Musical Evolution

Science was never really my strongest suit in school. Not that I was bad at it from a theoretical side; I am just really, really bad at math. At one point in time, I had the bright idea of taking a physics class in high school, because I enjoyed the theoretical, thought-provoking side of physics. On test days, I always breezed through the first part of the test, and then spent the bulk of my time struggling with the latter half (the math part), usually not finishing it all, and even more usually failing it completely.

All that to say, I have always been engrossed by many of the ideas presented by science. One thing that boggles my mind is the idea of evolution. As it’s usually described, evolution would seem to be a quick and tidy process of a creature figuring out how to survive best in the world and adopting those tools that work, while discarding the ones that don’t. But in reality this is not the case. Even a positive change in an organism has to go through several thousands (if not millions) of years of trial-and-error testing. And there are lots of evolutionary changes that do no good and lead to a dead end, or (worse) do bad and lead to an even quicker end. Living things seem to tend to resist change for as long as possible before making some sort of progress.

So it’s no surprise that the music world (and the subculture of classical music especially) is no different. We cling to the traditional ways of doing things, simply because that is what has always worked before. We resist change to everything: the music we perform, the venues we perform in, the way we dress, and the audiences we play for. We fight very hard to keep things the way they are, only changing once there is no other way to survive.

That model needs to change. We could get away with being so stubborn when the whole world moved that slowly. But life is evolving too. Change is occurring faster every day, and every day musicians fight that change is a day that makes us less and less relevant—one day closer to that evolutionary dead end.

It feels uncomfortable to accept and adopt to change so quickly. We don’t have the safety net of tradition to make sure we’re on the right track. But there’s no net anymore. The track has taken a huge left turn, and tradition is running us off the rails.

The potential evolutionary paths are endless. The beauty is there is more than one way to evolve and survive. Some ways, over time, will prove to be better than others, but for now the best way to ensure your musical extinction is to stay the same. Embrace the evolution of our business, and prepare for it to happen often.

What changes have you made to stay relevant? Leave a comment!

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