Attention-seeking? Classical music and Generation Spotify

Sunday 1 November, 15.00 until 16.15, The Barbican, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS UK Satellites

Part of the Barbican’s classical weekender, Sound Unbound. For more information and tickets, visit the Barbican website.

New studies regularly purport to show the benefits of classical music as an aid to concentration. For example, the Institute of Education last year recommended that listening classes should be on the curriculum from the age of seven. Within the classical music world itself, however, there are concerns about how to make symphonies and other long pieces of music appeal to a younger generation more comfortable with Spotify, for whom even a pop LP has become an uncomfortably long listening experience. The BBC Proms this year is continuing its attempts to appeal to younger audiences with a Late Night Prom hosted by club music DJ Pete Tong. Its director explained: ‘It’s so people will think, “Oh, classical music, that’s all right – I’m going to come back for another one”.’ At the same time, the possibility of cultural crossover is extended further than ever on the internet: viewers of NBC’s Hannibal could even enjoy the cultured killer’s own playlist selection afterwards.

Innovative educational tools like The Mozart Project provide younger listeners with accessible, curated introductions to the art form. Many arts institutions and critics provide playlists to accompany performances, offering audiences context and suggestions for further listening. Certainly, many suggest it can only offer an improvement on classical music’s often ambivalent relationship with the music industry in the twentieth century, where a bewildering array of performances and version would languish in specialist sections. But others express concern increased access comes at a cost: new audiences prefer to cherry-pick ‘greatest hits’ movements or standalone pieces, rather than cultivate the patience and interest necessary for longer, more challenging symphonies or operas.

Has internet streaming been good for classical music or has it really only changed how existing audiences engage with music? Does the internet have a vital role to play in increasing access and demystifying the music for a new generation, or does it only attract more casual fans? Has the internet changed the way we listen to music, or just made it easier to access? In a digital age, are live performances still the gold standard?

Kimon Daltas
editor, Classical Music magazine

Mahan Esfahani
harpsichordist; BBC Music ‘Newcomer of the Year’ 2015

Ivan Hewett
chief music critic, Daily Telegraph; professor, Royal College of Music; broadcaster; author, Music: healing the rift

Paul Morley
music journalist; author, The North (and almost everything in it)

Gabriella Swallow
cellist, broadcaster and arts commentator

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
David Bowden associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

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Next year's festival will be packed with more debates like this one. If you would like to come, get your ticket now via our 2016 tickets page.
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