Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Classical music survives, but only teachers and students of the genre listen

Do you want the good news or bad news first? How about both: Classical music survives in a self-sustained, closed loop. Nothing goes in, and nothing comes out. Here’s how I came to that conclusion.

My parents bought a pretty mahogany piano when I was in preschool. My sister began lessons around that time, and I followed soon after. In fourth grade, I took up the violin – never liked it and still don’t. (Cello can hang.) Violin lessons turned into flute lessons two years later, and though I still hadn’t found my soul-instrument, I loved being a damn good flautist for my age.

I blindly gave the flute up to learn trombone for my high school band and developed into a really great player. Without any sort of instruction, I became the top high school trombonist in San Diego.

My sister and I survived on raw musicality and natural talent far longer than any serious musician should. She, despite only beginning private lessons in college, is now the top clarinetist and one of the top musicians at arguably the best music school in the Northwest. As a high school sophomore, I successfully auditioned for a chair in San Diego’s Honor Band after barely a year and a half as a trombonist. The person who beat me? He went to Juliard. I remember the third-chair’s surprise when he asked me how long I’d been playing. I said almost two years. He said almost seven.

I’m bragging only because I have nothing left to brag about and barely had anything to brag about in the first place. My life as a musician is over. I’ve effectively exited the loop, although I wasn’t born into it in the first place. I don’t know exactly when I figured this out, but it was somewhere before my year in the MDB and UA trombone choir, and maybe somewhere in the midst of my two weeks as a potential music school applicant, but other than that, I have no clue.

Classical music survives in a closed loop, for classical musicians serve only themselves. Left alone, it still thrives, but what self-professed source of entertainment wants to be left alone? Success relative to itself will always be considered successful. It takes someone outside the loop to realize the truth.

These days, the world of classical music revolves around two pairs of job descriptions:  The performer and teacher, and the teacher and student. Music teachers teach students, who go on to either perform music or teach it themselves. Music majors around the globe have two tracks to choose from- music performance or in music education.

Nowhere in this cycle will you find a fourth role – a listener. The only people who actively listen to classical music are classical musicians. Listener is synonymous with performer, teacher and student. Of course, there are exceptions, but exceptions only exist because of rules.

It’s hard not to see the downside of this system, yet if you’re a classical musician, it’s probably hard to see the system at all. Music is a medium of sound and silence, a method of communication that yearns to be heard unlike any other.

Music is written to be played and heard, and classical musicians make music for themselves. Outside intrusion doesn’t exist and wouldn’t be allowed, anyways.

Still, the genre has found a way to survive in spite of evolving popular interests. It just had to sacrifice everything that used to be important in order to get there. What good is music made for people who already know it by heart? Why have it when it’s already been had?

Classical music hangs on by a thread, surviving by the dedication of very passionate people who may or may not realize what’s at stake. And again, whether they know it or not, the only way to save it is to preserve it with harsh salts and lock it in an airtight container, halting its growth altogether.

So while classical music sings loud and clear, few people hear it. If you still don’t believe me, prop a chair outside of Moody Music and see for yourself. The only people who leave the building are the ones who enter. No new faces exist outside the first day of school, when freshman music majors replace the newly graduated. If you’re up to it, force your way inside and realize how clearly you don’t belong.

The building, program and people survive on their own. It’s an opinion rooted in observation that anyone can come to believe: Classical music survives in a self-sustained, closed loop. Nothing goes in, and nothing comes out.

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