The death of classical music

I had no idea. Nobody warned me about the terrible news. I am still under shock … Classical music is death.

I can’t believe it.

Oh my!

Did you know it?

Some days ago I was losing my normally unproductive time surfing the web when, suddenly, I stumbled upon an article written by Mr. Mark Vanhoenacker (January 2014) in the digital mag “Slate“. According to that article, “Classical music in America is dead”.

The dreadful news made my hands shake and my coffee fell to the floor. I screamed loud as hell and punched the table. Two or three seagulls who were pretending me to share my breakfast with them flew away with a panic attack …

– Calm down, Covetotop. The article says that classical music is dead in America. It doesn’t say anything about Europe. I am very sorry for America, but it isn’t a global disaster yet -I told myself trying to calm down.

Anxious and severely depressed, I surfed the web again, looking for some info about the situation of classical music in Europe, and I found this: “Will nobody mourn the death of classical music?

It was an article from the British newspaper “The Independent”, written by Mr. Philip Hensher.

I screamed loud as hell again and hit the table furiously with my head. I broke the table.

No doubt. The disaster is global.

Classical Music is dead.

patroness of musicians

– I have to check this news by myself – I told myself trying to calm down.

So, I did what logic dictates to do in this sort of situations: I unfolded my folding bicycle and started to ride it through Europe.

folding bike

Here below is the visual and philosophical account of Covetotop’s deep, emotional, and insightful musical journey.

Santa Cecilia Trastevere

My first stop (pics above and below) was the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere church, in Rome.

Saint Cecilia interior view

Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians. The dead girl in the first pic of this post is the famous sculpture of Saint Cecilia, by Stefano Maderno. The sculpture is exhibited in the same Santa Cecilia church.

The contemplation of such a masterpiece of the baroque sculpture touched my heart and immersed me in the darkest melancholy. Saint Cecilia is Classical Music. Classical Music is dead.

I went on.

Everywhere in Italy I found reminiscences of its wonderful musical past …

Puccini in Lucca

Donizzetti

Mascagni in Rome

Donizzetti Street in Bergamo

Verdi Festival in Parma

In Vatican City, just in front of the Saint Peter’s Basilica, I meditated about the important role of music in church. From Gregorian chant to polyphony …

Saint Peter's Basilica

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical act …” (The Second Vatican Council; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)

Victoria, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner …. All the great masters composed sacred music for the Catholic Church. Even Bach, who was not a Catholic (he was a Lutheran), wrote such an awesome Catholic masterpiece as his Mass in B minor.

Organ 1

Why does the church use from time to time pop and rock tunes as worship music these days? – I wondered very worried.

Organ 2

Oh my! Classical music seems really dead …

Morimur Bach

Btw, the pic above is a Cd containing some Bach music, played by Cristoph Poppen -baroque violin- and The Hilliard Ensemble -choir-

The Cd’s title is “Morimur”, which means “we die”; I have chosen it for this post because that title reflects perfectly the current situation of classical music sales in most countries, including mine. In any case, this wonderful compact disc, edited with extraordinary good taste by ECM, will never die in my personal collection. For more info about extraordinary cds and for more good taste, visit Tyran Grillo’s “Between sound and space

From Italy I rode to Germany. Thanks God I took my old Gore-Tex jacket and hat. It was very cold.

In Nuremberg, the beautiful village of Hans Sachs and his fellows Master Singers, I stopped just to take a self-portrait at the Meistersinger’s church: St Martha’s Church.

What a lovely, funny and entertaining 4 1/2 hours-long opera wrote and composed the great Richard Wagner about Hans Sachs and his amazing Meistersinger von Nürnberg!

Nuremberg

Covetotop is a fan of Richard Wagner, of course.

With Wagner

Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler worked in Leipzig. Johann Sebastian Bach worked in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750, conducting the St. Thomas Church Choir, at the St. Thomas Church, the St. Nicholas Church and the Paulinerkirche.

Covetotop is a fan of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Mahler and, above them all, Bach. Consequently, Covetotop went to Leipzig.

Here below: Covetotop and his gigantic friend JS Bach in Leipzig, just in front of the St. Thomas Church …

Bach in Leipzig

When the American physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, educator, policy advisor, and researcher Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would choose to send from Earth into outer space in the Voyager spacecraft, he answered: “I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.” After a pause, he added: “But that would be boasting.

Bach's tomb, Leipzig

I rode my folding bicycle from Leipzig to Berlin.

Berlin, Neue Philharmonie

On Christmas Day 1989, in Berlin, the great American conductor, pianist and composer Leonard Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was one of the most impressive celebrations of freedom that the World has ever witnessed.

Berlin Wall, old check point

Something happened between the fall of the Berlin Wall and its 20th anniversary. The first occasion was marked by Bernstein conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The second was marked by a band called Tokio Hotel. The idea that the occasion deserved a moment of dignity, or that a great classic occupied that moment of dignity more convincingly than a passing rock band, had no force any longer.” (Philip Hensher, in The Independent)

The marvelous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra normally plays in a concert hall named Neue Philharmonie.

If classical music is dying, soon we’ll see empty concert halls …

Neue Philharmonie interior view

… and empty orchestra pits in opera theaters …

Vienna Opera pit

But not yet, at least in Berlin …

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Berlin has an outstanding opera theater too …

Staats-Oper Berlin

The Spanish great opera singer Teresa Berganza was recently interviewed in the French newspaper Le Figaro. In it she talked about the modern stage directors: “I do not love what they do today, these stagings that respect neither the time nor the music. For me, opera is a religion, and it must be respected as such. Would we say to young people, ‘The painter Tintoretto is too outdated, let’s add some red or bright yellow to them to keep up with the latest trends?’ The ones who do that should end up in prison. We should do the same with some stage directors.”

I totally agree with her. I don’t want to see Fasolt and Fafner disguised as Laurel and Hardy.

Vienna Opera

Perhaps I am a little bit old-fashioned, but I prefer traditional staging in opera …

Mozartotop

From Germany I rode to Austria, the land of …

Oh my! The land of …

I can barely type His name …

Is His music death too?

Is humanity becoming so deaf?

I rode my folding bicycle to the land of … Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart 1

Mozart 2

Mozart 3

Mozart 4

Mozart 5

Mozart 6

Mozart 7

I cannot believe it. Mozart is not any longer with us.

Mozart was here

Brahms’ music is supposedly death too …

Brahms

Schumann’s …

Schumann

Schubert’s …

Schubert 1

Schubert 2

Schubert 3

Mahler’s …

Mahler

My friend Anton Bruckner! (Dear reader, did you read my post “Homage to Anton Bruckner“?)

Bruckner

The Vienna Boys’ Choir … These kids really know how to sing authentic sacred music.

Vienna boys choir

I guess this sad post is almost done.

I just need to add an apotheosis.

Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level.

In other words, apotheosis means … Beethoven.

Beethoven 1

Beethoven 2

Beethoven 3

Beethoven 4

Beethoven 5

Beethoven 6

Beethoven 7

I put a flower in Beethoven’s tomb. “Now I can go home” –I thought.

I went home.

Now, in front of my beloved Mediterranean Sea, drinking a hot coffee at a beach bar, I am typing this long post while I meditate about the death of classical music.

The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Coffee Costa Brava

The German philosopher Oswald Spengler wrote these prophetical words in his book “The Decline of the West”:

One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be -though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain- because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.

My hands are shaking of rage. My coffee falls to the floor.

I scream loud as hell.

I hit the table furiously with my head.

I break the table.

Here comes the waiter.

He throws me out.

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About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
This entry was posted in Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The death of classical music

  1. Tyran Grillo says:

    I will never believe that classical music is dead or dying. I think the Slate article is pure hyperbole. Dying are the opportunities for hearing classical music on its own terms, and the funding to make such opportunities happen.

    • Covetotop says:

      If I really had thought that classical music was dead, I wouldn’t have written this post. But I do think that we are living an age in which culture is no longer regarded as a human good. It is a commodity. Classical music is always damned difficult to play, difficult to produce, it requires a concentration effort from the part of the listener and, as a consequence of all this, it is unprofitable from the economic point of view. Easy music for lethargic audiences is much more profitable. Corporations and politicians both love lethargic audiences. As far as my country is concerned, classical music practically has disappeared from public and private television, magazines, mainstream media … Lady Ga Ga rules the world.

  2. Sarah says:

    I, too, wonder why rock and pop songs are so popular in churches today. Your addition to “The Decline of the West” is only too true, and very sad. Here in the US, the old ways are considered dull and boring. The last couple generations think they know better and can improve everything with their vast knowledge. They don’t seem to take into consideration that they are killing themselves – spiritually, mentally, and physically – with their new ideas. I’m all for getting back to the old paths, music and all. 🙂

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you Sarah for your comment. I have to inform you that yesterday night, a little time after publishing my post, I decided to delete my “addition to The Decline of the West”. Like you, I also thought that it was very sad, and that it ruined the “poetic sense” of the text. Consequently I opted to restore the original version of Mr. Spengler’s quote. As far as the youngest generations are concerned, I am afraid that they aren’t allowed to think by themselves. Others think for them, and dictate them what to consume, what to listen to, what to dress, what tattoos to get, what life to ruin … There are exceptions, of course, and hence there is still hope for the human race 🙂

  3. harri8here says:

    Buenas dias C2T, my coffee soured on first reading, as I shared your frustration and outrage at the world’s increasing – yet manmade – deafness (and blindness for that matter), that you so skilfully and humorously outline. On the second reading, the coffee clagged in my throat; your post reminded me of my shameful ignorance. I happily use classical music to calm my spirits but I know oh so little. On the third reading, I listened to your apotheotic Bruckner’s 4th and was able to savour your words, images … and the dregs of my coffee.
    I do hope you have recovered from the concussion – and that the seagulls have recovered from their shock. Muchas gracias for a superb post.

    • Covetotop says:

      Muchas gracias HR8 for your very kind comment. 🙂 But my face turned red of embarrassment. A Shakespearean lady has read my text three times. My unskilled English exposed three times to a charming expert’s scrutiny. At least I am sure you enjoyed Bruckner’s music very much … I have recovered from my concussion, thank you, but the seagulls apparently haven’t recovered from their shock (they don’t dare to ask me to share my breakfast with them anymore 😦 )

  4. a ferreira says:

    Andante maestoso con spirito! What a post, Covetotop! 🙂

    Classical music is not dead (you just demonstrated it!) and fortunately will never die, as long as there’s mankind.
    The real problem nowadays is not only about Music; it’s about Art, Literature, Culture, Philosophy, History, … They are not suitable for mass-consumers, they are too ‘erudite’, too ‘serious’, even too ‘elitist’.
    Masses need mass-musicians, mass-writers, mass-artists, and mass-so-on: the mass-uncivilised civilisation! 😦 Panem et circenses, now as before.
    Unfortunately, something that will neither ever die, as long as there’s mankind, is human stupidity. It spreads very fast these days, faster and with higher damages than crude on the sea… But there will always be some clear waters left and those which are stained will hopefully in time be renewed, regenerated!
    This kind of society cannot last, History is there to prove it. There was Renaissance, there was Neoclassic, and sooner or later there will be Re-Neo-Something. And of course there’s still a lot of clear (Mediterranean) waters and wonderful (Classical) music left for you to show us! 🙂

    – At least you didn’t break your head! I trust you paid for that table, right? 😉

    • Covetotop says:

      Adagio con molta espressione! Thank you for your comment in A major, Ana! 🙂

      Of course classical music is not dead. “Erudite”, “serious”, “elitist” … those are prejudices used by the evil forces that rule this world to keep people away from thinking and searching by themselves. In fact classics in music, literature, art, philosophy … are entertaining, rewarding, inexpensive (no copy rights; for example http://www.gutenberg.org), easy to access and, above all, classics are DAMN GOOD … It is very dangerous for the evil powers to let people think and make choices by themselves: mediocre creations wouldn’t be profitable any longer.

      I am willing to live the next Re-Neo-Something.

      I didn’t break my stone-head. I did not pay the table. It was not my fault. The table was very flimsy, fragile, jerrybuilt. It was unsuitable for regular use by stone-head clients like me … 😉

  5. Supposing that article is true, what are we going to listen to now on? Probably Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and … – wait a minute, I am not sure, are they singers or …? 😉

    But seriously, classical music can not die. For instance, spend the time to watch this video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg) and see how people are enjoying Beethoven’s music. I know it is in Europe but have you ever seen anyone enjoying any rock or pop concert like that, deeply? I think people wouldn’t less like it if it was taking place in America. I am not against pop, rock, jazz, blues, etc. music (I enjoy listening to them too) but they all were inspired by classical music. Classical music is what we need in the world we are living in today.

    • Covetotop says:

      Great video! That video reflects exactly –and brilliantly- what I was trying to say with my poor words. Thank you for sharing, and thank you very much for commenting.

  6. “But that would be boasting.” Bravo. Great post.

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