Monday, December 10, 2007
Tradition and Innovation
Many of the participants of DePauw's Post-Classical Symposium have already blogged their views: Tim Munro of eighth blackbird (Part 1, Part 2), Greg Sandow (Part 1, Part 2), and Eric Edberg. What finally got me stirred enough to comment was a lecture given yesterday by the Dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He was talking about the concerns of the Episcopal Church, with declining attendance and lacks of connection between clergy and laity. Dean Hall has been exploring ways to change seminary education to train priests for today's environment. Replace church with concerts, seminaries with conservatories, and priests with musicians, and you have the discussions from the Post-Classical Symposium. In both cases, there is a tension between celebrating tradition and pushing for innovation. In classical music tradition is found in theory and history classes, ensemble repertoire, and the canon studied in lessons. Religious tradition holds to certain interpretations of Scripture, core values of morality, etc. But because not enough people are going to concerts or churches, there are moves to innovate, by altering the canon (Episcopal pun intended) or the organizations. Emphasis on chamber music and lay ministers, rock-influenced classical music and rock-influenced liturgical music, these efforts to progress and grow can also be taken as disrespect for traditional values. Listening to Greg Sandow and Joe Horowitz, it is clear that these gentlemen greatly respect the traditions of classical music while looking for ways to change it. And just as the tensions in the Episcopal Church could be alleviated by realizing the respect for tradition as well as growth, the tensions involved in "saving" classical music also need these reminders.