Today I went to grammy.com and got a real education.
The Grammy organization gives awards to recording artists in 82 categories. I scrolled down the increasingly obscure list of winners, past four categories for rap, past Best Children’s Album, Best Regional Roots Music Album, Best New Age Album, on and on through 70 different categories.
At the deep, dark bottom of the list were the 10 categories for classical music.
There was a time when every concert presented by the Los Alamos Concert Association sold out the Smith Auditorium. A friend recently told me that she and lots of other families always took her kids to LACA concerts back in the ‘50s ‘60s and ‘70s. It was the thing to do. People wanted their kids exposed to great music and they paid for the privilege. (LACA tickets are now absolutely free to kids ages 6 to 18.)
So what has changed?
This apparent marginalization of classical music has been attributed to all sorts of things: the easy accessibility of pop culture, the decline of music education in the schools, the shortened attention span of audiences, their apparent need for over-the-top visual stimulation and the upper end of the volume control on their iPods.
Those of us who are classical music aficionados can moan about pop culture crowding out what we loftily consider REAL music. But in some important ways, the wounds classical music has suffered have been inflicted by those who love it most.
Music, no matter how old, is a living, breathing thing that achieves new life with every performance. So why do our concert halls often feel like museums with the music performed and heard with a kind of detached reverence that is often at odds with the visceral turmoil or overflowing joy that composers intended?
I will not attempt an analysis of why this happened, at least not today. What I can say is that a revolution is under way. Today’s young classical artists have grown up as musical omnivores. They have been influenced by pop, rock, world musical cultures and, of course, technology. They are bringing a new sensibility to the concert hall.
The upcoming season of concerts presented by the Los Alamos Concert Association will provide a glimpse into that revolution.
The first ensemble of the season, the Anderson and Roe Piano Duo, states explicitly that they want to “free the world from the constraints of sleep-inducing concerts.” Go to LACA’s website and watch their videos for a sense of what they will bring to their performance on Sept. 28.
Then there is Britain’s Red Priest. They play music from the 17th and 18th centuries, but their virtuosic performances have a rock star excitement.
Mexico’s great string quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, will explore the rich tango tradition of Argentina with their collaborator, bandoneón virtuoso Daniel Binelli.
And the Ethos Percussion Group will lead a tour through the musical cultures of the Silk Road, that great trade route stretching from East Asia through North Africa and the Mediterranean that has been influencing western classical traditions for centuries.
Visit LACA’s website to learn more about these innovative artists and their intense devotion to the music they love, music that is very much alive! www.losalamosconcert.org.