Since I have two teenagers at present I have some first-hand, though
anecdotal, information on the subject. The numbers might be small but
PhD theses have been written with more tenuous data than these.
My daughter is not in the least interested in classical music. It is
totally closed to her or seems that way. The appeal of the music she
likes seems to relate to how outrageously the performers dress or behave.
This makes it rather difficult for classical music performers to compete
and, in any case, a classical artist would quickly lose following if he
or she dressed or acted like some typical rappers (I am leaving Nigel
Kennedy out of consideration in this case).
My 14 year old son is amenable to classical music; he can be persuaded
to listen for a short time and recognises some classical themes. This
morning he was playing 'Un bel di' on his iPOD but this is not because
he is a Puccini fan; it is because the song has been used in a Japanese
anime that he likes. This is one way of getting classical music into
He said this morning that 'Un bel di' would be the only operatic piece
he would ever listen to. Like most things said as a teenager that is
unlikely to be true. But the fact that Puccini has a foot in the door
suggests my son's interest might develop. Of course I am forgetting
that he watched at least an act of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and
an act or two of Die Walkure a few months ago; he did not feel unduly
harmed by these exposures. He has also sat through parts of Ariadne auf
Naxos and Elektra without much complaint. Maybe a lot of the spade work
has been done in his case.
Now I think of it I was played the moving 'Gethsemane at Dawn', the
fantastic organ piece by Paul Paviour, to my son in the car. I commented:
"Listen to those wonderful dissonances." My son agreed they were pretty
fantastic then made the interesting comment that he thought adults only
liked "pretty" music and not dissonances. So that opens out another
area of consideration; teenagers think we adults are a race apart in our
appreciation of music. There is lack of understanding on both sides.
Classical music can easily be introduced into the minds of the young
through film and has been for years. I think of Artificial Intelligence
with that marvelous waltz from Der Rosenkavalier playing as the pleasure
island was approached (yes, I unashamedly love Richard Strauss and Der
Rosenkavalier; at my age I can admit it). I also think of John Williams
who said that he only left that piece in the film was because Stanley
Kubrick had wanted it; yet it was far better than anything Williams ever
So what are my conclusions?
* One cannot force classical music into the young.
* It must be introduced by stealth.
* They cannot be made to feel as though they are being put through a
wholesome, educational experience otherwise they will switch right off.
* Motion pictures represent the most effective way to do it without
their being aware of it.
Leon Le Leu