New Music, New Audiences?

New Music, New Audiences?

Mark Satola
on Feb 23, 2017

The creation of new audiences for classical music is an ongoing concern. Last month we asked for your thoughts on the role of social media in bringing new listeners into concert halls. This month we're asking about the role that new music can play in creating new audiences for classical music. We'd like to hear from a wide range of people concerned with this, whether audience members, performing professionals or composers themselves.

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What role does the presence of new music in the concert hall play in creating new audiences for classical music?

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What do you think?

on 2017-10-17T05:52:39+00:00
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Jacqueline Gerber
on Apr 17, 2017
"I'm all for new music, but not everything in the concert hall translates well to radio. Much of..."
Mary Roesch
on Mar 20, 2017
"  I find it interesting that ‘modern’ classical music has become a genre where audience..."
Pamela Zoslov
on Feb 28, 2017
"Recently I attended a superb Cleveland Orchestra concert that featured, among other works, a..."

Mark Satola

Mark Satola - 2017-10-17T05:52:39+00:00 - "The creation of new audiences for classical music is an ongoing concern. Last month we asked for..."

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Jacqueline Gerber
on Apr 17, 2017 - 12:51 pm

I'm all for new music, but not everything in the concert hall translates well to radio. Much of it needs to be seen on the stage in order to get the full value of the composer's vision and performers' skill.  Without the visual reference, some newer music may lose a radio audience. Many a listener has switched the channel when listening to something that doesn't sound like a tune. Musical tastes evolve, though. Something new and odd-sounding today might be the "Rodeo" of tomorrow. I guess we'll just wait and see.

Mary Roesch
on Mar 20, 2017 - 5:37 pm


I find it interesting that ‘modern’ classical music has become a genre where audience approval is neither required nor appears to be even wanted.  In prior eras, composers felt an obligation to their patrons and the music world at large.  Composers like Verdi and Mozart were able “to play to the crowd” and still put their personal stamp on their music.


This is not the case with so many of today’s composers.  It feels like they totally scorn the need to build an emotional connection to the listener.  They disdain all concern for meter, or melody, or tonality that could draw in the listener leaving the audience shaking their heads and muttering, “you call this music?’  I’ve heard more than one modern composer comment to the effect that they write music to satisfy their personal needs, not the audience.  Well, if you don’t want to take in audience response, don’t complain that the audience doesn’t understand where you’re coming from.  We understand you just fine.  We just don’t like what you write. 


I’m not advocating that we only play the Essential Classics and I’m thrilled that in NE Ohio, we have access to a radio station that doesn’t merely stream Classical Music’s top 100 24/7.  Nor am I suggesting the today’s composers slavishly try to imitate the old masters (although Fritz Kreisler seemed to have fun doing so).  However, it might be a good exercise for today’s avant garde to take a moment to ponder why is it that a Mozart concerto, or a Beethoven symphony or a Tschaikovsky ballet still resonates with today’s audiences.  Perhaps that will prod them to write music that satisfies both the composers’ need to create something new and exciting and also engages the audience at large.


If that’s too much to ask then I’d like to suggest that there is plenty of modern orchestral music that connects with the average classical listener as well as the general public.  It’s even programmed on a regular basis on WCLV.  It’s the music of Broadway and Hollywood.  I don’t understand why it’s perfectly acceptable for mainstream orchestras to play a suite from a 19th century opera or ballet but conductors shy away from looking at 20th century movies and plays for similar inspiration.  Major orchestras may program a Gershwin concerto but rarely a Gershwin Broadway overture.  Only Pops orchestras seem to find that music acceptable in their concert halls. Maybe if we programmed more John Williams and less John Cage, orchestras might be surprised to find there is a broader audience out there for orchestral music beyond Beethoven and Brahms.   


Please don’t think I’m totally anti-new music.  I do appreciate the fact that WCLV makes a point of dedicating a portion of its programming to showcasing new works.  I look at it as an opportunity to hear music that I don’t know well enough to navigate to on my own.  Knowing that it’s already been vetted, I figure if I don’t like the performance, it’s a problem with the music itself, not that the music was played badly.  Most times, I shake my head and say, “I’m happy I heard that; I’ll be happier to never hear it again.”  But every once in a while, I’ll hear a new work that totally captures my attention and excites me to down to my soul.  And shouldn’t that be the goal of all music!


Pamela Zoslov
on Feb 28, 2017 - 4:33 pm

Recently I attended a superb Cleveland Orchestra concert that featured, among other works, a short contemporary work by the German conductor/composer Matthias Pintscher. It was a fascinating piece, enthusiastically received by the audience, save the man seated behind me, who complained bitterly all the way through it, after it, and even into the following piece. ("How can people applaud that?" he moaned.) The man's complaint underscored how difficult it is for orchestras to program newer, challenging, less tonal/accessible works and still fill seats. But there clearly is an appetite for newer music, with crowds relishing the Cleveland Chamber Festival, Cleveland Chamber Society, Cleveland Museum of Art and other series that feature newer works. Younger generations, who may not be as fixed in their tastes, are likely hungry for new sounds. I think concert halls have an obligation to challenge and broaden audiences rather than lull them with the same old warhorses. 

Angela Mitchell
on Feb 27, 2017 - 9:50 am

I think it is absolutely vital for classical music organizations, including radio stations, to include music by living composers. We are responsible for not only preserving this art form that stretches back hundreds of years, but for ensuring that it lives on for centuries to come. We cannot do that if we pick an arbitrary cut-off date and say, for example, that all music written after 1950 is no good. As a performer myself, I feel personally responsible for taking care of this art form, and a huge part of that means curating the work of living composers.