The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Guest Headshot

Classical Music is NOT Dead

Posted: Updated:

In recent times classical music has been referred to as dead. I disagree.

I have been referred to by various others as naïve on this subject; I sit in the concert hall, beaming blissfully happy, utterly content listening to live music without a care in the world; for me, every piece of music takes me on an emotional journey, it can ruin me, it can take me to other places it makes me smile - I smile far too often in the concert hall; aside from my contented happiness, I don't think classical music is dead.

The BBC Proms 2012 season is in full swing and this year I've felt the audience more alive than ever. Something has risen from the grave yard of culture, what is it? - Honestly, I have no idea but I think the "ageing, well-dressed audience" cliché, and the death of classical music is becoming a little bit of a misconception most likely perpetuated because this art is no longer central to popular culture.

Unfortunately those 'guards' of classical music or "arrogant dinosaurs", as Andrew Mellor recently describes in an article for the New Statesmen on elite audiences, are still around in vast numbers; the ones who tell you to 'shut up' if you dare breathe during the slow movement of Beethoven's fifth but things are changing. Classical music has gone a bit 'indie' and I bloody love it.

Classical music is going through another growth spurt, constantly growing.

I can understand the worried faces of the concert hall's management though I can't but think it's all a little over-dramatic. The last season has seen a real breadth of repertoire in the major concert halls and opera houses which have attracted vast amounts of young audiences, all keen to hear more and embark on a real cultural journey. And, we must remember, classical music is a part of culture, a big part. Orchestras such as the Aurora Orchestra and London Contemporary Orchestra have dragged those skinny-jean wearing, long haired culturists back in the stadium of classical music with their contemporary flairs which, in turn, attempts to engage them in the classics. Operas in the Linbury Studio and in warehouses in Shoreditch have done the same. This 'over-dramatic' outlook by concert hall management and artistic teams has really pushed everyone into a new realm with the realisation that classical music has been 'stuck in the mud' for a little while and now needs to make a bigger effort to engage and be inviting - I think this has had great success.

But, while the main London season is over, let's go back to the Albert Hall and the BBC Proms. The audience is the most open, inviting, engaged and ecstatic audience I have ever come across - nothing compares - really. This open, transparent air transcends to the players and therefore music making and listening is easier to comprehend.

While heading into the hall to hear Rachmaninov's Second Piano concerto I caught up with three lads, one of them wearing ripped jeans and a vest, he was nineteen and I asked him why he chose to spend his evening at the BBC Proms, he replied with "Dude, it's Rach 2" - Are you a music student? - "No, I was just in Kensington and the ticket was a fiver" - proof enough? It's true, the BBC Proms have a certain appeal that perhaps other concert series do not but the Proms can feed their audiences into other halls and this, surely, happens.

Youth is thriving in this art form as it is in other specialist art forms and we should be proud that things are changing for the better. As for the man in the bow tie and white hair who has come to enjoy some good old fashioned Mozart: good on you, sir! You're the most fashionable here.

Lastly, I just want to point out, that we cannot compare classical music and football. Football is a whole other ball game (excuse the pun, but it really is). It has everything to do with popular culture- Football is a billion pound industry targeting a far bigger audience and classical music doesn't come anywhere close; the same goes for art or architecture or any other specialist art but, on the flip side, I suppose talent is talent, no matter the salary.

Going back to the opening on this blog, this blissful happiness that I get from live music could make me completely unaware of the 'outsiders' perspective - I don't see how anyone can be an 'outsider' - c'mon pull up a chair...

The BBC Proms continues through until the 8 September at the Royal Albert Hall

Around the Web

BBC Proms: Les 24 Violons du Roy/L'Arpeggiata

Proms 2012: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard, Royal Albert Hall ...

Prom 25: BBC SO

Proms 2012: Wallace and Gromit's My Piano Concerto in Ee, Lad, Royal Albert ...

Prom 22: BBC Philharmonic/Noseda – review

Proms 2012: Aldeburgh World Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, review

Proms 2012: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, Royal Albert ...

BBC Proms 15: Smetana orch Szell: String Quartet No. 1; Dvořák: Symphony No. 7