I was wondering what everyone thinks about the direction of what we refer to as "classical music." This is a topic that I give much thought to, and for me, it presents a rather irksome dilemma.
I am a huge fan of quite a bit of 20th-21st century music. I thoroughly enjoy works by some of the most relentlessly avant-garde composers. I love the concept of trying to do something completely unconventional, as long as it produces something that I can recognize as having a clear purpose. My general attitude about art is that even if my first reaction to a work is negative, if I can perceive that it has "purpose," it is worth it to me to try to develop an appreciation for it.
Regardless, I have no desire to compose music in this way. In fact, I have no desire to compose music that completely deviates from tonality. If one listens to my music, certainly one will find that the tonality is far from static; I tend to weave through many keys, and in some works such as my Dream Cycle or String Quartet, there are many sections where the tonal center is nearly impossible to detect. But in general, it's fairly obvious that I take a tonal approach to my music. I've found a harmonic language that (despite the fact that it continues to evolve) is rather consistent, and it can be defined mainly by use of polytonality, continual tonicization and jazz chords. This harmonic language, I've found, is complex enough to interest musicians but "pleasant" enough to appeal to non-musicians.
However, here's the dilemma: do I continue to compose in a style that is accessible, or do I expand my harmonic vocabulary to the point where the general feeling of tonality is obliterated? On one hand, I feel like writing "tonal" music will benefit me, because it will appeal to a wider audience. On the other hand, it seems that tonal contemporary music is often taken less seriously (if not ridiculed) among the general community of academic composers.
What further complicates things is the fact that classical music is losing its audience. I think a large part of this has to do with the fact that it's generally presented in a very elitist fashion that makes most people who lack exposure to it question whether its worth it to actually bother learning about it at all. I often wonder if classical music would gain a wider audience if the performers left the tuxedos and luxurious dresses at home and came out wearing casual attire. And what if contemporary composers were able to write music that is not only masterfully written but also "cool" enough to bring a younger audience into the concert hall? Maybe that's also part of the problem -- perhaps we should get classical music out of the concert hall and into venues where it will reach a greater social demographic?
So, fellow composers, I ask you: what do you all think about the direction of classical music, both artistically and politically?