top of page
  • Writer's pictureArashk Azizi

Classical concert halls, a museum for the dead composers

Classical music has seen a lot of changes since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. but with a glance at symphonic orchestras and concert hall programs, we can see that most of them only perform music from those eras. Isn't there any new music composed in classical style these days?

Imagine you decide to go to the cinema to watch a movie, suddenly you realize all the cinemas are showing films from the 1930s and 1940s. every cinema is bringing critics to talk about the golden age of Hollywood. all the news is about the dead actors, dead writers, and dead directors. Netflix is full of movies from a hundred years ago or so. and finding a new film would be pretty hard.

As weird as it sounds, that's what is happening in Classical music. though the style of classical music has varied in many aspects, there are, many composers alive that create music in the classic and late romantic styles. but how often do you hear their names? how often do music streaming apps recommend you music of a contemporary composer? except for a few composers that are known, thanks to their soundtracks, the answer to this question is almost none.

Condutors VS. Composers

Whenever we talk about modern and contemporary music, the majority of people think about a piece of music that does not have a melody, has a very complicated rhythm, and in one word, is not very pleasant to listen to.

Well, that's just a misunderstanding. many many pieces of music are being composed in Classical style that has all the pleasant qualities as the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Vivaldi, and many other dead composers have.

The image that we have from Classical music mostly comes from the fact that conductors have won over the composers in time. with a fixed orchestra that basically was perfected and did not change for almost two hundred years, conductors preferred to perform pieces that were written by older composers, who wrote music for this orchestra.

New composers, had new demands, they needed electronic instruments for their music, Saxophone, electric guitar, and many other instruments that were not conventional in a normal orchestra, were needed to perform new composers' music.

Also, let's not forget that when a conductor performs a piece from a dead composer, there is no argument with the composer on the rehearsals. but living composers? no, they nag a lot. they need the conductor to do what they want her to do. so it's absolutely easier to perform Mozart again. and the audience had already gotten used to this music.

It's all about money

For us, these days having a music streaming service on our phones and having the access to almost all the music in no time with no difficulty is hard to imagine how people would listen to music a hundred years ago.

Before the invention of records, the only way to listen to music was the live performance, meaning you might end up listening to your favorite piece of music once or twice in your lifetime.

Even after the Radio, Television, and Records, access to music was not as easy as today and live performances still were the main source to listen to music.

As we talked before, the Avant Gard and experimental spirit of the Classical composers, made them lose the live performances, to their predecessors. let's not forget that in the 20th century the world saw the rise of popular music and Classical music lost its fame as time went by.

With all of these, labels and orchestras, which earn money by selling tickets to their concerts or selling their records, preferred to stay with the well-known dead composers. this way they would also save a bit of money since most of the pieces from Baroque, Classical, and Romantic pieces had no copyright for the composers anymore.

Labels always prefer to present a new artist, who performs Beethoven or Mozart than to present a new composer. there is less risk in selling Beethoven than a new young composer.

We hear a lot that Mozart's music is good for infants, or things like that. yes, that's true, but Mozart is NOT the only composer who wrote music in that style. there are many new composers, alive today, who even specialized in composing music for children or to help cure a health issue. the question is, did we ever hear about any of them? the answer is, it is more likely that we listen and pay for Mozart compared to a new composer who is specialized in this field. and all the labels and Orchestras know this fact. so it is obvious that most of the Labels and Orchestras, keep repeating Mozart over and over again. while we all think that the era of Classical music has been over for hundreds of years, and Symphony is a dead form of music and etc.

Some living composers

Cinema is one of the reasons to keep Classic music alive. The soundtrack, is an opportunity for many composers to show their talents. some of these composers actually got famous too. of course, not all of the Classical composers are film music composers too, but let's say a majority of them are composed at least for one film. and there are many cases that a director used a piece of music from a contemporary composer in their movies.

Here I'm going to name a few of the great composers of our time, you can also listen to some of the contemporary music on a playlist I made on Spotify. all of the composers named below are featured in this playlist.

But be alarmed, with all the things I said so far, it does not mean that contemporary composers are writing music, identical to Chopin or Mozart. it is different music and may even shock or repel you in the beginning. but it is not all the composer's fault. you need to get used to this music. all we hear is either popular music or music from 18 and 19 centuries. contemporary music needs more time to sink into our minds. finding the form, and the expressive qualities of this style might take a while.

  • John Adams

  • Arvo Pärt

  • Philip Glass

  • Kaja Saariaho

  • Christopher Rouse

  • Ezio Bosso

  • Terry Riley

  • György Ligeti

  • Steve Reich

  • Anne Müller


With the rise of streaming services in the new era, it is easier than ever to discover new music. many of these platforms have a recommendation system that will help you find new music in different genres based on your music taste. Playlists that are mood-based are getting more popular every day and bring hundreds of thousands of streams for different music tracks. these all help the new Classical composers to find a minimum audience.

Compared to forty years ago, I personally feel that the general audience is making their peace with Classical music and on the other hand, Classical composers are writing music more suitable for their contemporary audience.

Maybe in the future, concert halls turn their good side to contemporary composers and we will be able to listen to their music as easily as we can catch a newly released movie in cinemas in almost any city in the world. maybe!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page