Even if you have eclectic tastes, if you're under 30, chances are good you listen to little or no classical music. This isn't an admonition; it's a fact, and one you've probably heard before in an admonishing tone. For decades, classical music has been in lugubrious decline. This trend has become a grave concern for people whose livelihoods are built on the music. Later this month, the League of American Orchestras is convening a conference to kick-start an "Orchestra R/Evolution." Whatever innovations they devise, it's likely that, barring some unforeseen revival of interest, this decline will continue.
That's where this essay comes in. Though I belong to that generation putatively responsible for the decline, I enjoy 300-year-old fugues. I was weaned on Outkast and the Kinks. And, weirdly enough, Prokofiev and the Pixies. I feel lucky to know the big secret: there's no trick. It's just music. It shreds, yearns, mourns, trills, rages, and smiles. The music is spine-tingling, angry, delicate, vulgar, snobby, bumptious, and transcendental. Anyone who loves music should feel comfortable pulling Messiaen into their mixes.