Classical music enjoys brush with relevance

When the New York Philharmonic played a concert in Pyongyang this week, the ample media coverage talked about how an isolated corner of humanity was being brought into contact with the wider world. Oddly enough, these stories seemed to be talking about the North Koreans rather than about the classical musicians. While a few elite orchestras routinely play to full houses, this doesn’t alter the fact that classical music seems increasingly isolated from modern life for most people. When’s the last time anything an orchestra did was front-page news? Nowadays, a classical concert is lucky to get a few inches of space in the arts section, amid the coverage of pop-culture celebs. By the way, the article about the concert in the online version of the Washington Post was accompanied by an ad for the U.S. Air Force—i.e., the folks who’ll be bombing North Korea’s nuclear-weapon facilities one of these days if diplomatic efforts don’t pan out. A nice touch, eh?