Past Program

Dec 06 - Dec 13, 1997

Music for a New Millennium: The Classical Genre in Contemporary Society


The Salzburg Seminar is convening this session to offer those who appreciate and work with classical music an opportunity to reflect on its history and current state while contemplating and planning its future. This session will explore the composition and performance of classical music on the eve of a new century by examining both creative and practical aspects of current trends in classical music and by discussing how the classical musical world is evolving in the global context.  What forces are driving the edges and boundaries of classical music in new directions?  What conclusions are to be drawn about the music of the twentieth century, and what musical developments are on the horizon as we enter the twenty-first?

The prospects for classical music in the 21st Century are troubling in many respects, for there are unmistakable signs that classical music is losing the support it has enjoyed in the West during the course of the past century and a half.  Various explanations for this include:

  • the disappearance of musical literacy in the population generally 
  • a broadening gap between the composer and his (her) audience
  • the promotion of more populist repertories, narrowing the standard repertory
  • the way in which music has been taught in the public schools
  • the ways in which professional musicians are trained and educated
  • the way in which music criticism has failed to keep pace with the modern age
  • the easy availability of all kinds of classical repertory though electronic means

While various musical leaders will disagree about the source of the primary problems, there now seems agreement, all over the world, that there is in fact a problem.

The session is designed to look both at the problematic and the promising areas by considering questions such as:

  • What is the background for classical music activity in different countries and geographic regions?
  • What are the most promising international, cross-cultural ideas to increase interest in classical music?
  • How can we encourage and sustain the active involvement of audiences?
  • What are the strategies for modifying and improving the education and training of future musicians and audiences?

The session will focus on process, i.e., emphasis will be placed on providing an analytic framework that will both inform participants and prompt them to ask new questions.  In the words of Robert Freeman, the session chair, “one of the special problems afflicting classical music in the world these days is the intellectual isolation of its constituent parts from one another… the need for bridging music islands.”  It is the hope of the Salzburg Seminar, and of Professor Freeman, that this session will begin to build those bridges between islands.  It will bring together persons from all over the world to explore the forces in societies, which can benefit classical music, this century and the next.