Is Classical Music Dead?

Browse By

Music is constantly evolving. With each passing decade we witness the emergence of new artists, genres and technology, and it seems that popular music today could hardly be more different to that of Bach, Brahms and Berlioz centuries ago. Is it true that classical music is heading towards extinction?

Whilst it is undeniable that interest in classical composers has diminished over time, I would argue that this is natural for any music. In the sixties the Beatles were the most famous band in the world, but for the majority of people nowadays hearing their music is a rare occurrence. Humans are ephemeral beings and society is constantly moving forward, exploring the next craze. But this doesn’t mean music of the past is gone forever. Surely Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 for example, with the infamous ‘dun-dun-dun-DUN’ can never be forgotten?

The demise of classical music has been foretold for decades and yet it is still here – it appears to endure despite being overshadowed by current music. I think that this is because the rate at which its popularity is falling is decelerating. In other words, the number of those who enjoy the genre, though relatively few, will never be exhausted, due to the strong core of passionate classical enthusiasts.

If the works of composers like Mozart and Tchaikovsky are to survive, there must be people willing to play their pieces and in my opinion, this is the best way to become acquainted with classical music. Picking up an instrument and having lessons is a great approach and something anyone can do. Only when you have gone through the arduous process of practising and refining subtle techniques is it possible to really appreciate pieces. What’s more, experiencing classical music first-hand makes listening to others play far more relatable and even enjoyable. As long as music continues to be taught in schools and there are teachers to give lessons, I believe that support for the genre will prevail in the future.

Furthermore, in recent times, efforts have been made to reignite interest in classical music. In 2014, BBC Music ran a scheme called Ten Pieces, which introduced primary school pupils all over the UK to ten classical pieces selected to inspire the younger generation. Around 150 arts organisations took part and professional orchestras and musicians, including the famous violinist Nicola Benedetti, gave visits to schools as ambassadors of the project.

The scheme was expanded to British secondary schools last year and was hailed by BBC Director General Tony Hall as “the biggest commitment the BBC has ever made to music education in our country”. The fact that so many organisations were prepared to promote classical music as part of the project displays a clear sign that the genre is still regarded as an important part of culture in our country.

In addition, there are a number of popular modern composers whose music adopts classical elements. Ludovico Einaudi, who wrote the music for the award-winning French film Les Intouchables, has produced several fine works such as Nuvole Bianche and I Giorni, which have been lauded immensely. To me, these two incredibly popular pieces indicate that classical-based music is still listened to today by significant numbers of people.

All things considered, I would argue that classical music is not dead. Its roots are too deeply interwoven in our society and cannot be removed. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. This is perfectly fine – everyone has a different taste and should be respected for it. However, I would strongly recommend taking the opportunity to broaden your musical interests and try listening to some classical pieces. Who knows—you might come to enjoy it.