Defining the Canon: What Should We Produce?

November 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Back in the dark times when I was a practicing music theorist, the question of defining the canon of Classical music was not only a serious point of contention, but one of the most common arguments I found myself in. It seems that once you start discussing artistic tastes in terms of “good” vs. “bad” you will never reach an agreement. For every strong supporter of Beethoven you have another voice saying there is not enough focus on modern music, and for each of those you have a Baroque music lover who removes his shoe, slams it on the table, and shouts “Nobody likes this music!”

The point is, the likelihood of a large group of people agreeing what type of art is best is slim to none. But these kinds of value judgments are exactly the types of value decisions arts administrators have to make on a daily basis. Unless we happen to have the luxury of working for a very specific arts organization (such as a modern art museum or a new music ensemble), we will be involved in the process of deciding what our organization will produce. This brings a common theoretical debate among artists into a very real and practical light. Which of course begs the question, what type of music, theater, and art should we be promoting to our audiences in order to not only meet their demand, but to help promote the true “canon” of each art form?



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