Classical Music Needs a New Name
Some time ago, music journalist Craig Havighurst proposed a radical rebranding of the music that WCLV has aired since 1962. He proposed dispensing with the phrase "classical music" and replacing it with a new term that, as he says, has been hiding in plain sight.
Mr. Havighurst writes: "In his Young People’s Concerts, circa 1958-‘72, Leonard Bernstein lamented the limits and imperfections of the term Classical Music. We use it, he said, “to describe music that isn’t jazz or popular songs or folk music, just because there isn’t any other word that seems to describe it better.”
Nearly a half century later, we find author and musicologist Alex Ross opening his 2010 book Listen To This with a similar complaint. “I hate ‘classical music’: not the thing, but the name,” he writes. “The phrase is a masterpiece of negative publicity, a tour-de-force of anti-hype.”
During the intervening decades (my lifetime, more or less) The Thing We’ve Called Classical Music has cratered in popularity and public engagement. It’s working its way back, slowly, to a place of respect, relevance and commercial viability. But it needs all the help it can get, including a major re-branding and re-conceptualization.
I actually think there is a great new word for Classical Music...So with a bow of gratitude to Leonard The Great, who helped me and millions of others experience great music on its own terms and in all its wonder, I hereby propose it.