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The Music Column

From This Culture, They Say You Are Leaving

The statistics that break down the consumption of music into types and groups are not very comforting to consider.  But if we really want to know what the musical situation is, rather than to entertain a fantasy of what it ought to be, we would have to acknowledge the realities of musical art in our postmodern age of digitalization.  With so much easily available, the public demand for “classical music” and the fans of jazz together constitute roughly five percent of the music trade.  That may explain a few things about what everybody knows to be true: There has been a collapse in the position of serious music.

That would mean much about the status of orchestras, opera houses, and choral institutions.  That would mean that National Public Radio only feebly waves a flag at which few salute.  That would mean that the people from whom jazz was developed don’t listen to it, by and large.  And the situation means more.

The celebrity that was formerly accorded to such musicians as Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Jascha Heifetz, and Leonard Bernstein is not likely to be seen again.  Walt Disney was a success, in a manner of speaking, as a vehicle for uniting elite values with popular ones, or highbrow with lowbrow.  If we lived once in a situation in which Stokow ski and Mickey Mouse could get together, that challenged unity is but a dim memory.

The tutelary...

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