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Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Prescription for Operatic Prescriptionists!

The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.  - William Shakespeare
WARNING: This is a long blog but I was not willing to divide it into parts. (Apologies if you were looking for a little quick read!)  
SPOILER ALERT: I also reference a song by the Beastie Boys in "Star Trek Beyond"

First a few definitions…  
Prescription A recommendation that is authoritatively put forward.  
Prescriptive [Linguistics]: Attempting to impose rules of correct usage on the users of a language; Relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method.  
Prescriptionist A person who makes up or dispenses medicines in accordance with prescriptions; an assistant to a pharmacist.  
Prescriptionism [Philosophy]: The theory that moral and other evaluative judgments have prescriptive force similar to that of imperatives.  

Description A statement that tells you how something or someone looks, sounds, etc. ; words that describe something or someone  
Descriptive [Linguistics]: Denoting or relating to an approach to language analysis that describes accents, forms, structures, and usage without making value judgments. Often contrasted with prescriptive.  
Descriptionist Originally: a person who describes something or someone; specifically one who gives (mere) descriptions that are free from evaluation, explanation, etc. Later chiefly: a person who believes in the importance or priority of description; an adherent or advocate of descriptivism.
Descriptionism The doctrine that the meanings of ethical or aesthetic terms and statements are purely descriptive rather than prescriptive, evaluative, or emotive.

Here’s a short video to describe these ideas in musical terms:  Why You Should Learn Music Theory!

Yes, it is a great discussion of why prescriptionism is important to music theory. I agree. However let me get right to the point:

I am an operatic descriptionist. 

The above statement is one of the fundamental differences I have with some – not all, mind you – of my exceptional colleagues, both in the professional and academic worlds. I believe that the philosophical differences between musical prescriptionists and descriptionists are at the root of our current pedagogical dilemmas surrounding a singers’ initial education at college or a university, and their subsequent training and preparation to enter the profession life out in the real world. I additionally believe that it is one of the causes for why some opera companies are failing to reach new audiences while others are succeeding so well at it. Furthermore, I believe that the highest quality of summer/resident young artist programs are already moving forward along these lines but that many others are still trapped in a 1980s world of presenting yet another Carmen quintet with other opera “highlights” during tired scenes programs, thinking this is some sort of “training”.

Most importantly, I believe that if descriptionism becomes the guiding force in our musical world, it could bring a paradigmatic shift to the opera world and, deep breath, prevent its collapse.

Dire words. I do not type them lightly.

Almost all young opera singers are trained in a classical setting, at an academy, conservatory, university or college by voice teachers working within a prescribed curriculum that is part of a larger performance area or program. Prescriptions are put into place to maintain accordance with a larger University’s curricular standards, and/or to create an equanimity among the students’ examinations, aka their recitals.

There are certain things a singer must do to get a degree in voice. One of the biggest is their final Recital – in graduate programs there are usually multiple recitals. These recitals are a singers’ thesis or their final exam as it represents the culmination of their education in the classical vocal arts. Oftentimes these recitals are worked on for multiple semesters in order to present between 50 and 70 minutes of music for voice and piano accompaniment.

Now these recitals all have guidelines and rules, often in place for decades, handed down from what I’d imagine were all prescriptionist committees. Among other things, these rules oversee what can be sung and for how long. Most recitals at the undergraduate level are, rightly so, pretty prescriptive in their constraints. Multiple languages, historical perspectives, and genres are very tightly controlled by the voice teachers who judge and grade the student singers. Again, a pretty understandable idea. Typically in graduate programs, the reigns are loosened to allow more freedom for the singer to decide what they’d like to sing on their various recitals. Usually the length is still dictated and there are still, in most schools, guidelines for what constitutes these graduate voice recitals. For instance, at McGill every graduate recital is proposed to a committee of faculty who approve its content and length.

This all seems very normal and good.

But the problem is is that these voice recitals tend to all look and sound the same. Allow me to over-generalize: A guy walks out in a tux or a lady walks out in a gown, they open up with some nice Italian ditties from the baroque period, then move into a Schubert set auf Deutsche, perhaps something more Romantic, then into a French Impressionist set, infrequently making sense of the dense symbolist poetry, and then burst into an English set by Barber or Britten or Bolcom or Beach. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they get to end with something to “entertain” the audience, usually some piece of musical theatre they’ve been wanting to sing for years but haven’t been allowed to actually study in any way. They stand and deliver thoughtfully, taking breaks between “sets”. Applause follows. If they’ve prepared well, a passing grade is usually conferred by a chosen panel of voice teachers.

What’s the problem, you might ask? Do I have some grudge against the current recital format?

Yes, I do. I believe that there is more to a young singer’s training than learning to stand still while singing through an hour’s worth of song literature. I think that recitals should only be a part of a young singer’s thesis, not its sole culmination. I believe that students should be allowed much more flexibility and freedom when choosing repertoire, venue, length, order of songs, and even their dress. Hey - Why not ungroup a cycle and splatter it throughout other songs to create a more unique connection between the poetry or the music?

Why do I write these things on such a public forum? Because I’m concerned and too many others in the professional opera world have voiced their concerns directly to me as well. We are concerned about the type of preparation happening in many of the academic programs in North America. Most were developed in the last century before huge shifts in our world made new demands on our young singers - from needing video auditions for most programs, having up-to-date websites with media capabilities, knowing a much broader range of repertoire, navigating through social media, dealing with a saturated market of singers faced with a declining chance of being cast - just to mention a few. It is time to reboot opera at its roots.

This will be tricky for there exists a difficulty among prescriptive academics: how to stay in touch with current trends happening out there in the wide world. Sometimes, if they are aware of shifts and trends, they passively or aggressively ignore them because they have their proven methods to form singers. Sometimes it’s literally “my way or the highway”, and students are denied even thinking about new repertoire outside of the prescribed parameters, let alone learning or studying unfamiliar pieces from new or evolved genres. For the ones who do want change, they can be met with a wall of tenured professors who may or may not be interested in change.

So what makes one a “prescriptionist”? Well, it’s when one decides what classical music is and is not. That subsequently creates a prescription on the “is not” music, preventing a student from learning, studying, researching, or performing it during a most critical time – their early years learning to sing.

And let me add: To decide what constitutes “music” is an awfully difficult thing. Absolutely, totally, and simply, impossible. Let’s give it a try: What is music? Try to answer that. Go ahead.

Now imagine putting your answer into a prescription for a classical voice recital. This prescription creates the bibliography for what a singer will study and learn for their four years, and perhaps beyond. It will affect how they learn to sing (repertoire does that), what sorts of technical difficulties they will take on and hopefully conquer. The repertoire that is chosen as their course of study will have a huge impact on their burgeoning technique.

Let me be clear. I believe in the classical training of the human voice. Whole-heartedly. Even though I’d be hard-pressed to describe exactly what that is, or is not.

But let’s move forward and think about what that question (“What is music”) creates from an operatic perspective. For you see, the recital experience is part of the basic and essential training that goes into making a young opera singer. However, none of them make a living just singing recitals. If successful, they make their living singing opera, oratorio, recital, musicals, concerts in bookstores, giving masterclasses, and/or private teaching. Opera should be an essential component of all young singers’ training because it offers the first lucrative engagements that lead to management and bigger paying gigs. Yet it isn’t an essential component in many undergraduate programs outside of either some opera scenes or an annual production. The bigger the programs, the more opera productions, the bigger the budgets, the more opportunities to sing with orchestra, and lots more competition to get cast. That last bit’s probably another blog.

A few fun questions:
What is opera?
What constitutes some piece of art being called “opera”?
What makes one piece an opera and another piece not an opera?
Who gets to decide?

To get really down and dirty: What makes Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte an opera when it’s clearly a “Singspiel” (a German musical that has dialogue between its musical numbers.) Why do classical musicians think that Offenbach’s operettas are operettas, but his Les contes d’Hoffmann is more of an opera? What puts Carmen or Die Fledermaus decidedly in the opera camp, but other German operetta in the “Light Opera” arena along with Gilbert and Sullivan, Lehar, and the early New York musicals?

Speaking of musicals, the distinction between musical and opera is now being blurred by, of all things, opera companies. Recently major North American houses have joined the Europeans (who’ve been presenting musicals in their opera houses for decades) to present operas by a wide range of American composers. Leading the way were the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glimmerglass Opera, and Ash Lawn Opera (a Charlottesville, Virginia company presenting opera and musicals in repertoire for the last 30+ years). Now they are being joined by Houston Grand Opera, L’opéra de Montreal, Central City Opera, Vancouver Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, LA Opera, NYCO, and Mill City Opera up in Minnesota (run by two young geniuses, the director David Lefkowich whose training is in theatre and stage combat and the conductor Brian DeMaris who runs the Arizona State University program which is a unified musical theatre and opera program – singers can study one or the other or both. IMAGINE.)

Another question: Is a musical still a musical when an opera company produces it and casts opera singers?

Many people I’ve discussed this question with go right to “mic’ing” for the answer. If it’s mic’d, then it’s obviously a musical because opera is an acoustic art form. Sure. Go there. Try that argument. Then head into any number of opera companies across North America (shall we all name names?!) and see the sound engineer in the back of the house maintaining floor mic levels “just to enhance”, or adjusting lavalier microphones attached to the singers’ costumes. If an opera singer sings opera in a house but mics are used, is the piece still an opera? I thought opera was an acoustic art form.

Using mic’ing as an answer is no longer viable because of the new technologies available, the fact that sound engineers are able to manipulate the singers’ voices live, and that too many new operas employ non-acoustic sounds in both the orchestrations and in the productions themselves. The genres (musicals and operas / acoustic vs engineered) blurred many moons ago. Way, way, way back. Even “classic” musical theatre, a genre that many opera folk think was an acoustic one, was mic’d. Yes, even that great belter Ethel Merman was mic’d. In shows as old as Gypsy. [Shocked?]

Here's a quick article mentioning this history: Acoustics-And-Electronics

But didn't we all agree, at some point, that certain pieces were operas – like Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess – didn’t we? Was the recent Broadway show a musical derivation of it, which starred many operatically-inclined singers like Audra MacDonald or was it a devolved operatic version?

The elephant in the room, besides Porgy, is Sweeney Todd by that great musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim. Today, Sweeney is presented all over the world by opera companies with opera singers in every role. So, it’s an opera then? Even if they have to mic it because the orchestration is way too present right in the ranges of the singers? Arguably, the piece was written to be mic’d, just like Nixon In China (really? Yes!) What about when Sweeney is performed by non-opera folk (you know, those people who act first and sing later, who may not really have any classical training but have figured out how to sing thousands of times a year)? Does Sweeney revert back to being a musical?

For that matter, was La bohème an opera when it was on Broadway being sung by mostly opera singers, albeit very young ones, but mic’d?

What about Sondheim’s homage to operetta: A Little Night Music. Is it an operetta? Sounds like one, looks like one. It has more waltzes in it than Die Fledermaus, yet are young opera singers putting Henrik’s song ("Later") onto their audition lists as a legitimate aria (much more difficult to sing than, say, “New York Lights” or “Lonely House”)? Or are any mezzos putting “A Miller’s Son” onto their lists instead of “What A Movie!”? The latter, by Bernstein, sounds just as Broadway as the former. I’ve coached Petra’s aria with mezzos who have a decidedly heavy mix and can easily make the piece their own, yet they think they can’t put it on their list which oftentimes already has “What A Movie!” or Orlofsky’s aria or any number of Offenbach arias. God, Petra’s aria is even strophic, so it’s like a Schubert song! But the prescriptionists haven’t agreed to A Little Night Music being brought over from the dark side yet, even though other “operettas” by Offenbach and Bernstein (think Candide) were declared operatically worthy decades ago.

Menotti “operas”, like The Consul, The Telephone, and The Medium were all first presented on Broadway yet they are never, ever, discussed as modern-day musicals. The Consul even received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the year it debuted – something normally given to musicals and plays, but rarely operas. Bernstein’s Trouble In Tahiti or Candide are sometimes debated, but their excerpted arias definitely make it onto the Met voice competition from time to time, as do a handful by Sondheim. Yet few classical singers are presenting stuff from The Music Man or Camelot. Why?

To make matters worse, the new “operas” are being written in a style that can’t easily be distinguished from the new “musicals”. Take a listen to much of Jason Robert Brown (Parade) or Richard Rodger’s grandson, Adam Guettel who’s writing song cycles ("Myths and Hymns") and a Tony Award winning opera, sorry – musical – The Light in the Piazza. Then compare them to the other, “serious” side of things. Operas by Jake Heggie (particularly At the Statue of Venus), Torke, Puts, or Bolcom; all were preceded onto the opera stage by the likes of Barber, Argento, and Pasatieri who wrote in very tonal, jazz-influenced American style first created by Weill (Street Scene) and Blitzstein (Regina). Okay, Blitzstein wrote musicals, including the infamous Cradle Will Rock, but also wrote one of the great 20th century operas with lots of dialogue: Regina. What about the most popular new opera written in the last 25 years, Mark Adamo’s Little Women? It’s through-composed and completely sung. Absolutely an opera. But anyone who listens to the final quartet, the big tune “Kennst du das Land”, or analyzes its formal structure, can’t help but think that it would be quite at home on the Broadway stage.

Gosh, so confusing when one tries to nail down this repertoire!

Here's Anne Midget's take on a recent Sweeney Todd at Glimmerglass Opera this summer: When Musicals Become Operas

And then there are the singers who perform this rep! We used to talk about “cross-over artists”. Allow a quick digression: The first Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe was Walter Cassell. He and I both graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Granted, he graduated at the end of WW1; I still claim him as TJ's most famous alumni. He set out for NYC to become an opera singer but initially this didn't work out. He spent time in Hollywood acting, and then back to NYC to star on Broadway. Finally the old Met contracted him and he ended up performing in hundreds of operas during his career. He was crossing over, back and forth, from the 1930s until the early 1970s (SEVENTIES!) upon his retirement. So perhaps I can be forgiven for wondering what the hell is wrong with people thinking that opera singers shouldn't sing outside of their opera repertoire, or if they do, they need no help, instruction, coaching, or training to do so because it's not as "challenging".  An example that comes to mind about what's challenging: I give thee two songs about marriage, Schubert's "Du Ring an meinem Finger" vs Sondheim's "(Not) Getting Married Today".

[evil smile]

Both are masterpieces in their own right. Both undeserving of comparison. However, how many classical musicians look down their noses at musical theatre thinking that it, in no way, compares to the heilige Kunst of art song or opera? Why do they do so? I think many, coaches in particular, have little experience with the literature and do not realize the extent to which it has changed in the last 25 years. To quote a friend of mine who conducts both opera and musicals: "Sunday in the Park is fucking hard. It makes Die Zauberflöte look like a walk in the park!" I concur, one summer spent conducting Cosi fan tutte, The Sound of Music, and Cenerentola in rep convinced me that the difficult piece to stay consistent on, the one that challenged both the orchestra and singers to keep all that underscoring in balance and on time, was the piece where the audience liked to sing all the bits they knew. And the casts were comprised of opera singers who might one night sing Dorabello, then Mother Superior, then Cenerentola, then Mother Superior, then Thisbe, then Mother Superior, etc.

There were many cross-over artists back in my student days. Formally trained opera singers who ended up making six figures singing JVJ in Les Miserables, or operatic “character” mezzos who did a year or two on tour with Phantom. Nowadays we drop the term "cross-over artist", even when a typical season for a barihunk might look like this: Escamillo (Carmen) in some city in Texas, followed by a Verdi Requiem and/or a Messiah, then singing Anthony (Sweeney) over in Oregon, then heading over for a world premiere at Ft. Worth Opera tackling cannibalism in a dystopian post-apocalypse future, then a recital tour of the Dakotas, followed by a summer gig at a prestigious festival singing two baritone supporting roles in South Pacific and Manon, performed in repertoire of course.

Today the successful singing actor must have a very wide range of rep and abilities in genres that encompass all of classical and popular music in order to have a fighting chance at creating a career. Where do these singers get the training to handle Handel and Hahn and Humperdinck and Henze and Hamlisch?

Perhaps these working performers are now experiencing the "rep" in a much different light. Perhaps they know something that we do not. Perhaps the operas that they’ve been performing in over the last decade or so have changed – from the directors’ expectations to the production values – influenced by a new generation of designers, conductors, directors, and audiences.

In a world where this training costs so much, and where there are so few business opportunities for the myriad and extraordinary talent that’s put out every year by music schools, I ask everyone the same question: Shouldn’t we be giving young singers the best possible education we can? Shouldn't their education and training encompass not just the 19th century, but give them a head start in knowing how to deal with everything from the early 1600's to the latter months of 2016?

Singers no longer can ignore the bulk of the dozens and dozens of new operas premiered this year, let alone in the last ten years. They can no longer refuse to learn musical theatre repertoire. Many young artist programs demand MT lit on the audition repertoire (and you can’t just shove “If I Loved You” onto your list and think you’ll be taken seriously), and too many companies are casting young singers in these musical theatre roles -- young roles. As acceptable as it is to hire a 50 year old Mimi, it is not possible to hire a singer who looks 50 as Johanna in Sweeney Todd. Therefore, young singers have MORE ROLES lying in wait for them! Why lose out? It’s tough enough out there! Young singers should use their youthful looks, their abilities to mix/belt, their high school knowledge of musical repertoire, or their local tap lessons as a child to increase their products’ viability in this crazy market!

But back to the philosophical argument…

Shouldn’t the 20th century musical theatre repertoire be given the same seriousness of training as, say, “Lonely House” from Street Scene and then included on recitals? How about a set of songs from, as Joyce DiDonato calls it, “The Great American Songbook” (okay, another problem, what committee decides which songs go into this book?). Hundreds, if not thousands, of songs by Kern, Gershwin, Gaudio (look him up), Arlen, or Sir Elton John totally qualify. What’s the difference between the Britten or Bolcom “cabaret” song cycles and actual cabaret songs sung by Edith Piaf or Ella Fitzgerald or Tony Bennet? Or songs by today’s popular singers?

Where’s the line? Is it as simple as how the music is written? Would composing music in mixed meter with sprinkles of dissonance here and there make a piece "better" or deem it more "worthy"? If that were the case, a bunch of Sting’s songs from the late 80s should enter the recital repertoire now. Is it that pop songs repeat text all the time or that they have a formal structure unlike the strophic songs? Is it the poetry? Is Heine somehow better than Miranda? Where does one get off dismissing certain types of poetry? Does that disqualify Hip-Hop? Calling all Hamilton fans…

So where and how does that whole “I’m a descriptionist” statement come into play with all these questions?

Well, descriptive types do not try to proscribe something. For instance, in linguistics, there is the whole argument about the use of the word “they” in its singular form: “Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?”

Prescriptionists know there’s an old rule about singular plurals. Descriptionists know that this usage is common and therefore the rule no longer exists except in a few old-fashioned minds. There are also prescriptionists who want to prescribe how words are to be used. They are the grammar police.

If you missed it, take the time to watch this incredible video: Baltimore Sun John E McIntyre goes on...

Prescriptions are important for language and the study of language, absolutely. However, descriptionists only follow the language and current usages of words, their pronunciations, and grammatical structures. It is how a language evolves. These types of people make dictionaries, for example.

In classical music, descriptionists are sometimes the public, oftentimes producers, and many times the professionals creating the shows – from the singers to the designers. They know what succeeds with audiences (it’s easy to tell because they do or do not buy a ticket.) They see trends, they actually try to predict where these trends will head, or they help to establish them. They are the ones affecting change, and are the ones who understand, oftentimes, why these trends are taking place. Isn’t it time, then, that the Descriptionists have more of a say with what is going on in the music schools?

Isn’t it time that the academics who are passionate about teaching get together with the professionals (for lack of a better word, all academics are professionals too) to discuss OPERA IN THE 21st CENTURY? But even more, perhaps it is time for the academics to walk away from trying to dictate what music is, or what distinguishes one type of music from another and why one can be studied while something else can’t – oftentimes because of a marketing label. Perhaps it is time to allow a wider range of repertoire that works for individual student voices and not cookie cutter all students into the same repertoire.

This is a generational issue. Trust me. The older, and it’s got to be said, wiser, generation needs to become more flexible in their ideas, and try to realize that their notions about opera (and recital) repertoire are at least half a century outdated, if not more. The younger generation needs to step up and lead. They need to demand that centuries old ideals be reexamined and new ideals established.

I believe this is imperative to make sure that the future of our art form continues beyond the second half of this century. Classical music’s death knell has yet to chime, but warning bells are ringing – not that far away.

Classical Music has changed and can’t really go back lest we find ourselves curators of museums where singers perform ala paint-by-number. And it is in danger of dying if we continue to box it in and say what it is or what it is not. Our public no longer cares and others simply can’t distinguish between Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom and Puccini’s Fanciulla. [2nd evil smile]

We need to take back music. ALL OF IT. Claim it. Teach It. Perform It.

In J.J. Abrams’ cinematic future, a question is asked while the Beastie Boy’s punky rap-rock song “Sabotage” is wiping out evil aliens: “Is that classical music?” The answer, from Spock no less, “Yes, I believe it is.” Classical music, centuries from now, will not just be Bach, Brahms, or Bernstein. It’ll include the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, the B52s, and Babs singing “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”.

Recitals need to change to reflect our current world and to prepare singers for a life communicating text through music – all texts, all music.

While we’re at it, no more recitals on big stages with singers wearing sad echoes of period dress from the late 19th century. Let’s put recitals in the round or in spaces where audiences can be very CLOSE. Where they can see the spit, get the intimate connection with the text and the singer’s facial expressions. Find a salon sized space (where most classical songs were meant to be sung), or fill a small hall with fifty people instead of a huge hall with fifty people (a few dozen people in a large concert hall gives one the feeling that there are only four people in attendance.) Move about while you sing how ‘bouts? Recite the poetry beforehand, translate it so the audiences can contemplate the texts while you sing. Gosh, why not demand all recitals have projected texts? If opera must have them, then why don’t recitalists demand these? It’s not like there’s stuff to watch onstage. No one’s going to miss a bit of stage business reading a recital text projected near the singer. How is this not a thing already? Why are we subjected to reading small font translations of the songs in horrid lighting? It’s tough enough to be an aging audience member nowadays.

Here's a recent NYTimes article about "getting intimate": Big Music Doesn't Need Huge Halls

Opera companies have already jumped on the small venue bandwagon. San Francisco Opera has created a smaller space for their alternative titles, Fort Worth Opera performs in both their regular large opera house and in much smaller venues; Boston Lyric Opera is doing the same, as are companies from Philly to Des Moines. If you’ve not gotten out recently, it’s clear that almost all opera companies in America are changing venues in some manner, rapidly and aggressively. This is changing the repertoire, allowing for a plethora of world premieres. Sometimes I think there are so many new operas being performed that we are reliving what it must have been like in the mid-19th century!

And now we come to an important point -- These new venues, being smaller and/or non-traditional, have changed the types of singers that are being hired. You don’t have to find the largest voiced soprano to push her way through the Countess because your house seats 3000+; now one can find practically any sized voice and cast them into age-appropriate roles where they look like their characters. Guys singing the role of a Vietnam prisoner in a venue where the audience is a few feet away must look like it – from their army haircuts to their bodies. Ladies must look the part, particularly when it is a world premiere and there’s no precedent for “the voice needs to be this or that” in the role. Casting directors have their choice of fantastic actors who can sing and are crackerjack musicians. There is an emphasis on naturalized acting, removing many of the older notions of histrionics, gestures, and “stage deportment” and replacing them with modern acting techniques rooted in physical theatre or the Method.

All of this recent activity has re-described what opera seems to be nowadays. But has this activity impacted where one finds the most opera singers per capita: our music schools?

I’m not too sure. The programs that adapt to these new trends will be the ones that thrive. The ones that refuse to change their curriculum, refuse to add new ideas to their training programs, or refuse to follow the repertoire trends will eventually be left behind and fade away, like Galadriel. She was radiant and powerful once, but her kingdom of immortals eventually had to disperse into the winds. I don’t want Handel, Debussy, Strauss, or even Menotti to disappear from our culture, or become artistic refugees lost in some western civ diaspora where few know their genius or appreciate the impact they can have on a human heart.

This is too important for ego or for an “it’s always been this way” attitude to stop new dialogues from happening.

It is time that the academics take notice and alter their prescriptions in order to save the health, and ultimately the life, of all our precious classical music. If prescriptionism stands in the way, then it’s time to adopt a much more progressive descriptionist stance.

It is clear that in language, descriptionists end up on the winning side of history. Let's hope that this is the case in music.

As Will Shakespeare said, those without music in them are fit for stratagems. And in case you were wondering, the descriptionist online resource, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary has a few definitions for "stratagems".

  1. a :  an artifice or trick in war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy
    b :  a cleverly contrived trick or scheme for gaining an end
  2.    :  skill in ruses or trickery
Prescriptions are artifices that have no place in Music or Art, nor should they be the causation for what ultimately educates and creates the next generation of singers, conductors, collaborative pianists, coaches, or teachers.

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