In Depth

Classical Music

It is sadly a primarily vacuous pop culture we currently live in. What place has classical music got in youth culture, or, for that matter, in main stream culture, today? Research in 2002 said that genre boundaries are breaking down and young people are ‘seeking music of many kinds … they are open to adventure’. Based on these findings Levi Jeans broadcast an advertisement using a backing track of a re-scored Sarabande by Handel and claimed to be the first to ‘sell lifestyle to under-twenties’ using classical music. Has this trend stuck? Apparently not. I asked 20 students aged 18-25 how they feel classical music is presented to their age group by the media, not one of them said it was easily accessible and all felt that the media does little, if anything to promote classical music or attempt to integrate it into mainstream awareness.

Various artists try to bridge this gap. Vanessa Mae, the original crossover artist ‘defined the fusion of classical and pop’ and posed in scandalously fashionable clothes on her album releases. More recently (think way back to the Christmas holidays) Big Brother housemate Calista was labelled as the ‘classical musician’ as if it were some sort of alien lifestyle choice; it seems we as a nation aren’t really sure what to make of such foreign entities. This said, we embraced Charlotte Church, our singer extraordinaire who now presents her own TV program and graces the pages of Hello and OK!.

Glyndebourne has become the first British opera house to show their productions in mainstream cinemas. For the price of an Odeon ticket Joe Bloggs and his friends will be able to watch world-class opera on the big screen. This epic development in the world of opera is a step towards making classical music more accessible and moving away from the perceived elitism of this genre.

With the 30th anniversary of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition last weekend, what better time to delve into the world of classical music. A time when young musicians come together to showcase their outstanding talent and compete for this coveted title. They are unusual in their artistry but less so in their enjoyment of the classical tradition than may be expected among young people. Only two of those I spoke to said they have absolutely no interest in classical music, the remaining 18 said that at the very least they appreciate it because they were introduced to it at a young age. Recurring again and again was the comment that people like to listen to classical music to relax or work to.

This got me thinking; there must be something about this particular tradition of music that allows people to zone out, switch off, or lose themselves. Mind you, with our current culture of incessant background music filtering into every walk of life, we’ve trained ourselves to tune out. There must be something more, something that draws people in. I have come to the conclusion that classical music is so far removed from our daily grind that for some it feels like a refreshing relocation to a hassle free world. In a word: escapism. We live in an age of instant sensory satisfaction; with our short attention spans popular music is ideal for a quick fix. But for those of us who like something a little different, something that carries with it age old traditions, something to stimulate or switch off from, classical music holds the answer.