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CLASSICAL  November 2005

CLASSICAL November 2005

Subject:

Re: "Why young people don't like classical music"

From:

Frank Wales <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 18 Nov 2005 01:45:50 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (109 lines)

Deryk Barker responds to me:

>>If you're feeling frustrated by that horrendous run-on sentence, you're
>>feeling only a part of the frustration I felt watching this interminable
>>shot that took about two minutes to convey a simple plot point.  Today,
>>the whole thing would have been over in about fifteen seconds, with
>>editing to cut out all the stuff (walking, fishing for change, dialling
>>and dialling of digits, operating the phone, re-telling of dialogue we
>>had already heard, more walking) that burned our time without advancing
>>the story.
>
>I see no emoticon so I presume you are serious. You want to remove any
>kind of atmosphere from tv/movie entertainment and focus solely on
>'plot' or action?

Absolutely not.  The example I gave wasn't filled with atmosphere, it
was filled with things that were irrelevant.  I specifically made reference
to "advancing the story", which is more dependent on characterization
and setting than mere plot.  If the right way to tell part of a story
is with repetition, inaction, stillness, or time to reflect, that's fine.

I'm not advocating all-action; I'm saying that we're *now* accustomed
to joining the dots in story-telling in ways that we weren't before.
Stories that lead us laboriously through what we know we can figure out
quickly are inherently boring now, even if they weren't at the time.

Note that I made this point not to lionize contemporary movie-makers,
but to provide a counter-argument to the notion that young people who
don't appreciate classical music are somehow broken and need to be fixed,
and that the evidence in favour of that brokenness is their alleged short
attention spans.

"Short attention span" is really just a way of (mis)describing someone
who can interpret a more compressed form of something than a supposed
average person.  This favours younger people who weren't alive when the
older, less compressed forms were commonplace.

(People with a clinically short attention span are different; they *can't*
focus on things they want to concentrate on, any more than someone with
clinically short sight can focus on nearby objects.  At most, only a few
per cent of people have this problem.)

>Yes, it's two hours of my life I'll never get back, but I can't think
>of too many better ways to spend a couple of hours.  Slow as all get
>out, but who cares - I don't.

This isn't about 'pace' or 'slowness', it's about leaving out the stuff
that isn't needed, which changes over time, and which is different for
different audiences.

Media have changed because we, as a whole (as a culture, if you prefer),
have become more adept at making sense of imagery, juxtaposition,
cross-references and other allegedly post-modern art techniques.  Those
techniques are, in part, a reaction to the progressively increasing
onslaught of diverse information that we are subject to in our lives.

Those of us who are older people either get used to these changes, or
get left behind waving our walking sticks indignantly at the receding
world.  The young people who are the subject of this thread don't know
any different, because they've *always* lived in a world with cellular
phones, MTV and jump-cuts; they shoudn't be criticised or found defective
because of that.

>>As an antidote to worries about how awful classical music would
>>sound if it were subjected to MTV-style smash-cuts to eliminate the
>>supposedly-needless notes, I would suggest that there isn't a better
>>example of getting to, and sustaining, the point in any art form
>>than Beethoven's Fifth.
>
>"MTV-style smash cuts" and the genius of compressed form that is the
>first movement of beethoven 5 have little, if anything in common.

Both leave out the parts that aren't needed; "Compressed form" is an
appropriate term for both, and is just what I was getting at.

If you can cut a scene from a movie, or a character from a book, or a
voice from a choir, and the intended effect on the audience is the same,
then that scene, character or voice *ought* to be cut out.  Great writing
and great music is as much about what the creator has the insight, and
the courage, to omit as it is about what they choose to include.

>I (my wife also) am constantly surprised, watching recordings of old
>British tv series, how frequently several major plot incidents happen
>within a single episode, where one's memory would have had them in two.
>And yet the programmes themselves do not seem to move at lightning pace.

Some vociferous fans of 'Doctor Who' claim that their beloved programme
of old has been turned into a soap opera, because the new series brings
significant new characterization into what was generally a plot-driven
show.  In fact, the character-driven writing of the new series has
elevated the show beyond mere adventure to the level of decent drama,
albeit with Daleks.  The old show was good in its time, but the new one
is better today.

And now, back to the point...

Young people who don't listen to classical music don't need to be fixed
because of imagined attention deficits.  Nor, I believe, should classical
music somehow be represented to them as 'worthy' or 'educational' in
order to make them consider it.  Instead, it should be represented as
'damn fine music which has stood the test of time, and survived the
disdain of previous generations, but which might take some effort to
appreciate'.

If music lives up to such a label, people young and old will discover
it and appreciate it without they, or the music, needing to be 'fixed'
at all.

Frank Wales [[log in to unmask]]

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