We need better audiences

I was talking to my son about music yesterday, and about how simple the current music is. Even on the standards of pop music, it’s pretty simple. Compare today’s hits to Cole Porter, for example. Why did this happen? How did we go from Beethoven to this?

Son points out that Beethoven isn’t popular music. But Beethoven sold a lot of music, I say. There are bagatelles and themes and variations and sonatas and string quartets. These were purchased, and provided income for the composer. Who was buying it? Somebody, surely. There was an audience for this stuff.

There was an audience for highly intellectual music with complex structures and intricate development of themes. Who were these people? Where are they today?

There are other examples. Consider the language of Shakespeare: who was he writing for? Modern students, even smart ones, have difficulty figuring out what’s going on in his poetry. His plays were very popular during his lifetime, which means he had an audience that could appreciate him.

If you have a chance, watch His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The dialogue and the jokes come fast and furious, much faster than anything we have today.

If you are upset with the current state of the arts, you should realize that it may be the current state of the audience. If there were people who demanded better stuff, the artists would create it.

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