397 • The Next Generation

Classical music at the turn of the 20th century, before the great schism, was, amongst many other things, a comprehensive reflection of the culture of its day. The older generation was personally connected with the musical traditions of the imminent past and the younger generation was raised and educated in those traditions. Then the world witnessed a seemingly irreconcilable loss of ideals, of vision, and of innocence. After the Great War the old seemed to represent something so undesirable, that the younger generation went another way: dismissing the traditions of the past, searching for new expressions.

The youth felt separated, sought to distance themselves from their parents; elders stood for a world that appeared distant, alien, and abominable. Rebellion without cause was the mind of the young, dissociation from the old and crusty world ~ rock 'n' roll; flower power; sex, drugs, and the former; parents listening to Beethoven - children listening to Beatles ... and the gap widened. At that point, when Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms were mentioned, they seemed to belong to the ominous past, while the future promised fun, freedom, and peace. While parents knew someone who knew Brahms personally, children got high on Elvis, Hendrix, Stones, and the Wiccan of Woodstock. Seduced by Hyperopia - understandable. And making a point in presenting classical music as relevant and valuable was scoffed at ... "look what it brought us, your old world," "Mozart is boring," and "we don't need no education." Misled by Myopia - questionable.

This of course is a substantially simplified narrative, but, and this appears to me as crucial: Today we are basically as far away from the three Bs as our children's generation; it's in the distant past for all of us. And so I believe that today the claim for the importance and relevance of classical music and art can be made on merit alone, without having to refer to tradition, as none is alive; its pursuit by education and cultivation is an exploratory experience for all of us from now on. We do have the obligation and mandate to, in the words of Thomas Mann "assist the new without sacrificing the old."


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