Will serious music become extinct?

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's 2005 Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture addressed the position and status of serious music in Britain today.

The following two excerpts — © Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and quoted with permission — give a brief flavour of the full lecture which can be found at the RPS website.

Until recently, anybody interested in music could have borrowed scores from a public library. If you are lucky now, you can pick up bargains as these libraries sell off their musical collections for pennies, in order to fill the vacated shelves with more "relevant" material, to be borrowed more often, which "pays its way". At this rate, there could come a time when libraries will stock textbooks, self-help DIY texts, and Mills and Boon, exclusively. Studying a musical score online is a very poor substitute for handling a printed one, and the computer sings a subliminal note, against which it is very hard to read and imagine music in one's head. Buying new scores is for the majority prohibitively expensive. Browsing the music shelves in Swinton and Pendlebury public libraries as a boy was a formative experience for me, and I bet I was the only one, ever, to borrow some of that music, which determined my career. Was it worth it? Obviously not, by today's values.

The present and past British governments' attitudes to our cultural heritage have been bizarre enough, and I do not wish to make unfair comparisons, but I would like to quote, as a warning of how bad things could get, Moshe Levin on the post-Soviet attitude to these things in the new Russia: "Not content with looting and squandering the nation's wealth, the 'reformers' mounted a frontal assault on the past, directed at its culture, identity and vitality. This was no critical approach to the past, it was sheer ignorance." I think we should at least be warned of the possibility.