How to Get Young People to Like Classical Music

Classical music is dying! It has been for decades, even generations. You read about it all the time: that young people aren’t interested in classical music, and that there should be a way to get them interested. In a recent article, pianist Stephen Hough suggested that shorter concerts may attract a younger audience.

This is a false problem, however. Young people like all kinds of music: my son is into EDM (electronic dance music), yet he’s been listening to some Satie recently, and is open to other types of classical music, even though he doesn’t go to classical concerts.

I actually discovered classical music by listening to Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, whose Pictures at an Exhibition was intriguing enough that I wanted to hear the original. Of course, those days of bombastic prog rock are gone.

Some people say that “education” is the key. That young people should be indoctrinated to like classical music; brainwashed, as it were. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but that’s what the well-meaning people really mean. That may help, by exposing more young people to classical music, but it’s not the solution.

I’m not sure there is a single solution, but I can think of a few things wrong with the way this question is framed:

  • There is an assumption that classical music is somehow “better” than other kinds of music. This makes it elitist. Tell a teenager to see something elitist and they’ll probably balk; they want to do what their tribe does.
  • There is also an assumption that classical music needs to be “explained,” through pre-show talks, program notes, and presentations. Why? Does jazz need explanation? Does the blues need a pre-show talk? This makes classical music seem difficult, and goes against the idea of it being something people can discover easily.
  • The whole concept of classical concerts as stodgy affairs with musicians wearing tuxes with tails is very off-putting, and underscores the fact that this music is archaic, anachronistic. The obsessive need for silence, no applause after movements, etc., makes the experience daunting.
  • The sheer number of composers, and the names on programs, confuse. Let’s assume that I’m 20 years old, and I’m musically curious. I look at concert listings and I have no idea who most of these composers are. I’ve heard of Mozart and Beethoven, but who the heck is Rautavaara? Who’s this Korngold guy? How do you even pronounce Berlioz? Make thematic programs, build them around an idea, an instrument, a feeling, or something more creative.
  • Cheap tickets for young people are fine, but I would bet most of them are grabbed by music students, so this doesn’t help the musically curious.
  • Integrate conservatories into universities. Students do what their friends do. If people studying business have friends who are into music, they may tag along to see a concert. But if young classical musicians are in a separate educational institution, they won’t have many non-musician friends.

I’m just spitballing a few ideas here, but it’s annoying to constantly read articles about this, most of which simply reinforce the elitist nature of classical music. Most people in the world don’t care for western classical music; we need to accept this. People who do are the 1% of music lovers. This number is not going to magically increase.

64 thoughts on “How to Get Young People to Like Classical Music

  1. Whenever my kids are in the car I play ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima’ on repeat. I’m Hoping to traumatise them into enjoying Alban Berg in later life. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Whenever my kids are in the car I play ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima’ on repeat. I’m Hoping to traumatise them into enjoying Alban Berg in later life. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. I pretty like classical music, although due to iTunes library size I don’t import a lot of them to my library for a while. In Australia purchasing those classical music collection box is a challenge. Just don’t have places to sell them. All over a pops, jazz, all other considered as “noisy” genres.
    I listen to a lot of Japanese pops, especially related to Anime, but classical music can make me feel calm and peaceful. Listening to classical music while doing something else is perfectly fine, while it is not the case when listening to those pops, EDM, etc.
    I don’t have any mature idea on how to teach younger generation to listen to classical music but we can listen to them a lot more to see the reaction of children. If they have interests then good. If not, then maybe they actually are not fond of classical music.
    Classical music is harder to understand, but not that hard as other people says. Just dont listen to classical while walking on a noisy street or busy commute train. I think there should be a right place to listen to it, and then listener may be able to enjoy it.

    • I don’t agree entirely: there’s nothing to “understand,” and not all classical music is “relaxing.” That’s one of the marketing tropes: listen to Mozart to chill out. That demeans classical music, suggesting it’s only good as aural medicine.

  4. I pretty like classical music, although due to iTunes library size I don’t import a lot of them to my library for a while. In Australia purchasing those classical music collection box is a challenge. Just don’t have places to sell them. All over a pops, jazz, all other considered as “noisy” genres.
    I listen to a lot of Japanese pops, especially related to Anime, but classical music can make me feel calm and peaceful. Listening to classical music while doing something else is perfectly fine, while it is not the case when listening to those pops, EDM, etc.
    I don’t have any mature idea on how to teach younger generation to listen to classical music but we can listen to them a lot more to see the reaction of children. If they have interests then good. If not, then maybe they actually are not fond of classical music.
    Classical music is harder to understand, but not that hard as other people says. Just dont listen to classical while walking on a noisy street or busy commute train. I think there should be a right place to listen to it, and then listener may be able to enjoy it.

    • I don’t agree entirely: there’s nothing to “understand,” and not all classical music is “relaxing.” That’s one of the marketing tropes: listen to Mozart to chill out. That demeans classical music, suggesting it’s only good as aural medicine.

  5. I overcame my initial trepidation by accidentally discovering (on YouTube) that some of my favourite contemporary rock and metal artists had ‘covered’ well known classical pieces to show off their instrumental and/or vocal prowess.
    That in turn lead to my (now regular) viewing of the annual BBC Proms series, which takes classical music out of the (perceived) stifling highbrow realm of ‘do not dare to cough’ and ‘suit-and-tie-only’ to an atmosphere in which the audience and the musicians actually are seen to have fun. Clapping, shouting and whistling allowed to show your appreciation! Ind you, *only* at the Proms 😉

    I’m still reluctant though to actually go to a classical concert, but now I can better appreciate the skills and talent of classical composers and musicians. It’s not scary anymore …

  6. I overcame my initial trepidation by accidentally discovering (on YouTube) that some of my favourite contemporary rock and metal artists had ‘covered’ well known classical pieces to show off their instrumental and/or vocal prowess.
    That in turn lead to my (now regular) viewing of the annual BBC Proms series, which takes classical music out of the (perceived) stifling highbrow realm of ‘do not dare to cough’ and ‘suit-and-tie-only’ to an atmosphere in which the audience and the musicians actually are seen to have fun. Clapping, shouting and whistling allowed to show your appreciation! Ind you, *only* at the Proms 😉

    I’m still reluctant though to actually go to a classical concert, but now I can better appreciate the skills and talent of classical composers and musicians. It’s not scary anymore …

  7. The answer is forced musical training. All children should be obliged to learn an instrument, with “reasonable” proficiency required for high school graduation. This training should include all sorts of good music, not just classical.

    The reason is not so much to introduce children to classical music, but to unclog their ears and get them to learn how to listen to music that doesn’t fully reveal itself “at first hearing”. * I was never taught this, and had to find my own way into classical music. Even at the age of 69, I’m still learning how to listen.

    By the way, the Rautavaara I’ve heard is content-free drivel.

    * That’s a WQXR joke. I remember the day in 1970 when I heard Martin Bookspan rip into Eugene Ormandy.

    • Why not oblige them to dance? To learn art? To learn to change a carburetor? To sew? To cook? Why is music special?

      • About 35 years ago, I spent an academic year in the south of France. During that stay, my then French boyfriend (later to become my husband) met me for a weekend in Lyons. We decided to see the new movie, Amadeus, based on the play about Mozart. It was a jewel of a theatre. The green velvet seats with gold trim on the walls made the event extra special. At the time, I knew nothing about classical music. My mother was a classically-trained jazz musician. I grew up listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughn. My mother often said there was a similarity between jazz and classical. So when I heard the first strains of Mozart hit that THX sound system, I was completely blown away! Mozart became my obsession and my entry into classical music. Later, I became a jazz announcer on radio in San Francisco. Today, I still love jazz but my passion continues to be mostly Baroque. This also lead to a love of film soundtracks, especially Korngold and Raksin. Just my story…

      • We were discussing music, not “everything”. But your point is absolutely correct. There are many important or just useful things students aren’t taught in school. Cooking is definitely an overlooked subject, as well as money management, household repairs, basic mechanics and electronics, rational thinking, etc, etc, etc.

  8. The answer is forced musical training. All children should be obliged to learn an instrument, with “reasonable” proficiency required for high school graduation. This training should include all sorts of good music, not just classical.

    The reason is not so much to introduce children to classical music, but to unclog their ears and get them to learn how to listen to music that doesn’t fully reveal itself “at first hearing”. * I was never taught this, and had to find my own way into classical music. Even at the age of 69, I’m still learning how to listen.

    By the way, the Rautavaara I’ve heard is content-free drivel.

    * That’s a WQXR joke. I remember the day in 1970 when I heard Martin Bookspan rip into Eugene Ormandy.

    • Why not oblige them to dance? To learn art? To learn to change a carburetor? To sew? To cook? Why is music special?

      • About 35 years ago, I spent an academic year in the south of France. During that stay, my then French boyfriend (later to become my husband) met me for a weekend in Lyons. We decided to see the new movie, Amadeus, based on the play about Mozart. It was a jewel of a theatre. The green velvet seats with gold trim on the walls made the event extra special. At the time, I knew nothing about classical music. My mother was a classically-trained jazz musician. I grew up listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughn. My mother often said there was a similarity between jazz and classical. So when I heard the first strains of Mozart hit that THX sound system, I was completely blown away! Mozart became my obsession and my entry into classical music. Later, I became a jazz announcer on radio in San Francisco. Today, I still love jazz but my passion continues to be mostly Baroque. This also lead to a love of film soundtracks, especially Korngold and Raksin. Just my story…

      • We were discussing music, not “everything”. But your point is absolutely correct. There are many important or just useful things students aren’t taught in school. Cooking is definitely an overlooked subject, as well as money management, household repairs, basic mechanics and electronics, rational thinking, etc, etc, etc.

  9. Inspired by several recent posts here about classical music, I played some Mozart in the car as I took my 7 year old son into the mountains for a hike. About 20 minutes in, my son says, “Daddy, can you turn it down?”

    Sigh.

    My thought is that if mom, dad, or especially friends listen to a genre of music, it opens the door to enjoy it. They may not make it a part of their life-long collection, but it has a chance. I was exposed to several types of music as a kid, some I chose not to enjoy (Country), and others I still love to this day. New Wave stuck with me, along with artists like Neil Finn, Mark Seymour, and Ben Folds. My step-father had a huge classical record collection. That led to me enjoying it, but not making it a central part of my library.

    I think the worst thing you can do is force it on kids. You run the risk of classical music becoming the broccoli of musical genres. Then again, I sorta like broccoli.

    • Teaching something in school doesn’t mean forcing an opinion down someone’s throat and a music program doesn’t imply that everyone is being trained as a professional classical musician. I only have the program I went through as an example, but it worked well. At the time, music was fairly far down on my list of fun things to do, but I learned enough that when I got more seriously interested as an adult, I already had a good background to build on.

      Music was a no-pressure session two or three times a week. It wasn’t all classical. K-3 was mostly singing kids’ songs and folk, with the usual kid instruments (kazoos, tambourines, mini xylophones, etc) available. Kid classics such as Peter and the Wolf appeared. We had occasional visitors who’d demonstrate instruments or styles. About 2nd grade, reading was introduced. Notes on the staff, do-re-mi, simple rhythms, basic piano keyboard, major and minor scales, the concept of different keys. In third grade, you could choose an instrument and join the elementary orchestra, or stay with the general stuff. I wanted to learn flute, but orchestra required some after school time, so I stayed in the general/vocal track (I now regret that). The general class continued through 8th grade. The percentage and variety of classical increased, but there was still lots of folk (traditional and modern), pop, songs from current movies, etc. Some people brought in their own instruments, guitars mostly. Everyone was strongly encouraged to be in the end of year school concerts from first grade on. There were sometimes essays we had to write, such as about a composer, style or instrument, but I don’t remember them being frequent, long or onerous.

      Art was similar–a chance to learn about and try different kinds of art, with some lectures on history, artists and styles, visits to a couple of art museums, and eventually some formal perspective and a taste of drafting. Dance was more limited. All 6th graders learned to square dance as part of gym class. I started out hating it, but eventually found that it was a lot of fun once everyone stopped tripping over each other. It culminated in a big square dance on the last night of 6th grade camp, so we could practice being politely social with strangers from other schools.

      The modern insistence on basics and only basics has blown all of this and more away, impoverishing the kids. I’m so glad that I grew up in a saner time.

    • Forgot this earlier:

      Mozart is pretty adult stuff, and many classical pieces are too long for young kids (even before the internet!) Try your son on Peter and the Wolf, which is a narrated fairy tale with different instruments / tunes as the characters, or short pieces and excerpts, like individual parts of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite (Hall of the Mountain King!) or Kabalevsky’s The Comedians Gallop. Many classical pieces are programmatic, so you can tell him the story that the music is telling while it plays. Maybe set up playlists that intersperse a little bit of classical stuff between more familiar things?

      Some possibilities:

      Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals
      Tchaikovsky – dances from the Nutcracker Suite such as the Russian Dance
      Leroy Anderson – almost any of the short pieces. You’ll have to explain “The Typewriter”!
      Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (there’s a great ipad app for this)

      Look up Boston Pops Orchestra, especially from when Arthur Fiedler was conducting (c. 1930-1980). It’s all light stuff, and most of it is great for kids. They did (still do?) a lot of orchestral covers of popular music, too. Some of the TV broadcasts are on youtube.

      You might want to see if he likes Victor Borge. He’s probably too young for most of it, but if he see you laughing at it he might get curious. Borge was the very antithesis of stodgy classical!

        • Not if you’re a kiddie. Besides, all of the adults I know well still like a lot of ‘kiddie’ music, just as we still like a lot of kid’s books. “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

          (Fantasia itself is kiddie pablum compared to “Allegro Non Troppo”, but IIRC that’s probably not suitable for 7 year olds in a variety of ways.)

          • Kiddie music — being mostly program music — is a poor introduction to classical music, because it teaches children the wrong thing — that music is or should be a representation of something external (eg, Strauss’ fork). Why not introduce them to, say, sonata-allegro form, and explain it to them?

            Aaron Copland wrote a wretched little book, “What to Listen for in Music”, which urges the reader (an adult, presumably), to think about what images a piece of music brings to mind. At the time I read it, I was sufficiently naïve to take that as useful advice.

            “Allegro non Troppo” is a heavy-handed, uninspired attempt to poke fun at “Fantasia”, and fails in almost every respect. The “Valse Triste” is not only unimaginative, but icky-sentimental in a way that Disney never descended to. The best section shows the evolution of life from the contents of a Coke bottle discarded by astronauts on another world. Nothing in “AnT” comes remotely close to “Night on Bald Mountain”. Indeed, the film’s title (“not too quick”) is an unintentional poke at the film’s creators.

            • “Why not introduce them to, say, sonata-allegro form, and explain it to them?”

              Because it’s kind of like making someone learn algebra before they have a decent grasp of numbers and arithmetic. There’s certainly no reason why not to mention form in a discussion, but to make that central isn’t going to encourage most beginners to keep listening.

              Think of all of things involved in classical music compared to pop music: a huge variety of new piece lengths, instruments, textures, and harmonies; no lyrics as a hook; a lot more complexity in general. That’s a lot to absorb. And Ken’s son is only 7. Kids don’t pop out with fully formed blank brains able to learn anything at all. The brain grows and changes and there are things that kids cannot understand until the right time, such as that the volume of liquid can be the same even though the container shape is different.

              Real learning must be rewarding. Teaching with punishment causes avoidance of the subject, and only the -learner- decides what’s a reward and what’s a punishment, not the teacher. This is well grounded science, not conjecture. Much learning for any animal (from clams to humans) happens via ‘operant conditioning’. There’s been tons of research, which unfortunately gets applied better in zoos and dog shows than in our schools. To improve the rate of learning, you need to break things into small steps, and reward each step. Fastest learning comes with about 80% of attempts to complete a step being successful. This is of course a vast oversimplification, but it’s fundamentally why trying to ram a subject down a student’s throat rarely makes it into their long term memory, and almost never causes them to enjoy it enough to continue with it on their own. (Yes, effective teaching, like any tool, can be used for evil as well as good.)

              If beginners, kids or adults, find programatic music to be more accessible and rewarding than Mozart, why gripe? Many of them are likely to continue on to more abstract works later. But even if they don’t, we’re all still ahead. There’s a huge amount of programatic music available–oddly enough, many composers like to write it. The more people that listen to any kind of classical, the more that get exposed to it, and classical will continue to exist aside from the elite concert set, instead of being relegated to the archives, hopefully to be re-rediscovered in a few hundred years.

            • @gastropod… I agree that learning should not include “punishment”. Real rewards are much better.

              But what is the reward in “understanding” program music? Zero. Zip. Nada. Program music doesn’t require intellectual effort.

              When you introduce a child to the concept of musical “development”, you are giving him or her a tool that can be applied to many types of music.

            • We seem to have reached the limits of comment nesting…

              “But what is the reward in “understanding” program music? Zero. Zip. Nada.”

              You don’t get a say in what’s rewarding and what isn’t, except for your own self. The ultimate reward for most people is enjoyment of the music (it may take some intermediate rewards for beginners to get there.) That you don’t like it is completely irrelevant.

              I find it curious that you dislike programatic music so much, but still recommend Fantasia. Seven of the eight pieces are programatic to begin with, and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is made so by virtue of animating it, even though the animation is itself largely abstract.

              By discounting program music, you’re throwing away all of ballet, all of opera, almost all classical song, most choral works, many symphonies and other works for orchestra. Maybe you even want to throw out all of the dances. What’s left is interesting, but no longer representative of classical music as a whole.

              I understand the appeal of abstract works. One of my favorite genres is ars subtilior with it’s polyrhythms, mixed modes, frequent dissonance, often cryptic notation, and other oddities. But I can easily understand why most people wouldn’t like it. It wasn’t even popular when it was written. It was very much academic music written to appeal to other academics.

              “When you introduce a child to the concept of musical “development”, you are giving him or her a tool that can be applied to many types of music.”

              If you give a child the tool of calculus, she has most of what she needs to understand engineering, any of the sciences, and more. Good luck with skipping the “how and why to count” part.

              I think we agree on the goal, but not how to get there, or how far along is still worthwhile. I’ve already gone into how I got there. What was your path? From the earliest you can remember?

            • @gastropod… If we’ve reached the limits of nesting, it’s probably with respect to replying. Let’s see what happens.

              I’ve often been criticized for my “emphatic” opinions. I don’t feel overly guilty, because our culture is unduly “democratic” — anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s. We know how wrong that is. Opinions have to be rationally defensible (or you’re just “beating your gums”), and in this case, my reasoning is reasonable.

              Fifty years ago, a short “Stereo Review” article told about an educator’s attempts to get his students interested in classical music. To his surprise and disappointment, it didn’t work the way he expected. The pieces he thought would interest them largely evoked yawns. Yet music considered a bit esoteric (such as Renaissance dance music) got a few students interested.

              Might I play Chicken Little? Folks, you might not realize it, but we are living through the destruction — yes, destruction — of Western high culture. This probably began with the introduction of “mass entertainment” (records, radio, movies) which displaced the principal form of entertainment among educated people — reading. *

              Perhaps the most-important reason people — particularly ‘murcans — need to be aware of Western culture is to disabuse them of the notion that “the world began when I was born”. This is especially true of the belief that the United States is “exceptional” — that we’re “the shining city on the hill”, a beacon to the rest of the world, the unsurpassable pinnacle of civilization, beyond which humanity can’t pass. (If this is new to you, search for “American exceptionalism”. It’s a dangerous belief, a threat to both ourselves and the rest of the world.)

              If you asked a random American what the oldest work of Western literature was, he’d probably respond questioningly with “Riders of the Purple Sage?”. ** It’s unlikely even one in a thousand would say “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, which is about 4000 years old, and whose principal characters are involved in an intense bromance.

              Democracy and ignorance don’t go together. If people don’t understand how we got where we are, how can they make intelligent decisions? But after WWII, liberal education went into decline, and chill-drun just couldn’t be bothered with anything that wasn’t immediately comprehensible.

              This is why I object to making things unduly easy for children. I’m the classic example of the under-achiever, because school was easy, and no one ever made it challenging.

              I’d introduce a child to classical music with a piece of absolute music that wasn’t difficult to understand, and would teach the li’l critter something worth learning. How about “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”?

              It’s “nothing” but a series of variations on a quirky tune. The pleasure in any set of variations is hearing how the changes exaggerate qualities of the original theme or “conflict” with it *** , and how the variations “build” intellectually and emotionally. Ideally, the kid should have no trouble hearing the differences, and, hopefully, enjoying them.

              Calling classical music “elitist’ (which it most assuredly //is//) is an excuse for dismissing it. No ignorant young’un has the right to tell adults that music that’s been around for 300 years is no good, and he or she shouldn’t be obliged to obtain at least a passing familiarity. And that applies to all the liberal arts. (I’m an engineer, by the way.)

              The most-important purpose of a liberal education is making people aware that things have been, and are, going on in the world //outside their own thoughts//. The lack of this understanding leads to moral and political idiocy, on both the left and right.

              * I’m reading a book on the creation of the 11th edition of the Britannica. When “The Times” starts a discount book club to (indirectly) support the creation of the 11th edition, it’s mobbed.

              ** The oldest “western” novel (ignoring dime novels) is “The Virginian” by Owen Wister. (I’ve read it twice, and based a screenplay on it.) It’s one of the most-significant American novels, as it reinforced or created a lot of cowboy mythology.

              *** My ignorance is showing badly. How important is variation/development to rock music? I don’t know.

            • Culture always changes, and us old folk always kick about it. But nothing stops it. It’s easier on the blood pressure to not worry. Do what you can, but without angst, which on it’s own will block your message.

              H. Isaac and friends helped ‘destroy’ medieval music by transitioning to the renaissance, and Monteverdi had a huge hand in killing off the renaissance by bringing in the baroque. There are gripes about the the horrible changes in music–popular, lordly, and church, from at least the ancient Greeks. Laws have been passed to stop the ‘rot’, with about the results I’d expect–none. When it’s time to railroad, you railroad, with culture as well as engineering.

              Even if Western ‘high culture’ is really dying, I can’t get too disturbed by it. On a scale of 1 to 10 of current human problems, culture is about 1, and soil destruction nearly 10. Destruction of soils has been a major proximate cause of total cultural collapse (mass starvation, forced migration, wars) ever since agriculture got started, and the present is no exception. “Dirt” by David R. Montgomery is a great, though somewhat depressing, read.

              You still haven’t said what your music education experience was and how you came to like classical. Did you grow up with classical music in the home? Did your schools have a music program? What did your parents and friends listen to?

              How old were the students in the Stereo Review article? It doesn’t surprise me at all that the ‘esoteric’ stuff would be better liked than a straight symphony or piano work, especially with older kids who’d already been listening to popular music. Do you have a reference to the article? I’d like to read it if our library has a copy.

            • To give you an overly simple answer… Change is not destruction. The changes you spoke of were not destruction. This music still exists, and is performed. We’re talking here about the destruction of the perceived value in works of art that are more than a few decades old.

              When you say you don’t object to the loss of high culture, you’re accepting the loss of at 2500 years of Western human history. Mortimer Adler called this “the great conversation”. It’s how the Western world arrived at this point. But gross materialism and superstitious religious fundamentalism have decreed that it has no value.

              It was “Fantasia” that introduced me to classical music. My parents were ignorant, uneducated people, who knew nothing and had no desire to learn, My mother was anti-intellectual, and detested classical music because it didn’t “swing”. My father was simply stupid. I regret never having taken piano lessons.

              I suspect I liked classical because I generally hated rock and roll. I’m a “serious” listener, always giving new music a chance. I do not limit myself to “certified great” works. I often buy cutouts of modern and unfamiliar music, and the music is sometimes agreeably surprising.

              I think the students in the “Stereo Review” article were older teenagers. My memory is that it appeared in the mid- to late-60s. I’m afraid you’ll have to dig.

            • “It was “Fantasia” that introduced me to classical music.”

              Aha! So the introduction that hooked you was programatic music videos! 🙂

              Western music and art is in less danger of actually vanishing than at any time in history. Only four pieces of music survive from the Greek Classical period, eleven Hellenistic, and three Roman. They’re fragmentary and it’s not clear how they were actually played even though Islamic universities managed to rescue books that included some commentary about music. Only a tiny amount of music from ~1000-1200 Europe has survived; only church music, no popular or lordly music. Things gradually improve with time as education and the number of copyists increase. The biggest bump of course was the printing press, which allowed so many copies to be made that burning a single library was no longer a complete disaster.

              We now have a huge number of copies of books and scores in both print and online in assorted formats, robust musical instruments, and performances on wax platters which can potentially survive pretty well and be played centuries from now (even if technology collapses and has to be rebuilt). Current digital formats probably won’t work even in the near future but are being migrated en masse to the new technologies by many different people and groups (often illegally), so barring a total collapse across the planet, quite a large amount will survive even if everyone stops listening to it and performing it tomorrow. In the same way, Bach was lost to listeners until Mendelssohn brought him back generations later. (Early movies are most at risk. So much is already gone, because early film is unstable. You can directly blame Disney and lengthening copyright periods for many of the losses.)

              But everyone won’t stop listening, performing or composing soon. It’s time to expand our view from the US and possibly Europe, and include the rest of the world. Interest in western classical music isn’t waning worldwide, it’s growing. Western classical music is much more popular in Asia than it is here. In China especially, it’s taught in the schools and there’s hot competition to get into music conservatories, but it’s a growth industry elsewhere as well, including India which got it’s first symphony orchestra about 10 years ago. I’ll bet that their older generation is worried that the newfangled western music is going to totally destroy any interest in their own classical musics.

              http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/02/world/asia/02iht-china.html

              http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-15035703

            • The issue is wider than classical music — it’s about the kind of education children get. This country just keeps getting stupider and more ignorant.

              The lack of interest in classical music is part of a broader parochialism * that elevates money and superstition above the need to //understand//, rather than think whatever you believe is true.

              I could go on for pages, but won’t. There are other things that need doing.

              PS: I disagree with your explanation for the loss of motion pictures. Nitrate film is, indeed, unstable, but was used until the ’50s (I think — please correct me on that). Over 90% of all silent films are lost, while an incredible 50% of sound films are gone. Extended copyrights encourage studios to make older films available (especially on cable TV), so they can be profited from.

              * Clever, huh?

  10. Inspired by several recent posts here about classical music, I played some Mozart in the car as I took my 7 year old son into the mountains for a hike. About 20 minutes in, my son says, “Daddy, can you turn it down?”

    Sigh.

    My thought is that if mom, dad, or especially friends listen to a genre of music, it opens the door to enjoy it. They may not make it a part of their life-long collection, but it has a chance. I was exposed to several types of music as a kid, some I chose not to enjoy (Country), and others I still love to this day. New Wave stuck with me, along with artists like Neil Finn, Mark Seymour, and Ben Folds. My step-father had a huge classical record collection. That led to me enjoying it, but not making it a central part of my library.

    I think the worst thing you can do is force it on kids. You run the risk of classical music becoming the broccoli of musical genres. Then again, I sorta like broccoli.

    • Teaching something in school doesn’t mean forcing an opinion down someone’s throat and a music program doesn’t imply that everyone is being trained as a professional classical musician. I only have the program I went through as an example, but it worked well. At the time, music was fairly far down on my list of fun things to do, but I learned enough that when I got more seriously interested as an adult, I already had a good background to build on.

      Music was a no-pressure session two or three times a week. It wasn’t all classical. K-3 was mostly singing kids’ songs and folk, with the usual kid instruments (kazoos, tambourines, mini xylophones, etc) available. Kid classics such as Peter and the Wolf appeared. We had occasional visitors who’d demonstrate instruments or styles. About 2nd grade, reading was introduced. Notes on the staff, do-re-mi, simple rhythms, basic piano keyboard, major and minor scales, the concept of different keys. In third grade, you could choose an instrument and join the elementary orchestra, or stay with the general stuff. I wanted to learn flute, but orchestra required some after school time, so I stayed in the general/vocal track (I now regret that). The general class continued through 8th grade. The percentage and variety of classical increased, but there was still lots of folk (traditional and modern), pop, songs from current movies, etc. Some people brought in their own instruments, guitars mostly. Everyone was strongly encouraged to be in the end of year school concerts from first grade on. There were sometimes essays we had to write, such as about a composer, style or instrument, but I don’t remember them being frequent, long or onerous.

      Art was similar–a chance to learn about and try different kinds of art, with some lectures on history, artists and styles, visits to a couple of art museums, and eventually some formal perspective and a taste of drafting. Dance was more limited. All 6th graders learned to square dance as part of gym class. I started out hating it, but eventually found that it was a lot of fun once everyone stopped tripping over each other. It culminated in a big square dance on the last night of 6th grade camp, so we could practice being politely social with strangers from other schools.

      The modern insistence on basics and only basics has blown all of this and more away, impoverishing the kids. I’m so glad that I grew up in a saner time.

    • Forgot this earlier:

      Mozart is pretty adult stuff, and many classical pieces are too long for young kids (even before the internet!) Try your son on Peter and the Wolf, which is a narrated fairy tale with different instruments / tunes as the characters, or short pieces and excerpts, like individual parts of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite (Hall of the Mountain King!) or Kabalevsky’s The Comedians Gallop. Many classical pieces are programmatic, so you can tell him the story that the music is telling while it plays. Maybe set up playlists that intersperse a little bit of classical stuff between more familiar things?

      Some possibilities:

      Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals
      Tchaikovsky – dances from the Nutcracker Suite such as the Russian Dance
      Leroy Anderson – almost any of the short pieces. You’ll have to explain “The Typewriter”!
      Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (there’s a great ipad app for this)

      Look up Boston Pops Orchestra, especially from when Arthur Fiedler was conducting (c. 1930-1980). It’s all light stuff, and most of it is great for kids. They did (still do?) a lot of orchestral covers of popular music, too. Some of the TV broadcasts are on youtube.

      You might want to see if he likes Victor Borge. He’s probably too young for most of it, but if he see you laughing at it he might get curious. Borge was the very antithesis of stodgy classical!

        • Not if you’re a kiddie. Besides, all of the adults I know well still like a lot of ‘kiddie’ music, just as we still like a lot of kid’s books. “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

          (Fantasia itself is kiddie pablum compared to “Allegro Non Troppo”, but IIRC that’s probably not suitable for 7 year olds in a variety of ways.)

          • Kiddie music — being mostly program music — is a poor introduction to classical music, because it teaches children the wrong thing — that music is or should be a representation of something external (eg, Strauss’ fork). Why not introduce them to, say, sonata-allegro form, and explain it to them?

            Aaron Copland wrote a wretched little book, “What to Listen for in Music”, which urges the reader (an adult, presumably), to think about what images a piece of music brings to mind. At the time I read it, I was sufficiently naïve to take that as useful advice.

            “Allegro non Troppo” is a heavy-handed, uninspired attempt to poke fun at “Fantasia”, and fails in almost every respect. The “Valse Triste” is not only unimaginative, but icky-sentimental in a way that Disney never descended to. The best section shows the evolution of life from the contents of a Coke bottle discarded by astronauts on another world. Nothing in “AnT” comes remotely close to “Night on Bald Mountain”. Indeed, the film’s title (“not too quick”) is an unintentional poke at the film’s creators.

            • “Why not introduce them to, say, sonata-allegro form, and explain it to them?”

              Because it’s kind of like making someone learn algebra before they have a decent grasp of numbers and arithmetic. There’s certainly no reason why not to mention form in a discussion, but to make that central isn’t going to encourage most beginners to keep listening.

              Think of all of things involved in classical music compared to pop music: a huge variety of new piece lengths, instruments, textures, and harmonies; no lyrics as a hook; a lot more complexity in general. That’s a lot to absorb. And Ken’s son is only 7. Kids don’t pop out with fully formed blank brains able to learn anything at all. The brain grows and changes and there are things that kids cannot understand until the right time, such as that the volume of liquid can be the same even though the container shape is different.

              Real learning must be rewarding. Teaching with punishment causes avoidance of the subject, and only the -learner- decides what’s a reward and what’s a punishment, not the teacher. This is well grounded science, not conjecture. Much learning for any animal (from clams to humans) happens via ‘operant conditioning’. There’s been tons of research, which unfortunately gets applied better in zoos and dog shows than in our schools. To improve the rate of learning, you need to break things into small steps, and reward each step. Fastest learning comes with about 80% of attempts to complete a step being successful. This is of course a vast oversimplification, but it’s fundamentally why trying to ram a subject down a student’s throat rarely makes it into their long term memory, and almost never causes them to enjoy it enough to continue with it on their own. (Yes, effective teaching, like any tool, can be used for evil as well as good.)

              If beginners, kids or adults, find programatic music to be more accessible and rewarding than Mozart, why gripe? Many of them are likely to continue on to more abstract works later. But even if they don’t, we’re all still ahead. There’s a huge amount of programatic music available–oddly enough, many composers like to write it. The more people that listen to any kind of classical, the more that get exposed to it, and classical will continue to exist aside from the elite concert set, instead of being relegated to the archives, hopefully to be re-rediscovered in a few hundred years.

            • @gastropod… I agree that learning should not include “punishment”. Real rewards are much better.

              But what is the reward in “understanding” program music? Zero. Zip. Nada. Program music doesn’t require intellectual effort.

              When you introduce a child to the concept of musical “development”, you are giving him or her a tool that can be applied to many types of music.

            • We seem to have reached the limits of comment nesting…

              “But what is the reward in “understanding” program music? Zero. Zip. Nada.”

              You don’t get a say in what’s rewarding and what isn’t, except for your own self. The ultimate reward for most people is enjoyment of the music (it may take some intermediate rewards for beginners to get there.) That you don’t like it is completely irrelevant.

              I find it curious that you dislike programatic music so much, but still recommend Fantasia. Seven of the eight pieces are programatic to begin with, and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is made so by virtue of animating it, even though the animation is itself largely abstract.

              By discounting program music, you’re throwing away all of ballet, all of opera, almost all classical song, most choral works, many symphonies and other works for orchestra. Maybe you even want to throw out all of the dances. What’s left is interesting, but no longer representative of classical music as a whole.

              I understand the appeal of abstract works. One of my favorite genres is ars subtilior with it’s polyrhythms, mixed modes, frequent dissonance, often cryptic notation, and other oddities. But I can easily understand why most people wouldn’t like it. It wasn’t even popular when it was written. It was very much academic music written to appeal to other academics.

              “When you introduce a child to the concept of musical “development”, you are giving him or her a tool that can be applied to many types of music.”

              If you give a child the tool of calculus, she has most of what she needs to understand engineering, any of the sciences, and more. Good luck with skipping the “how and why to count” part.

              I think we agree on the goal, but not how to get there, or how far along is still worthwhile. I’ve already gone into how I got there. What was your path? From the earliest you can remember?

            • @gastropod… If we’ve reached the limits of nesting, it’s probably with respect to replying. Let’s see what happens.

              I’ve often been criticized for my “emphatic” opinions. I don’t feel overly guilty, because our culture is unduly “democratic” — anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s. We know how wrong that is. Opinions have to be rationally defensible (or you’re just “beating your gums”), and in this case, my reasoning is reasonable.

              Fifty years ago, a short “Stereo Review” article told about an educator’s attempts to get his students interested in classical music. To his surprise and disappointment, it didn’t work the way he expected. The pieces he thought would interest them largely evoked yawns. Yet music considered a bit esoteric (such as Renaissance dance music) got a few students interested.

              Might I play Chicken Little? Folks, you might not realize it, but we are living through the destruction — yes, destruction — of Western high culture. This probably began with the introduction of “mass entertainment” (records, radio, movies) which displaced the principal form of entertainment among educated people — reading. *

              Perhaps the most-important reason people — particularly ‘murcans — need to be aware of Western culture is to disabuse them of the notion that “the world began when I was born”. This is especially true of the belief that the United States is “exceptional” — that we’re “the shining city on the hill”, a beacon to the rest of the world, the unsurpassable pinnacle of civilization, beyond which humanity can’t pass. (If this is new to you, search for “American exceptionalism”. It’s a dangerous belief, a threat to both ourselves and the rest of the world.)

              If you asked a random American what the oldest work of Western literature was, he’d probably respond questioningly with “Riders of the Purple Sage?”. ** It’s unlikely even one in a thousand would say “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, which is about 4000 years old, and whose principal characters are involved in an intense bromance.

              Democracy and ignorance don’t go together. If people don’t understand how we got where we are, how can they make intelligent decisions? But after WWII, liberal education went into decline, and chill-drun just couldn’t be bothered with anything that wasn’t immediately comprehensible.

              This is why I object to making things unduly easy for children. I’m the classic example of the under-achiever, because school was easy, and no one ever made it challenging.

              I’d introduce a child to classical music with a piece of absolute music that wasn’t difficult to understand, and would teach the li’l critter something worth learning. How about “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”?

              It’s “nothing” but a series of variations on a quirky tune. The pleasure in any set of variations is hearing how the changes exaggerate qualities of the original theme or “conflict” with it *** , and how the variations “build” intellectually and emotionally. Ideally, the kid should have no trouble hearing the differences, and, hopefully, enjoying them.

              Calling classical music “elitist’ (which it most assuredly //is//) is an excuse for dismissing it. No ignorant young’un has the right to tell adults that music that’s been around for 300 years is no good, and he or she shouldn’t be obliged to obtain at least a passing familiarity. And that applies to all the liberal arts. (I’m an engineer, by the way.)

              The most-important purpose of a liberal education is making people aware that things have been, and are, going on in the world //outside their own thoughts//. The lack of this understanding leads to moral and political idiocy, on both the left and right.

              * I’m reading a book on the creation of the 11th edition of the Britannica. When “The Times” starts a discount book club to (indirectly) support the creation of the 11th edition, it’s mobbed.

              ** The oldest “western” novel (ignoring dime novels) is “The Virginian” by Owen Wister. (I’ve read it twice, and based a screenplay on it.) It’s one of the most-significant American novels, as it reinforced or created a lot of cowboy mythology.

              *** My ignorance is showing badly. How important is variation/development to rock music? I don’t know.

            • Culture always changes, and us old folk always kick about it. But nothing stops it. It’s easier on the blood pressure to not worry. Do what you can, but without angst, which on it’s own will block your message.

              H. Isaac and friends helped ‘destroy’ medieval music by transitioning to the renaissance, and Monteverdi had a huge hand in killing off the renaissance by bringing in the baroque. There are gripes about the the horrible changes in music–popular, lordly, and church, from at least the ancient Greeks. Laws have been passed to stop the ‘rot’, with about the results I’d expect–none. When it’s time to railroad, you railroad, with culture as well as engineering.

              Even if Western ‘high culture’ is really dying, I can’t get too disturbed by it. On a scale of 1 to 10 of current human problems, culture is about 1, and soil destruction nearly 10. Destruction of soils has been a major proximate cause of total cultural collapse (mass starvation, forced migration, wars) ever since agriculture got started, and the present is no exception. “Dirt” by David R. Montgomery is a great, though somewhat depressing, read.

              You still haven’t said what your music education experience was and how you came to like classical. Did you grow up with classical music in the home? Did your schools have a music program? What did your parents and friends listen to?

              How old were the students in the Stereo Review article? It doesn’t surprise me at all that the ‘esoteric’ stuff would be better liked than a straight symphony or piano work, especially with older kids who’d already been listening to popular music. Do you have a reference to the article? I’d like to read it if our library has a copy.

            • To give you an overly simple answer… Change is not destruction. The changes you spoke of were not destruction. This music still exists, and is performed. We’re talking here about the destruction of the perceived value in works of art that are more than a few decades old.

              When you say you don’t object to the loss of high culture, you’re accepting the loss of at 2500 years of Western human history. Mortimer Adler called this “the great conversation”. It’s how the Western world arrived at this point. But gross materialism and superstitious religious fundamentalism have decreed that it has no value.

              It was “Fantasia” that introduced me to classical music. My parents were ignorant, uneducated people, who knew nothing and had no desire to learn, My mother was anti-intellectual, and detested classical music because it didn’t “swing”. My father was simply stupid. I regret never having taken piano lessons.

              I suspect I liked classical because I generally hated rock and roll. I’m a “serious” listener, always giving new music a chance. I do not limit myself to “certified great” works. I often buy cutouts of modern and unfamiliar music, and the music is sometimes agreeably surprising.

              I think the students in the “Stereo Review” article were older teenagers. My memory is that it appeared in the mid- to late-60s. I’m afraid you’ll have to dig.

            • “It was “Fantasia” that introduced me to classical music.”

              Aha! So the introduction that hooked you was programatic music videos! 🙂

              Western music and art is in less danger of actually vanishing than at any time in history. Only four pieces of music survive from the Greek Classical period, eleven Hellenistic, and three Roman. They’re fragmentary and it’s not clear how they were actually played even though Islamic universities managed to rescue books that included some commentary about music. Only a tiny amount of music from ~1000-1200 Europe has survived; only church music, no popular or lordly music. Things gradually improve with time as education and the number of copyists increase. The biggest bump of course was the printing press, which allowed so many copies to be made that burning a single library was no longer a complete disaster.

              We now have a huge number of copies of books and scores in both print and online in assorted formats, robust musical instruments, and performances on wax platters which can potentially survive pretty well and be played centuries from now (even if technology collapses and has to be rebuilt). Current digital formats probably won’t work even in the near future but are being migrated en masse to the new technologies by many different people and groups (often illegally), so barring a total collapse across the planet, quite a large amount will survive even if everyone stops listening to it and performing it tomorrow. In the same way, Bach was lost to listeners until Mendelssohn brought him back generations later. (Early movies are most at risk. So much is already gone, because early film is unstable. You can directly blame Disney and lengthening copyright periods for many of the losses.)

              But everyone won’t stop listening, performing or composing soon. It’s time to expand our view from the US and possibly Europe, and include the rest of the world. Interest in western classical music isn’t waning worldwide, it’s growing. Western classical music is much more popular in Asia than it is here. In China especially, it’s taught in the schools and there’s hot competition to get into music conservatories, but it’s a growth industry elsewhere as well, including India which got it’s first symphony orchestra about 10 years ago. I’ll bet that their older generation is worried that the newfangled western music is going to totally destroy any interest in their own classical musics.

              http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/02/world/asia/02iht-china.html

              http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-15035703

            • The issue is wider than classical music — it’s about the kind of education children get. This country just keeps getting stupider and more ignorant.

              The lack of interest in classical music is part of a broader parochialism * that elevates money and superstition above the need to //understand//, rather than think whatever you believe is true.

              I could go on for pages, but won’t. There are other things that need doing.

              PS: I disagree with your explanation for the loss of motion pictures. Nitrate film is, indeed, unstable, but was used until the ’50s (I think — please correct me on that). Over 90% of all silent films are lost, while an incredible 50% of sound films are gone. Extended copyrights encourage studios to make older films available (especially on cable TV), so they can be profited from.

              * Clever, huh?

  11. You could also ask why teach arithmetic and math? Why teach reading? Why teach science? Why teach language or history? Why teach anything? It’s all brainwashing. Just obey the priest–it’s so much easier than exercising brain cells, learning to think and to persist at something hard. Surely nothing on either of our lists is important enough to teach to all children.

    Everything on your ‘why not oblige them’ list except carburetors was required in our public school district (for both sexes), and from talking to other people of my age group, that was not unusual in the US at the time. Early education of a broad spectrum of subjects is important because that’s biologically when brain connections can and are forming rapidly. There are also critical/sensitive periods–e.g. after about five years old, it’s uncommon to be able to learn to recognize phonemes from other languages; those pathways get closed off. It’s easy to learn almost anything as a kid; it’s not usually impossible to learn the same things as an adult, but most will never become fluent.

    One reason that doing (not listening to) music is perhaps special:

    http://archive.news.ku.edu/2007/june/28/music.shtml

    “The results include analysis of the relationship between student participation in quality music education and standardized testing outcomes. Students at schools with superior music programs consistently scored higher. He also found that students who participated in lower quality band programs scored higher than those who did not participate in a music program at all. The disparities between groups’ tests scores ranged from 17 percent to 23 percent.”

    It’s possible that learning to draw or use hand tools would give a similar educational boost, but a quick search didn’t find anything looking at those. The brain needs as much or more exercise as muscles do to be effective, and it needs to be exercised in multiple ways. I suspect that learning to play music with others, or similarly learning to dance, probably adds quite a bit to the value. Coordinating with others on such a fine scale is hard, and needs lots of practice. Performing is also important. When you learn a piece to please yourself, you’ll rarely do anywhere near as well as when you’ll be performing for others, there’s a deadline, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or fail your group.

    I don’t think that western classical music (in the broad sense) is more special than other music. But it includes such a variety compared to most genres, in instrumentation, forms, rhythms, scales, because it’s really many genres lumped together. I grew up with primarily jazz (hated it then), plus classical era and later piano music, large choirs and symphonies. I didn’t really discover baroque and earlier, chamber music, noticeable counterpoint or world musics, until much later. But even though the kid stuff was a small subset of ‘classical’, let alone all music, having learned about it (not simply heard a lot of it) lets me much more easily appreciate the rest as I encounter it. The formal learning set up a framework with plenty of hooks to fit in new things from madrigals to throat singing to gamelan. I can’t see how listening to (and not even playing) only modern western popular music, primarily built on the blues harmonic progression, could do that.

    “Does jazz need explanation?”

    Yes, it does. It’s interesting that jazz has about the same market share as classical, and is also a good bit more intellectual than pop music. Even though I grew up hearing a lot of it, I didn’t start to like it until I’d learned enough about non-major/minor scales and improvisation from early music to start having some idea of what the heck was going on. In live recordings, I still can’t usually figure out why sometimes there’s applause in the middle of a solo. Obviously something special happened, but I rarely have a clue. So I at least would appreciate a nice occasional lecture/demo.

    There’s a nice podcast, Classics for Kids. They’re about 5 minutes long, and include bits of history, biography, etc. There’s an episode about pop music that has borrowed from the classics. It’s not too patronizing, so it’s suitable for open minded adults too. The short episode length (and probably copyrights) keeps them from playing more than excerpts, but it’s easy enough to track down anything that tweaks an interest.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/classics-for-kids/id268565125?mt=2.

  12. You could also ask why teach arithmetic and math? Why teach reading? Why teach science? Why teach language or history? Why teach anything? It’s all brainwashing. Just obey the priest–it’s so much easier than exercising brain cells, learning to think and to persist at something hard. Surely nothing on either of our lists is important enough to teach to all children.

    Everything on your ‘why not oblige them’ list except carburetors was required in our public school district (for both sexes), and from talking to other people of my age group, that was not unusual in the US at the time. Early education of a broad spectrum of subjects is important because that’s biologically when brain connections can and are forming rapidly. There are also critical/sensitive periods–e.g. after about five years old, it’s uncommon to be able to learn to recognize phonemes from other languages; those pathways get closed off. It’s easy to learn almost anything as a kid; it’s not usually impossible to learn the same things as an adult, but most will never become fluent.

    One reason that doing (not listening to) music is perhaps special:

    http://archive.news.ku.edu/2007/june/28/music.shtml

    “The results include analysis of the relationship between student participation in quality music education and standardized testing outcomes. Students at schools with superior music programs consistently scored higher. He also found that students who participated in lower quality band programs scored higher than those who did not participate in a music program at all. The disparities between groups’ tests scores ranged from 17 percent to 23 percent.”

    It’s possible that learning to draw or use hand tools would give a similar educational boost, but a quick search didn’t find anything looking at those. The brain needs as much or more exercise as muscles do to be effective, and it needs to be exercised in multiple ways. I suspect that learning to play music with others, or similarly learning to dance, probably adds quite a bit to the value. Coordinating with others on such a fine scale is hard, and needs lots of practice. Performing is also important. When you learn a piece to please yourself, you’ll rarely do anywhere near as well as when you’ll be performing for others, there’s a deadline, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or fail your group.

    I don’t think that western classical music (in the broad sense) is more special than other music. But it includes such a variety compared to most genres, in instrumentation, forms, rhythms, scales, because it’s really many genres lumped together. I grew up with primarily jazz (hated it then), plus classical era and later piano music, large choirs and symphonies. I didn’t really discover baroque and earlier, chamber music, noticeable counterpoint or world musics, until much later. But even though the kid stuff was a small subset of ‘classical’, let alone all music, having learned about it (not simply heard a lot of it) lets me much more easily appreciate the rest as I encounter it. The formal learning set up a framework with plenty of hooks to fit in new things from madrigals to throat singing to gamelan. I can’t see how listening to (and not even playing) only modern western popular music, primarily built on the blues harmonic progression, could do that.

    “Does jazz need explanation?”

    Yes, it does. It’s interesting that jazz has about the same market share as classical, and is also a good bit more intellectual than pop music. Even though I grew up hearing a lot of it, I didn’t start to like it until I’d learned enough about non-major/minor scales and improvisation from early music to start having some idea of what the heck was going on. In live recordings, I still can’t usually figure out why sometimes there’s applause in the middle of a solo. Obviously something special happened, but I rarely have a clue. So I at least would appreciate a nice occasional lecture/demo.

    There’s a nice podcast, Classics for Kids. They’re about 5 minutes long, and include bits of history, biography, etc. There’s an episode about pop music that has borrowed from the classics. It’s not too patronizing, so it’s suitable for open minded adults too. The short episode length (and probably copyrights) keeps them from playing more than excerpts, but it’s easy enough to track down anything that tweaks an interest.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/classics-for-kids/id268565125?mt=2.

  13. The J G Wentworth “I have a structured settlement” aria is one of the greatest commercial “jingles” of all time (right up there with Freberg’s “Great American Soup”). Not surprisingly, most kids don’t “get it” — that it’s a spoof of pompous opera music. Some of them don’t even seem to hear it as “music”.

    Wentworth has also done a rock version of the aria, and it’s first-rate — not a trivial “rockin'” translation. Don’t know who the composer is, but he’s talented.

    Another example is the original theme music for “The Twilight Zone”. How many modern listeners are aware that Benny was channeling Debussy?

  14. The J G Wentworth “I have a structured settlement” aria is one of the greatest commercial “jingles” of all time (right up there with Freberg’s “Great American Soup”). Not surprisingly, most kids don’t “get it” — that it’s a spoof of pompous opera music. Some of them don’t even seem to hear it as “music”.

    Wentworth has also done a rock version of the aria, and it’s first-rate — not a trivial “rockin'” translation. Don’t know who the composer is, but he’s talented.

    Another example is the original theme music for “The Twilight Zone”. How many modern listeners are aware that Benny was channeling Debussy?

  15. I love ELP’s “Pictures.” I like to listen to it just after the original. I came to classical music via Jethro Tull’s “Bouree,” from there to flute concertos, and then on to other things. I still like Baroque the best.

  16. I love ELP’s “Pictures.” I like to listen to it just after the original. I came to classical music via Jethro Tull’s “Bouree,” from there to flute concertos, and then on to other things. I still like Baroque the best.

  17. In case anyone other than William and I are still reading, Coursera.org is starting a new session of “Introduction to Classical Music” on Sept 12, taught by Craig Wright of Yale. I took it a year or so ago; it’s quite a good survey, and there were a lot of great discussions. It should still be free, though you’ll have to look for the options that keep it so when you sign up, since Coursera really wants people to pay for credit these days. There’s a somewhat different and older version of the same course available directly from Yale which is definitely free, “Listening to Music”, but then you miss out on the discussions.

    https://www.coursera.org/learn/introclassicalmusic

    http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

    Coursera has a lot other good music courses too, including introduction to guitar, an introduction to writing classical music, teaching violin to kids, digital production techniques, even how to use Pro Tools. A couple of new ones since I looked last, too, which are relevant here: “The Place of Music in 21st Century Education” and “Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why”.

    • Here are some suggestions for absolute music that are far better choices than program music. These require the listener to actually listen attentively. And they’re all involving and fun, and shouldn’t pose any problems for a 12-year-old. Especially if an adult explains them a bit. But they don’t need much explaining.

      “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”: This Rachmaninov warhorse is the perfect introduction to “theme and variations”.

      The first movement of Brahms’ First Serenade: Though rather long, it starts with an immediately appealing theme, and gradually builds up its intensity and “darkness”.

      Bach’s first keyboard partita (B-flat major): It’s got lots of great tunes. I’m currently listening to Troeger’s lively clavichord performance.

  18. In case anyone other than William and I are still reading, Coursera.org is starting a new session of “Introduction to Classical Music” on Sept 12, taught by Craig Wright of Yale. I took it a year or so ago; it’s quite a good survey, and there were a lot of great discussions. It should still be free, though you’ll have to look for the options that keep it so when you sign up, since Coursera really wants people to pay for credit these days. There’s a somewhat different and older version of the same course available directly from Yale which is definitely free, “Listening to Music”, but then you miss out on the discussions.

    https://www.coursera.org/learn/introclassicalmusic

    http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

    Coursera has a lot other good music courses too, including introduction to guitar, an introduction to writing classical music, teaching violin to kids, digital production techniques, even how to use Pro Tools. A couple of new ones since I looked last, too, which are relevant here: “The Place of Music in 21st Century Education” and “Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why”.

    • Here are some suggestions for absolute music that are far better choices than program music. These require the listener to actually listen attentively. And they’re all involving and fun, and shouldn’t pose any problems for a 12-year-old. Especially if an adult explains them a bit. But they don’t need much explaining.

      “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”: This Rachmaninov warhorse is the perfect introduction to “theme and variations”.

      The first movement of Brahms’ First Serenade: Though rather long, it starts with an immediately appealing theme, and gradually builds up its intensity and “darkness”.

      Bach’s first keyboard partita (B-flat major): It’s got lots of great tunes. I’m currently listening to Troeger’s lively clavichord performance.

  19. Search for “Classical Music” on the App Store and many of the top hits are geared toward music to soothe babies. Aargh!

  20. Search for “Classical Music” on the App Store and many of the top hits are geared toward music to soothe babies. Aargh!

  21. Classical music does not have enough energy for the young and you can’t dance to it. I liked the short excerpts I heard in cartoons when I was young and peter and the wolf, but when I was young I had no interest in listening to some boring classical music, not when there was Elvis movies to watch and Beatles music to listen to and sing along with. Plus, Motown and all the other great music of the time.
    Now that I am older and all of the artists that I loved are mostly dead am I beginning to appreciate classical music. I enjoy going to concerts with my wife and some senor friends like myself and sitting quietly and listening. But when I was young I just wanted to move and go go go.
    I’m just saying.

  22. Classical music does not have enough energy for the young and you can’t dance to it. I liked the short excerpts I heard in cartoons when I was young and peter and the wolf, but when I was young I had no interest in listening to some boring classical music, not when there was Elvis movies to watch and Beatles music to listen to and sing along with. Plus, Motown and all the other great music of the time.
    Now that I am older and all of the artists that I loved are mostly dead am I beginning to appreciate classical music. I enjoy going to concerts with my wife and some senor friends like myself and sitting quietly and listening. But when I was young I just wanted to move and go go go.
    I’m just saying.

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