Why is Classical Music Undervalued by Younger Generations?

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Mark Antony Owen
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Why is Classical Music Undervalued by Younger Generations?

Post by Mark Antony Owen » Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:46 am

Why is Classical Music Undervalued by Younger Generations, and How Can This Be Changed?

Article by David Chesky of Chesky Records

Classical music in America is in danger of being left behind, despite all we gain in its exercise. How can a symphonic orchestra be pertinent to a young person in a large urban city or satellite-fed suburbs when our orchestras, as great as they are, do not reflect our American culture. So, how do we expect young people to be remotely interested in this art form that has little context within contemporary society?

In Europe, Classical music is the primary music. Children are exposed to it and taught it from an early age; thus, it has context in a young person's life. Each generation develops a musical vocabulary, as well as an aesthetic taste for Classical music. In America, if a young person listens to Classical music, it is too often accidental. For American youth, Classical music is too far removed and little-exposed - representing a culture four-thousand miles away and over one-hundred years old. Since it’s rare to have music taught in schools anymore and a child will most likely not be exposed to it on MTV, Classical music is a scarcity. It is like Americans waking up one morning and someone asking them why they do not listen to Tibetan Tuvan throat-singers. We’ve simply lost a cultural value for Classical music, as our society tends to devalue so much that is ‘old.’

Pop music, whether one likes it or not, is a big part of our culture. Jazz is as well, to a less-broad extent, and created here through the expressive exchange of diverse backgrounds. But, we have never really nurtured our own American symphonic music. Most orchestras are merely aural museums giving us a peek into another period of time and culture. Most music American orchestras play was written prior to World War II by European composers. We act as if Classical music has gone as far as it can, and there’s nothing more for it accomplish or discover. This isn’t true. Classical music has much to offer, both as it exists and in what it could become. Given the research showing how intellectually beneficial listening to Classical music is for children, with the single act of reintroducing Classical music to our youth we stand to gain exponentionally. First, it’s actually good for children’s cognitive development, then it will become part of their experience and have value again. More children will become Classical musicians, there will be more of a demand and audience for their work, and with this comes room for experimentation and growth.

Symphonic music of every generation and culture still needs to reflect the listeners' society. An analogy is when I recently went to Thailand, I had the privilege of hearing the most proficient Thai orchestra. Regretfully, as interesting as it was, I had no context in my musical vocabulary background to relate to or understand it in any visceral or intellectual way. Such is the case with the modern orchestra movement here in America. There must be some motif that connects the music to the world in which we live.

If we are to go forward to keep both this industry and this art form alive, young children must be exposed to and educated in Classical music whenever and wherever we are able to do so. We have to do everything possible to reinstate music – as a mandatory curriculum - in our nation's public schools. Empty concert seats should be filled with students. (I wish my local Philharmonic had a table set up with flyers in St. Marks Place in NYC .) There needs to be a direct dialogue between schools, orchestras, and community. Money alone will not solve this problem. Also, we have to encourage young composers to take up this art form and create a sound to which their generation can relate. Our own American sound must be nurtured, as well. We must adapt and make orchestra concerts an interesting and intimate experience for the younger generation.
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Post by david johnson » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:00 am

'In Europe, Classical music is the primary music. Children are exposed to it and taught it from an early age; thus, it has context in a young person's life. Each generation develops a musical vocabulary, as well as an aesthetic taste for Classical music. In America, if a young person listens to Classical music, it is too often accidental. For American youth, Classical music is too far removed and little-exposed - representing a culture four-thousand miles away and over one-hundred years old. Since it’s rare to have music taught in schools anymore and a child will most likely not be exposed to it on MTV, Classical music is a scarcity. It is like Americans waking up one morning and someone asking them why they do not listen to Tibetan Tuvan throat-singers. We’ve simply lost a cultural value for Classical music, as our society tends to devalue so much that is ‘old.’

this is very close to what i believe. i would also say that much 'serious' music requires more than the few-minutes-long pop tune time frame young ears are used to...yet they can enjoy longish music as in repetitive praise choruses used in some churches.
a bright sign in my 'neck of the woods' is that i have several students in various grades who have undertaken to teach themselves 'fur elise, mvt 1 of moonlight sonata, etc.'...they play it by ear. all i did was give away some old lps and cds. they are doing this by ear and are in grades 11, 8, and 2. they are not related.
i'm mulling over how i can expand this nice surprise to reach more of their peers. the kids i mention dig the same pop stuff others do, their tastes are just broader.
i've found many kids will really like loreena mckennitt once they listen to her. her 'highwayman' runs 10 min. and i've used it (with a lyrics sheet) to expand the 'listening envelope' several times.
i suspect the 'undervalued' situation can be remedied by a tangential approach rather than a headon assault.

dj

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Post by keaggy220 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:27 am

Clearly, spending more on education is not the answer. I just recently saw a report on how the U.S is spending, on average, $10,000 per student a year for public education. I send my 6 year to a private school for 1/2 that amount and the difference in the education she is receiving is pretty remarkable - including reading music in kindergarten and learning an instrument starting in 1st grade. As with any monopoly, our public education system is bloated and lacking passion.

Schools are only one part of the problem... Our kids are bombarded on an hourly basis with the music that they "should" be listening to in the form of millions of dollars in advertising from popular record lablels.

Maybe we can do something hip like rename some our most beloved composers - like Ludjiggy van Beatendownthehouseoven, ha fit that on a t-shirt.

Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:42 am

I dunno - when I was a kid I didn't like classical music either. Or, I should say, I wasn't interested in it. And I thought opera was a lot of screaming by fat people.

And, perhaps, more or less, it will ever be thus.

The youth have their own music - their own language - their own dress code, and so on.

It takes the maturation process to allow these kids to acknowledge other worlds around them and to have the courage (yes, courage) to disregard convention and go their own way - and classical music is part of those other worlds and those other conventions (in this country particularly).

Every generation looks upon the one(s) behind them as ignorant, slovenly in thought and habits, loose, etc. It always was better "in the old days." Never changes.

Today's children are tomorrow's adults and also tomorrow's classical music enthusiasts - they just need time to grow up.

Mark Antony Owen
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Post by Mark Antony Owen » Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:56 am

Febnyc wrote:Every generation looks upon the one(s) behind them as ignorant, slovenly in thought and habits, loose, etc. It always was better "in the old days." Never changes.

Today's children are tomorrow's adults and also tomorrow's classical music enthusiasts - they just need time to grow up.
Lot of truth in this, I'm sure.
"Neti, neti."

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Post by DavidRoss » Sat Jun 10, 2006 9:44 am

They don't know what they're missing. Trying to cram it down their throats in school won't work any better than trying to force them to appreciate history, literature, art, economics, political theory, botany, etc. If you want kids to develop an interest in classical music, then keep it from them--make it contraband, no one under 21 allowed. Record stores should have a separate area cordoned off with I.D. required for admittance. Prosecute clerks who sell to minors.

A completely different approach would be to aim at preschoolers--get 'em hooked when they're young. Have a Sesame Street for classical music, complete with puppets and folks dressed up like animals. Imagine guest appearances, with Harnoncourt dressed like a big turtle, Quasthof in a frog suit, Lang Lang playing a Mexican jumping bean, Hilary Hahn as the fairy princess during classical music story time....
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:10 am

I see plenty of young people at concerts in New York City. Several of my son's friends play instruments and enjoy classical music but not as their main interest.

I'm skeptical about claims that the youth of Europe are enamoured with classical music. They may be more exposed than our kids are but I see little evidence that more than a minority become devotees at a young age.
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keaggy220
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Post by keaggy220 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 12:23 pm

So don't expose kids to classical music? I dunno.

I like your second approach better - expose kids early and the few that really enjoy it could take electives that will further their studies.
DavidRoss wrote:They don't know what they're missing. Trying to cram it down their throats in school won't work any better than trying to force them to appreciate history, literature, art, economics, political theory, botany, etc. If you want kids to develop an interest in classical music, then keep it from them--make it contraband, no one under 21 allowed. Record stores should have a separate area cordoned off with I.D. required for admittance. Prosecute clerks who sell to minors.

A completely different approach would be to aim at preschoolers--get 'em hooked when they're young. Have a Sesame Street for classical music, complete with puppets and folks dressed up like animals. Imagine guest appearances, with Harnoncourt dressed like a big turtle, Quasthof in a frog suit, Lang Lang playing a Mexican jumping bean, Hilary Hahn as the fairy princess during classical music story time....

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Post by Wallingford » Sat Jun 10, 2006 1:12 pm

In part, it has to do with the appreciation of a good MELODY. Generations of kids of the last 40 years have unknowingly phased out the knowledge & stimulation of a good TUNE, eschewing it in favor of socially-relevant LYRICS......that's the first thing youngsters now unconsciously look for.

Part of this has to do with the brainwashing done by pop-music critics & the artists themselves (performing personality is also an achievement of the latter). I remember 12 years ago a movement initiated by the MENC called, The Campaign To Get America Singing Again. When this program was introduced, a wiseass rock critic offered his "alternative list," including the Isley Brothers' "Fight The Powers That Be" and other incendiary anthems.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 1:40 pm

Wallingford wrote:In part, it has to do with the appreciation of a good MELODY.
I agree. Start'em on an early diet of Schoenberg.

Seriously, I am inclined to agree with Ralph's observation about Europe. However, I would not generalize from what he observes in New York. The concert audience in Baltimore, for instance, was pretty geriatric at the time I left (average age much older than the average age of the performers).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:37 pm

Why is Classical Music Undervalued by Younger Generations?
Because it wasn't valued in a meaningful way by previous generations. It's like what the statisticians say to the people who want to throw ever increasing piles of money at the public education system to produce results no different from those of the last 40 years: if money were the key, the results would be different; the stats say that where learning is valued in the home and examples are set for the little darlings, the results improve dramatically. It don't matter how rich or poor the parents or how much money is larded on it after the basic tools are provided: no interest at home, bad results; interest at home, good results.
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:44 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Wallingford wrote:In part, it has to do with the appreciation of a good MELODY.
I agree. Start'em on an early diet of Schoenberg.

Seriously, I am inclined to agree with Ralph's observation about Europe. However, I would not generalize from what he observes in New York. The concert audience in Baltimore, for instance, was pretty geriatric at the time I left (average age much older than the average age of the performers).
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:47 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Why is Classical Music Undervalued by Younger Generations?
Because it wasn't valued in a meaningful way by previous generations. It's like what the statisticians say to the people who want to throw ever increasing piles of money at the public education system to produce results no different from those of the last 40 years: if money were the key, the results would be different; the stats say that where learning is valued in the home and examples are set for the little darlings, the results improve dramatically. It don't matter how rich or poor the parents or how much money is larded on it after the basic tools are provided: no interest at home, bad results; interest at home, good results.
I have no "statistics" to back me up, but just from general observation and living, I agree. And the sad thing is, well, what is to be done?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:55 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I have no "statistics" to back me up, but just from general observation and living, I agree. And the sad thing is, well, what is to be done?
Kids have to hear it in the home from the time they are born, if not before, and see their parents making time to listen and to enjoy the quiet and the music. From what I see of kids today, they are scheduled and planned within an inch of their lives in all kinds of activities designed to expand their awareness of the world and allow them to burn off excess energy. Why not make a quiet space for family enjoyment of beautiful classical music?
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 3:11 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I have no "statistics" to back me up, but just from general observation and living, I agree. And the sad thing is, well, what is to be done?
Kids have to hear it in the home from the time they are born, if not before, and see their parents making time to listen and to enjoy the quiet and the music. From what I see of kids today, they are scheduled and planned within an inch of their lives in all kinds of activities designed to expand their awareness of the world and allow them to burn off excess energy. Why not make a quiet space for family enjoyment of beautiful classical music?
Maybe. Of course I am a cradle musician, but in terms of my appreciation of classical as opposed to other forms, it developed quite arbitrarily and it did not have to go that way (my father is really quite plebeian in this respect with little knowledge of the classical repertory). I can distinctly remember my family's first classical recording. It was nothing more elaborate than the Overture to Carmen, and I was bored with it within five measures (at the age of, I guess, six). On the other hand, that was just before I began taking piano lessons. I know that people like you and Ralph and many others here are not "active" musicians, but I do wonder if that is not what makes the crucial difference for some people.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Jun 10, 2006 3:15 pm

I would be interested to hear from our members in Europe, Asia and Australia if they think that the average child in their countries grows up with classical music as part of his/her heritage, and upbringing, more so than most American children.
Donald Isler

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 3:23 pm

Donald Isler wrote:I would be interested to hear from our members in Europe, Asia and Australia if they think that the average child in their countries grows up with classical music as part of his/her heritage, and upbringing, more so than most American children.
I agree. I hope we hear from all five of them. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Lark Ascending » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:19 pm

I wasn't brought up to appreciate classical music, it was something I discovered quite by accident last year. I don't have any children, but in Britain, where at time the class system still prevails, I would say that classical music is more likely to find favour in the more expensive private, as opposed to State funded, schools, This doesn't help towards dispelling the "music for snobs" tag it often gets unfairly labelled with. So as far as my country goes, no, I don't think British kids do grow up with classical music as part of their heritage unless they attend the sort of educational establishment that caters for this type of music.
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

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Post by Agnes Selby » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:28 pm

Donald Isler wrote:I would be interested to hear from our members in Europe, Asia and Australia if they think that the average child in their countries grows up with classical music as part of his/her heritage, and upbringing, more so than most American children.
---------------------

Dear Donald,

It is a very difficult question to answer although we
lived in America for 9 years. I am unable to give a comparison.

I can only speak for Australia
where music is part of the educational system. Most schools
have their own orchestras as well as bands. Children are exposed
to music from an early age. However, I am unable to speak for the
whole continent of Australia as the educational system varies from
State to State.

The love of classical music is also dictated by economic circumstances, ethnic beliefs and the influence of music heard on radio and TV. This is due to the same influences and the same rock artists who are popular in the USA. For the young it is easier to understand the beat of popular music
than a Beethoven sonata.

I think, here in Australia, the response to classical music is the same
as it ever was. The education is there for all children to enjoy and to participate in music. There are many Eisteddfods (competitions),
schools perform every year at the new Olympic venue or at the Sydney Opera House, but it is still up to the individual what musical preference he will carry into adulthood.

Regards,
Agnes.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:28 pm

Lark Ascending wrote:I wasn't brought up to appreciate classical music, it was something I discovered quite by accident last year. I don't have any children, but in Britain, where at time the class system still prevails, I would say that classical music is more likely to find favour in the more expensive private, as opposed to State funded, schools, This doesn't help towards dispelling the "music for snobs" tag it often gets unfairly labelled with. So as far as my country goes, no, I don't think British kids do grow up with classical music as part of their heritage unless they attend the sort of educational establishment that caters for this type of music.
I'm sure that's the kind of response Donald was hoping for, and thanks. BTW we do know that what we call "private schools" are called "public schools" there, and what we call "public schools" are called "comprehensive schools." And I teach "maths," not "math."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Mark Antony Owen » Sat Jun 10, 2006 5:35 pm

Music education in the average UK comprehensive school is a joke. It certainly was in mine, and from what I keep hearing from those with an eye (and ear) on things, it's not improved. Our music master could not have been a more disinterested man: someone who had convinced himself - through cynical experience - that kids weren't bothered about learning serious music; that they just needed to copy out stuff from text books, leaving all but the privately tutored and exceptionally talented to pass in the subject while everyone else failed. It was a disgrace, and I feel cheated. Had music been taught with enthusiasm when I was at school, I'd have certainly pursued it with more interest earlier on. As it was, it was treated as dry and scholarly, and not something with which we 'plebs' needed to concern ourselves. :x

And for what it's worth, I agree with Corlyss: music should be present even before birth. Not just classical, but many varieties. And yes, setting aside some quiet time is definitely important. I think Corlyss will know exactly what I mean if I quote Heindel here: 'Noise destroys poise'. :wink:
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Post by Donald Isler » Sun Jun 11, 2006 7:23 am

Thank you, Agnes, and British friends, for your interesting observations.
Donald Isler

Lark Ascending
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Post by Lark Ascending » Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:21 am

jbuck919 wrote:I'm sure that's the kind of response Donald was hoping for, and thanks. BTW we do know that what we call "private schools" are called "public schools" there, and what we call "public schools" are called "comprehensive schools." And I teach "maths," not "math."
In responding to Donald's query I typed the words that came to me, which did not include public school, or any of several terms for British state schools. I didn't for one moment imagine that my choice of language would be taken as an insult to your intelligence. I'm sorry for any offence I have inadvertently caused and will endeavour not to repeat the error in future posts.
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:26 am

Lark Ascending wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I'm sure that's the kind of response Donald was hoping for, and thanks. BTW we do know that what we call "private schools" are called "public schools" there, and what we call "public schools" are called "comprehensive schools." And I teach "maths," not "math."
In responding to Donald's query I typed the words that came to me, which did not include public school, or any of several terms for British state schools. I didn't for one moment imagine that my choice of language would be taken as an insult to your intelligence. I'm sorry for any offence I have inadvertently caused and will endeavour not to repeat the error in future posts.
You did not insult my intelligence, nor could you. I was being silly and show-offish and it is I who should apologize.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Lark Ascending
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Post by Lark Ascending » Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:37 am

That's quite all right, it's obviously one of those "internet moments" - face to face conversation would resolve such misunderstandings in seconds :)
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

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Situation in Europe

Post by PJME » Sun Jun 11, 2006 5:08 pm

I definitely cannot speak for all the different school systems in Belgium, the Netherlands or France...; But basically the level of classical music studies is below zero. In Belgium expensive private schools (Steinerschools Freinet schools...) do try to give a musical education ,including the playing of an instrument. But for most pupils that is already too heavy. In other schools it is minimal: 1 year( or 2 year, depending on the choices made) of basics (=playing simple melodies on a recorder, some history & some info on classical instruments). Fortunately local music schools (Muziek academie - run by the municipality- evening/WE schools) are rather cheap and do very well, attracting not only youngsters, but also grown ups .Fanfares, wind orchestras and brass bands form another important basis for musical education. Orchestras, operahouses and ,especially "Jeugd en Muziek /Jeunesses musicalles" organise and attract an already curious-more or less- prepared public for stages, workshops etc. What we have of youth orchestras is organised by "Jeugd & Muziek".
tickets for concerts are usually well subsidised and cheap for students (much cheaper than Pop/Rock concerts!)
In many schools however, love& interest for music, art, architecture..even maths...depends entirely on the odd individual teacher (it could be any kind of teacher) .
Maybe only in Hungary, the Czech republic, possibly Finland (and Germany?) "classical" music is tought from a very early age(Kindergarten!!). Like Zoltan Kodaly,I like to think that it all starts with singing & overcoming the fear of "being/feeling ridiculous" .(and then we would have less posters who dislike/despise choral music...!)

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Post by rogch » Mon Jun 12, 2006 8:58 am

I don't think it is very difficult to get young children interested in classical music, or other kinds of music for that matter. They are often very open-minded. The problems perhaps begin when children become teen-agers. Then their taste is not always personal, but defined by the groups they belong to. And teenagers often wants to revolt against older generations, and then classical music gets a problem: It is by many young people seen as old-fashioned and the music of the establishment. Luckily many people develop their own personal taste when they get a little older and perhaps return to classical music.

Here in Norway i quite often heard classical music when i was young, both at school and at home. I enjoyed it too. I reportedly loved the rite of the spring, but i was so young i can't remember it myself. Then came a period when classical music just was boring of the reasons mentioned above. When i grew up, i started listening to it again, although other kinds of music took more of my time. But a few years ago i became totally addicted and here we are....

I think classical music has an image problem, both among younger people and in general. It often seems polished, established, perhaps even snobbish. And the fact that the most celebrated composers have been dead for decades or centuries doesn't help either. What is needed i think is to make people aware of the passion behind classical music, the "blood, sweat and tears", the conflicts of ideas, the thoughts behind the works. And the diversity. Opera isn't just fat people singing 18th century Italian melodramas. It is also the political drama of Händel's Julius Cäsar and the surreal "What next?" by Elliot Carter. And the scandals surrounding Cossi van Tutte would make most rock stars blush.

When i was in my teens i enjoyed electronic music. I actually did not know then that several classical composers have also made electronic music. Many heavy meatal bands like classical music, let them talk about it. Lots of things can be tried.
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