Sacred Entertainments

Richard Taruskin

in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942790 | DOI:
Sacred Entertainments

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This chapter deals with classical music and its popularity over the years. After the 1960s the audiences of classical music felt undermined by the precipitate decline in public music education and decimated by defections to pop, thus classical music was assumed to be aging, indeed dying off. The media coverage for classical music steadily and drastically diminished during the 1970s and 1980s, as did the number of radio stations that offered it. In the 1970s classical music accounted for 20 percent of record sales in Japan, 10 percent in Western Europe, and 5 percent in North America. Major symphony orchestras, especially in the United States, found themselves without recording contracts, which had serious consequences for the incomes of their personnel. Major labels began concentrating on “crossover” projects, in which the most popular classical performers collaborated with artists from other walks of musical life in an effort to achieve sales that might transcend the limits of the classical niche. This pattern began unexpectedly to change in the late 1980s and 1990s permitting the emergence of composing elites whose work was suddenly in demand, and sought out by traditional performance organizations for performance at major venues. The new interest in supporting classical composition in traditional “audience” genres affected the concert hall as well as the opera house.

Keywords: classical music; symphony orchestras; music composition; United States; Japan; North America; record sales

Chapter.  9846 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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