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Classical music, fear, and the radio

The New York Times has published a nice essay urging people to get over their fear of classical music and just enjoy the genre. The piece does not say anything that doesn’t get said once every five years or so in some prominent venue. But it does say it well. Miles Hoffman notes the existence of the “Classical Music Insecurity Complex,” in which people disqualify themselves from even admitting whether they like a composition or not, for fear that they lack the education to do so.

The article drew a supportive letter from classical radio host Sam Goodyear:

As a musician, a music teacher and an announcer of classical music on the radio, I often get the apologetic “I don’t know anything about music” confession along with the perceived shame in such an admission. I like to point out that Handel didn’t write for musicians any more than Shakespeare wrote for playwrights or actors, or teams in the National Football League play for football players.

If their audiences were that limited, concert halls and theaters and stadiums would be nearly empty. In all cases, the aim is bringing pleasure and excitement to people, and opening doors to exploration and discovery into the bargain.

I wonder how many more centuries this dilemma will last. It really does feel like some kind of eternal condition that will never go away. Hoffman places some of the blame on stuffy complicated lectures presented before concerts and incomprehensible program notes. I think it’s got a lot to do with how isolated classical music has become. It mostly gets played in classical music halls and on classical music radio stations and rarely anywhere else. Even radio stations that play both classical music and jazz rarely play them together in the program or set. There is this overwhelming sense of separateness to classical music, resulting in the same serial discussion about how to get people to listen to it happening decade after decade after decade . . .

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