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Ponderings ahead of debate tonight “Classical Music is Irrelevant”

Clever man about town Stephen Fry, and Radio 1 DJ Kissy Sell Out, are tonight set to debate the relevance of Classical Music to today’s youth at Cambridge Union.

I will admit to only hearing snatches on Radio 4 this morning before I had to run out of the house for a day filled with music, but DJ Kissy (I admit, had to look up how to spell his name) and somewhat omnipresent Stephen Fry were already set to go…

What strikes your humble Blue Flamingo Staff member here, is that by the sound of the R4 chats, this is not at all going to be a debate about the music itself. It will be a conversation about packaging, style, youth today, the coalition government, rappers, education, schools and so forth. As someone who was a geek to the core in my State-School, who runs an Entertainments Company, who teaches and gigs, this idea that this is not actually about the music does make me sad. I do hope that Mr Fry and Mr Kissy (Mr Sell Out? Mr Out?) do manage to find a line between consumerism and sound, performance and history: and today’s youth.

What does make me smile, is that this debate is not really about truth. Otherwise, it would be great to have some musicologists in there, teachers, performers, as well as these consumers and lovers of Classical Music. What this is all in fact doing is bringing further publicity to an issue, which is in fact, age-old. (Why else would you have all the press coverage with Anna-Nicole the opera?) And I am glad it does this.

Before I must run off, I just have a few thoughts on the notion…for it seems as loaded as the debate shall be. The present tense of the statement – that it is irrelevant – suggests firstly that it was relevant in the past to the youth, and secondly that in the future it shall be irrelevant. It was relevant in the past – only in as much as it was the contemporary music of the day (a.k.a. What Mr Kissy is up to today). So that’s a weak idea. And with regard to the future – the notion forgets that music lives. What is today could not be without what came before. Music of the “Western” world (believe me, I do fully understand all the connotations that word holds, but here I am generalising, forgive me) can not help but draw from Classical Music, and this is ever relevant to youth, whose social lives revolve around music.

And the term Classical Music: Ridiculous. Let’s have a debate defining Classical Music and today’s youth. Far more interesting. Classical the pre-Romantic, post-Baroque era of Mozart and Clarinet fame? Classical with an orchestra (hello John Williams, Arvo Pärt, Harrison Birwistle, Ludovico Einaudi)? Classical as in old – let’s dig into that Byrd, Scarlatti, Purcell, Wagner, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Debussy, Brahms…(now I’m distracting myself with great composers)?

Whilst neither Mr Kissy nor Mr Fry (to my knowledge) perform Classical Music regularly the debate will undoubtedly be amusing…and I wonder what I shall ponder on their conclusions.

End of Ponderings.


Further reading/links

Mr Kissy Sell Out and his thoughts from the Independent:

Live Debate from Cambridge Union Society:

First Published May 12th 2011 @ 15:54