The Wrong Way of Finding Listeners

The excellent Linda Shaver-Gleason, writing at VAN on why classical music isn’t cool.

All of these are efforts to convince young people that classical music is cool—because, after all, nothing is cooler than something you have to be told is cool.

This was shared widely last week on classical music Twitter, and Shaver-Gleason makes an excellent case. I’d argue that VAN’s headline is wrong. The music is cool, in the same way that design or typography or film is cool. Like all cool, it’s cool to those who like it.

But the nut of her argument—that pretending musicians from a couple of hundred years ago would be considered cool today is a dumb way of attracting new listeners—is absolutely solid.

The Musical Brain

Amy Spray, on I Fucking Love Science:

Musical training has shown to lead to improvements in a wide variety of different skills, including memory and spatial learning for example. In addition, language skills such as verbal memory, literacy and verbal intelligence have been shown to strongly benefit from musical training.

Musicians are also more adept at processing speech in environments where there are large amounts of background noise, possess a greater propensity for processing auditory signals that are in some way degraded and show an advantage over their musically naive counterparts when it comes to pitch detection in both music and language. Recent advances in technologies have also allowed researchers to probe into the neural (functional, structural and electrophysiological) underpinnings of these adaptations.

As ever, I think it’s important that love for music come first—music is not a vegetable. This is a benefit of studying, not a reason to study.

But it is important to remember that these benefits exist.