What is it kids hate about classical music?

It’s an interesting question why kids today think anything before the Beatles is ‘early music’?

I see it arising from the psycho-cultural revolution in perception that has been underway for a century now, driven by two forces & underpinned by two other – all of which originated in the USA. These were 1) the rise of the 'black beat’, 2) motion pictures, 3) capitalism, 4) technology.

By 'black beat' I mean metronomic music derived from drumming - which manifested first as ragtime then mutated into jazz and finally colonised all US popular music thanks to radio. By WW2 it had created an international musical ‘common time' that defined modernity and marginalised indigenous musical styles all over the economically-developed world. See a historical perspective.

The second force, the exponential growth of moving images from jerky novelty to sophisticated worldwide ubiquity, needs no further articulation. See my take on its effect on perception.

3 & 4 are both forces with positive & negative aspects; but the genius of the American social melting pot married together them to create art(plat)forms which, for the first time in history, would communicate effectively to a mass market of widely diverse ethnicity rather than appealing to elite audiences.

When I was young the skiffle craze as mere undertow to the imminent tsunami of Rock. Since then the relentless gray squirrel of US musical hegemony has all but eliminated the red squirrel of individual national cultural identity wherever there is mains electricity - or at least created a fundamental musical orthodoxy to which even today’s so-called ‘world music’ largely conforms.
This is the planet today’s young pianist has inherited. Inevitably the emerging adolescent is driven by fashion & peer pressure & thus their imagination is most effectively captured by the kind of music they're surrounded by and listen to. To be sure it’s morally-restricted and commercially-driven style, but  its fore-shortend worldview is cleverly tailored to support the reassuring wall of illusion with which immature personalities prefer to surround themselves.
The ‘problem’ with classical music for young people today, beyond ‘classic hits’, is not merely that it’s whole timbre is unfamiliar but much of its harmonic language evokes emotional voids - certain profound experiences which those raised on today's 24-hour-party world have rarely encountered - with the result that they are often made to feel quite uneasy by the range of emotions found within classical music. Moreover its execution often requires a subtlety of mind and technique which, in an automated & leveraged world, is no longer seen as an essential, or even desirable, prerequisite of endeavour.
All these factors make even show-tunes of the pre-war era as foreign and old-fashioned to kids as houses without central heating. I think it’s an interesting challenge to circumvent young people’s natural reluctance to move outside this comfort zone.


The Voice of the Martyrs

This piece is a dear child, one of my first mature compositions, dating from 1973.

At midnight I bowed my knee before God, and thanked him for all his graces which he has shown us. He has forgiven all our sins - places us on the way of truth - he comforts us in our misery, in our suffering, in our separation. 
We will pray for the cleansing of the church of Christ, that she may bring forth more fruit. We will pray for the ministers, for youth, for the prisoners, for our country and its government. 
Don't weep soul that griefs surround you. You dont have your lot in earthly life. Your whole happiness is there where saints who finished their course sleep peacefully.
Yes, I was obliged to go this way. There is no other way for me as a minister. And if anyone wishes to be a minister he must know beforehand that when Israel entered into the Holy Land, crossing the Jordan, the priests entered first into the dangerous waters and were the last to leave them.

I set these beautiful words by David Klassen, a Romanian Mennonite minister, the same year they were written while he falsely imprisoned in a lunatic asylum. Two years later a 'ransom'  of $26,000 was paid by W German Christians to allow him to travel to the West by which time he could no longer walk.  

The words still speak to me about the cost of being true to the light within - which is one that I hope on the whole I have paid cheerfully during the 50 years I've only been able to hear my 'heart music' silently, except for two choral recordings I conducted.

What is of interest from a perspective of 40 years is how my conception prefigures the integration of documentary sound & intentional music which was a big feature of my electronic compositional soundscapes at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop & RCM EMS 15 years later. Alas I was never able to integrate these spiritual interests with my commissioned work - which was one of the reasons I abandoned my 'career' in order to journey to a place of musical at-one-ment, even tho it has involved 20 years further silence.

In The Voice of the Martyrs I sought to create a Russian sound-world with basso profundo. Possibly I have a deep psychic connexion to the slavic soul for 35 years later I had one of my most profound spiritual experiences in front of an icon in a Moscow church.

Altho the tyranny that gave rise to this prayer has ended, it has been replaced by a far more insidious economic tyranny that coerces the populace into collaboration. I have always hoped that my music would sound a clarion call for those who do not bow the knee to this false god, and be a voice for those of goodwill who seek intunity with spiritual truth. Therefore it has been intensely painful to me to find noone in my own country who sees or understands the power that this music has. I hope the Society for Universal Sacred Music may see this for I have always believed that when the zeitgeist is ready for this music, this music will be a vehicle for the spirit of a new era. I thank them for holding the space for this vision.