Wed., June 8, 2011: The Puzzle

How can classical music, opera, and ballet appeal to an inter-generational audience?


The Inter-generational Puzzle

A lot of people are concerned about the financial outlook for classical music, particularly for live performances.

True, the major concert halls in Prague are regularly almost full.

But in our conversations we find that people tend to agree with our general assessment that the younger generations, from teenagers to middle-agers, don’t believe that classical music is designed for them.

Well, here’s a suggestion to remedy the problem: Get them interested in music by Schoenberg.


Yes, Baby, This Arnold is for Teenagers

Of course, Arnold Schoenberg was rejected, reviled, and rebuked for his atonal, non-classical style.

But what better reason to appeal to teenagers? At that time of life, most teenagers can readily identify with anyone who is an outcast simply because they want to do things their own way. Teenagers can specially appreciate those who rebel against any kind of establishment, so start with Schoenberg’s biography and early frustrations. Given the value placed upon ‘star quality’ today, teenagers will especially respect anyone who, after initial rejection, later triumphs by becoming famous, adored — or even, still rejected.

It’s true, Schoenberg is not universally adored, even today. But a little controversy can only add more spice to the intrigue.

See You at the Movies, Arnold?

Schoenberg can also appeal to young adults, especially those who spend endless hours playing computer games or role-play games, not to mention those of various generations who watch films regularly. Listen to his String Quartet No.2, Op. 10. (If you attended the Prague Spring festival’s “Tribute to Atonality and Abstraction” May 30, you would have heard it performed by the Zemlinsky Quartet with soprano solo by Anna Maria Pammer.)

In this piece, the moods shift every minute, not just with every movement. It’s perfect for the younger generations, whose defining characteristic seems to be an ever-shortening attention span. (This is not a criticism, merely an observation.)

For young adults, the piece appeals to every emotion. It’s moody; it’s visual; it’s the perfect film music. Many adults naturally first start to become seriously curious about classical music based on an unforgettable movie score, or on a musical. Schoenberg can evoke movie-type images even without a movie.

So, yes, there is more work to be done in order to attract a wider audience to classical music. Schoenberg is just one of many places to start. – oo

– Mary Matz, Editor

Photo Credits: Zuzana Pernicová

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