You’ve really got to hand it to Mark Zuckerberg. With nothing but his computer, some beer, and an algorithm scrawled across the window of his Harvard dorm room (if the movie, “The Social Network,” is to be believed), the then-nineteen-year-old technological whiz kid created Facebook, one of the most significant inventions in modern history. True, Zuckerberg’s rapid ascendance to fame was not necessarily an innocent affair (again, see “The Social Network”), but in spite of Facebook’s controversies, one has to admit that it and other social media websites have significantly changed the ways that we interact with each other, both on and off the internet. We share information about our lives on a daily basis, maintain long-distance relationships that might otherwise have fizzled, and even participate in virtual board games with friends living miles away. But the most influential uses of such websites have been as a forum for discourse on a wide variety of topics, from national politics to cutting edge science. In fact, as much as I am annoyed by certain aspects of social media (do I need to know that your two-year-old has a runny nose today?), my daily scrolls through my Facebook newsfeed have often been more educational than I would have anticipated. And, more recently, I’ve been excited to witness a growing social media trend that’s more than relevant to my life: musicians having an increasingly vibrant discussion about the future of our art form.
Sure, we talk to each other about things like audience engagement, the cultural relevance of classical music, or the fairness of professional orchestra auditions. But now, with some people tweeting faster than real, live birds, our collective dialogues have rapidly expanded to encompass multiple aspects of the classical music world, subtly influencing its current aesthetical upheaval. Not only do we frequently hear news from orchestras and other arts organizations (I don’t think I would have known anything at all about the recent troubles of the Atlanta Symphony or the Minnesota Orchestra if I didn’t have a Facebook account), but we’re often exposed to a variety of opinions on the implications of that news, as expressed in articles penned (or should I say, typed) by articulate and thoughtful arts commentators. This past summer alone saw a number of these types of pieces; we’d barely finished mulling over the apparent detrimental impact of the modern concert hall’s “cloak-and-dagger protocols” as described in Richard Dare’s, “The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained” before we were wrestling with the ethical implications of online file sharing after NPR news intern Emily White published her highly controversial blog post, “I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With,” before Jennie Dorris’s sensational piece in Boston Magazine describing a desperate percussionist’s arduous audition preparations shone a spotlight on the flaws of the orchestral audition process, prompting us to question its supposed idealism. As each of these articles went online, they immediately made the rounds of the Facebook and Twitter feeds of musicians everywhere, fostering a nuanced and productive discussion that would never have been possible without the capabilities of social media. For the first time, we are witnessing divergent opinions on various aspects of the field gain the same visibility as those on current events we read on CNN.com, and if the blog posts and articles of this past summer are any indication, these instances of rapid sharing and subsequent discourse are growing increasingly prevalent. In a somewhat ironic way, as we sit miles apart behind the glowing screens of our MacBooks, iPhones, and tablets, we are utilizing the abundant resources of the virtual world to bring about real world change.
How has social media influenced your perspectives on the current events and trends in the classical music world? Do you think it will play a significant role in shaping the future of classical music? Comment below and continue the discussion, and of course, don’t forget to share this post on Facebook and Twitter.