Sunday, November 04, 2018

more reports on traditional orchestral instruments in danger of never being played again in the UK because kids would rather play ukulele than French horn

https://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2018/oct/31/blown-away-will-we-miss-the-sweet-sound-of-school-recorders

... shows that some orchestral instruments are in danger of becoming extinct, due to young people’s lack of interest. YouGov research, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) to find the most popular instruments among schoolchildren, has revealed the increasing popularity of the ukulele, with one in eight expressing a desire to learn, making it the highest ranked instrument behind the typical rock-band grouping of guitar, piano, keyboards, drums and bass guitar.
But younger generations’ interest in “more sophisticated instruments”, as the Times sniffed, is waning, with the three least popular being the French horn (also known as The Wolf, in Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf), the double bass (Peter) and the trombone (not a major player).
...

Those last two instruments don't seem to have a huge problem getting at least some representation in American music and ... I wonder if jazz may have provided those instruments with more things to do or something (sarcasm alert, just in case).

If kids want to play the ukulele and the guitar then why don't you write for the ukulele and guitar?   It's not that I don't love me some French horn music or the trombone.  I find both instruments to be as wonderful as other instruments like the viola, oboe, tuba, and clarinet.  But reading these sorts of headlines does make it seem as though those who would like to advocate for a revival of classical music as they understand may want to step back and think a bit about what it is they are eager to revive.  Is the goal to preserve and continue ways of thinking about the art of composition in its most esoteric and comprehensive disciplines (complex forms, counterpoint, and theory in musical practice)?  Or is the goal to preserve a body of performance literature that is considered the apotheosis of such disciplines in the last few centuries because that's simply not the same thing. 

If a tectonic shift has occurred in the last century in which plucked string instruments are more popular than brass instruments then insisting on writing for the instruments that are on the way out, if the reports are true, might be like insisting that, oh, kids these days should really take up the serpent and the lute!

Which ... hey ... it's serpent and oud but here you go.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xuxzJkuJWI

My own hunch has been that it will be more likely to get the kids who learn guitar and ukulele to play classical music, for want of a better word, if you write for the instruments they're actually playing than if you try to get them to play for the instruments they won't be learning to play at school or at home because of budget constraints.   One of the things one of my music instructors taught me was that you learn to write music for the resources you actually have, not the ones you wish you had.   I'm hardly against encouraging a new generation f musicians to take up the French horn and the tuba and the double bass.  It's just that as an American I get the sense that with help from bands and the jazz tradition these instruments may not be as imperiled in the United States as they may be in not quite as jolly old England .. or so recent reports seem to have it.



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