I had to put ‘classical guitar’ in quotes because if you search that term on YouTube the first page of results includes a guy playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on a classical guitar, another guy playing Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and someone else playing the theme to a video game. Nothing wrong with any of that, of course, except that it’s not what most of us think of as ‘classical guitar’. The good news is that apparently tens of millions of people watch this stuff. The bad news is that those millions aren’t watching Aniello Desiderio tear up some Scarlatti (he also appears on the first page of search results, and a not shabby 200,000 people have seen him).
Since I troll YouTube from time to time for great performances of classical and flamenco guitar, I keep coming back to this fact and asking myself if it’s just another sign of the decline of what many of us think of us as culture, or if it’s exactly what we need to introduce another generation to classical music. My introduction to flamenco was an episode of the Odd Couple in which Roy Clark played ‘Malagueña’ on a steel string. Never mind that Lecuona’s ‘Malagueña’ isn’t flamenco. I saw a great musician play a piece that appealed to me, asked my mom about it, and for better or worse she made the mistake so many make of thinking that that’s a flamenco piece, and went and found a record for me. I was off and running.
So in theory we should be happy that millions of kids may learn the theme to ‘Super Mario Brothers’ and thus kindle an interest in the guitar that may lead them to a good teacher. And yet the numbers for Aniello Desiderio don’t seem to climb at the rate of those for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. I guess I choose to be optimistic and hope that since you’re not likely to find, say, an oboe version of ‘Super Mario Brothers’, that maybe the guitar’s mass appeal is just what’s needed to bring a new generation into the world of classical music. Or perhaps that YouTube is how we kill time, and not how we actually receive culture.
p.s. I just checked, and if you search ‘oboe’ in YouTube you do, in fact, find a video of a kid playing ‘Super Mario Brothers’ on the first page. I’ve included it, along with some videos you may be familiar with, for your listening pleasure.
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