What is the purpose of music? If it is useless, what’s the point? Classical thinkers would say the purpose of music is “beauty.” Post-modernists might reply, “there is no purpose.” The presence of the ugly in music forces the issue: people vote with their feet and leave the concert hall. Orchestras, in order to continue to reach their audiences, apologetically abandon up-to-date atonal creations in order to rely on Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
This subject is explored by internationally honored trumpeter Andrew Balio in an article in The Imaginative Conservative, “For What Does Classical Music Exist?” In this wide-ranging piece, Balio discusses why orchestras are suffering financially and art museums are not, whether Beauty continues to be relevant in an ugly world, what it is that orchestras are to accomplish, what’s the difference anyway between a rock concert and a classical one, and why the audiences at orchestra concerts tend toward grey hair.
Philosopher Roger Scruton’s Why Beauty Matters explores the same subject in a compelling, 55-minute video from BBC Scotland. Parental discretion advised.
If you find either of these items compelling or provocative, please let me know.