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Dead Composers, Living Audiences: The Situation of Classical Music in the Twenty-Firs ...

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Dead Composers, Living Audiences:

Introduction The Stakes

Suppose the entire model for the teaching of music history, theory, literature, and performance practice commonly in use in the Western hemisphere, and much of the Eastern hemisphere, were wholly inadequate. Suppose the teaching of music, in all of the manifestations of that teaching, were a form of introversion that has rendered itself obsolete. And suppose this model were not only inadequate and obsolete; suppose it were unethical.

Consider the culture in which teachers of the classical music tradition and all other musicians ply their trade. What are the stakes for those of us who advocate for, and work to advance, the incomparable music of the Western classical music tradition? We can begin to answer this question by seeking answers to the following questions: What are the implications of our culture’s continued, overwhelming reliance on music of the past? Why should teachers of the classical tradition care? If it can be demonstrated that they should care, is it just a question of what literature we teach, or is it a profound ethical question? If it is an ethical question, then is it not a question of whether we should care, but of what we should do to meet the challenges such questions surely raise?