our culture.  However, until they allow for greater, current-cultural connection and boundless experimentation, they will never reach a younger audience at the level Joel hopes for (in my opinion).

Can you think of other parallels within culture where the traditionalists are seeking to connect with a younger generation, yet to constricting on how to get there?  And how far is “too far” before it is no longer “pure”?

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~ by Dave Smith on April 17, 2010.

3 Responses to “A Classic Case of Traditional vs. Contemporary”

  1. Such an interesting topic to me. Thanks for bringing it up. Maybe the issue is not always fine tuning things to make sure it fits into what every single person wants (not saying a little tweaking is bad) but simply exposure. How much classical music to younger people get exposed to in their first ten to twelve years of life? I would guess very little. If everyone grew up listening to classical music, there would be more fans…not everyone would love it, but certainly more. I see the church the same way. Perhaps the younger generation is not getting the same exposure to the message that previous generations did. I do not mean exposure through church but in personal relationships. Maybe we are so focused on “designing” our approach to reaching young people that we are putting up barriers to actually building real intimacy with them. I would argue that most people of faith would name a person or two that impacted their walk with God in a big way not a specific church service that they remember.

  2. Interesting point Bryan…showing how we can be so focused on the programmatic relevance, that we lose the true purity of the “one anothers” and simple disciplemaking.

  3. You’re always so encouraging in your responses Dave, which I love. In keeping with the theme of your original post, classical music does not necessarily need to be changed in order to meet the expectations of a given audience…it just needs to be more intentionally introduced…same with the church. Personal relationships just make that introduction more real. Still not going to win everyone over to classical music or to Christ but that’s the beautiful/heavy reality of individual choice

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