What Reinvention Sounds Like

"Verdi's 'Requiem,'" © 2011 Penn State, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

“Verdi’s ‘Requiem,'” © 2011 Penn State, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Slate‘s Mark Vanhoenacker has declared classical music “dead” in America. I’m not sure if there are other continents or republics where it’s all the rage, but here in the U.S.A., it’s not just in trouble. It’s deceased, passed on, bereft of life.

As John Cleese would say, it’s an “ex-parrot.”

This, of course, is an exaggeration, but only technically. Both financially and in terms of cultural relevance, it’s bad, and there are very few arrows pointing up.

But here’s my theory. Death could be the best thing to happen to the genre. It should be liberating not to have to drag the corpse of a 20th-century institutional structure around behind you all the time. The one thing that remains is the potential to draw people to a musical form that can be anything it chooses to be, supported by institutions that can be anything they want to be, so long as a base of support for them can be built among the people who exist today.

In other words, now that you’re dead, what are you going to do with your life?

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