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Baseball, classical music…and the church?

Baseball, classical music…and the church?

What David Lang writes in The Score, about American composers on creating “classical” music in the 21st century, might also apply to how we understand the church.

Certain things that happen in classical music would be unthinkable in baseball. Imagine a baseball game in which all the players dress up in the uniforms of a hundred years ago, and then follow, pitch by pitch, a classic match-up from the past. Imagine watching a game, and saying that a hit or a run on the field in front of you is not as elegant or meaningful as a hit or run from a game 50 years before. Imagine seeing your favorite team win a game, but discounting it because you remembered a previous incarnation of that team that was more talented or exciting. Or imagine going to a game that wasn’t as thrilling as a game you remember from your past and then deciding never to see another live game again.

That last one is the analog to classical music that bothers me the most.

Could baseball have a lesson for music lovers that would allow us to appreciate the past and the present at the same time? What is behind this ability of baseball fans to connect the present action to the sport’s past glory and still appreciate the moment-to-moment excitement of the players on the field? These aren’t distinct functions of sports fandom; they are closely related to each other, and they inform each other. A fan appreciates the successes of the past more as he or she sees contemporary players working to succeed now, and vice versa. This is the kind of thinking that the institutions of classical music need to promote if we want the field refreshed by new music and musicians.

h/t Robert Morrison on the HOBD list.


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Clint Davis

In the past, people went to concerts, games and church because they wanted/needed cultural interaction, and such events were the only ways to really do this, whether or not you were a fan of anything that went on in these venues. Now there is so much low-level cultural interaction that only die-hards will ever really show up to church or whatever. Mega-churches are just current cultural trappings with a religious veneer; they really are Jesus-stores, and everyone likes to go shopping. But willingly to go into a place where everything is totally different, to support, with your hard-earned cash, the community that creates this place, that is a different thing altogether. Downsizing with die-hards and the people who love us, that is the future of all religious organizations. Not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.

Paul Woodrum

Ticket pricing for baseball and classical music in NYC is very complex. Based on a season or subscription ticket, per event price for the following is roughly:

New York Yankees: $19-220

52 games

NY Philharmonic: $30-108

8 concerts

Metropolitan Opera: $21-390

6 performances

One has to a pretty die-hard fan to enjoy any of them.

tobias haller

YMMV, but my experience of die-hard sports fans is that they do precisely the kind of things the author suggests they don’t. (“The game was different before aluminum… steroids… astroturf… the X rule… &c.) And the “dream teams” of old. I find that die-hard sports fans are actually quite a bit like classical music lovers.

The real difference is that classical music only has die-hard fans. Tickets are too expensive for casual enjoyment. Sports has lots of spectators who may not be “fans” except of their own team. And then its the team, not the performance.

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