The Next Classics (impressions from classical:next)

Last week I was in Vienna to visit the Third Edition of the classical:next music fair. This was the second time the fair took place in Vienna after an unsuccessful attempt to base it in Munich (which would have been much better for my travel budget). But well…Vienna is a very nice city, too!

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My involvement with classical:next is simply that of a part-time advisor. I was part of the first talks that tried to define the general direction of the fair, and therefore I look at the whole endeavor with sympathy for what it is trying to do.

Classical:Next developed from a growing dissatisfaction with the role of classical music at MIDEM in Cannes, and the will to create a more dedicated meeting place for professionals from all genres of classical music, from Early Music to contemporary music. We live in times where such a dedicated meeting is also a political signal – the classical CD market is far from healthy and is increasingly dependent on outer funding and support, orchestras are closed left and right, performance possibilities diminish, support for more experimental and daring music is on the decline.

At Classical:Next Agents, CD companies, distributors, associations and various organizations and musicians from the Classical field meet for business. There is a showroom with booths and various meeting places. There are concert “showcases” of international talent selected by an international jury. And there are conferences and talks about various subjects concerning the future of classical music.

The fair started out relatively small 2 years ago, but is slowly growing in size as more and more professionals understand the importance of global networking, even if the costs of participating have to be balanced against the small budgets that some of these companies have.

What was my impression this year? I have to say that I went to the fair with an open mind and no specific expectations – more a spectator than an active networker. As a composer and performer of contemporary music I’m a rarity anyway at the fair, actually I met only 2 more composers in the 2 days I was there (the whole fair is 4 days long). But that doesn’t matter – the whole affair is about the industry as a whole, it can never adequately represent single artists and that is also not the point (nevertheless as a performer or composer one might meet very interesting new contacts when coming to Vienna, of course).

I was astonished to feel more positive energy than negative one. As the industry is already suffering for quite some while perhaps a new kind of inner resolve has developed. New ideas about creating a new understanding for the value of music have developed. Most astonishing is the fact that there is actually still music recorded and distributed for example, against all the odds of today’s business problems. Somehow still a lot of energy is spent to create high-tech recordings of a high quality, presented in collector’s editions that sometimes are works of art. These recordings are financed by a huge variety of means – by external cultural funding, by private crowd funding models or by taking personal financial risks. But there is a visible love for the subject – very few are making lots of money, most common is the enthusiastic entrepreneur with a vision.

Live concerts are traditionally healthy compared to the media, but there is also the pressure of declining funding, so there are lots of attempts to take the idea of the “classical concert” towards a different route – new forms of presentation and new programming ideas abound.

Of course it would be naïve to expect to easily find the Holy Grail of the answer to the question “how to save classical music?” in a few days. And it is also wrong to think that it needs saving perhaps.

But what is clear is that a lot of people right now give the subject some very deep thought, and I don’t think it is silly to assume that new impulses can come out of this process. As long as we try there is hope. And that hope to persevere against odds could be felt in Vienna.

Moritz Eggert

PS: Here is a link to a video about classical:next

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