Having been at some concerts this weekend, I've just read a really interesting piece by the Director of the Cheltenham Music Festival. What exactly is classical music? Here are some of his musings:

Our name, the Cheltenham Music Festival, remains fraught with issues. For starters, what is the 'jazz' of our sibling Cheltenham Jazz Festival, if it isn't also 'music'? And how wise would it be to call ourselves the Cheltenham Classical Music Festival? ... In a programme like this year's, where would it leave Romanian gypsy kings Taraf de Haidouks, Northumbrian pipist Kathryn Tickell ...?And how potentially unappealing is that word 'classical' anyway? For too many it seems to imply something that's a bit dried up, exclusive and unattainably complex - sounds dreamed up by dead people and residing in a musical museum. Yet every single note of every single concert in this Festival will, I hope, blow these notions apart - this same classical music is vibrant, welcoming, absorbing and very much alive.But if 'classical music' is a problem term, are the alternatives any less problematic?Some call it 'Serious Music'. Oh dear - can we possibly dare to take it, and ourselves, that seriously? Where is the joy of music in that, even if some classical music is extremely serious and beautifully miserable?Some call it 'Art Music'. I know where they're coming from, but does that imply that any other kind of music isn't 'art'?If people are drawn to this kind of music, as they seem to be, later on in life, should we call it 'Grown Up Music'? ...If for most people a Music Festival takes place outdoors, why not call it the Cheltenham Indoor Music Festival? With the exception of all our weekend Surround Sound events, that would at least be true...And I suppose if a Music Festival for most means, in its broadest sense, 'Popular Music', how about the Cheltenham Un-Popular Music Festival? The trouble is, quite a bit of the music featured in this 2008 Festival - Carmina Burana, The Planets, The Lark Ascending, Grieg's Piano Concerto - really is very popular music.

He doesn't know the answer, and neither do I. Do you?

AuthorJonathan Clark