Nobody chides archeologists for what they do. I don’t hear people saying to archeologists: “Why are you so stuck in the past? Why don’t you do something productive like accounting?” Uncovering and bringing a present light to the past is something that resonates with us as human beings. We’re fascinated by what we’ve come from.
The classical musician is part archeologist. The score is her excavation site. What she can uncover and bring to light from the score in a performance is what an archeologist discovers in his excavation. What she discovers in the music is the passion of humanity which transcends time.
And yet I think that sometimes classical music is dismissed because it is considered to be stuck in the past. Why not just focus on contemporary music?
The thing is that, like archeologists comprehend, an understanding of the past can help us understand and change the present and the future. And unlike a pharaoh’s tomb, a piece of music is timeless. Beauty, pain, joy, sorrow: what this music represents won’t corrode away with the years.
What is fascinating to me is how piece can even sound fresh after hundreds and hundreds of years, like a perfectly preserved mummy.