The role of the Audience of Classical Music or the Classical Music Listeners is immense. No system of classical music has entirely lived or developed on the efforts of the artists and performers alone or on the strength of tradition and patronage. The fulfillment of all art lies in the healthy interaction and exchange between the artist and the listeners and music necessarily is a two way process, a process of stimulus and response. Down the ages, the listeners have enjoyed, evaluated, inspired and often revolted against artists and performers thereby charting out fresh lines of artistic development and innovation. From temples and ashrams our classical music shifted to Royal Courts and Durbars and then to chamber concerts and finally to halls, auditoriums and even open pandals. The purpose is just to highlight how audience of classical music has been powerfully influencing the performance and presentation of classical music. A sort of bird’s-eye view on the changing scenario for the last forty years, keeping in view the classical approach, has been presented here. No offence is intended to anyone, big or small, since the effort here has been just to portray the realities in so far as presentation of classical music is concerned vis-a-vis the listeners or audience of music.
In Tansen’s time, classical music moved out from temples and ashrams to the royal courts. In the last half a century, it has moved further on to the concert stage. Musicians, as sublime performers, are now a thing of the past. Musicians have now admitted again and again that it is the common man who really “calls the tune”. The “patrons” are quite a “complex mixture” of men and groups. The musicians know now that they are hardly engaged in any spiritual, sacred or ennobling activity. They have to bestow a great deal of attention upon the nature and movements of the listening public. Today the “Classical Music Listeners” or the “Audience of Classical Music” includes a smaller number of connoisseurs and a much larger number of listeners who, to put it bluntly, are musically unsophisticated. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier audiences where there were basically connoisseurs made up of the knowledgeable, highly educated and refined nobility. Now and then, however, there are still a few small chamber concerts where entry is restricted to the really knowledgeable Classical music listeners and where the musicians are required to etch out refined music that is basically classical and “parampara” or “talim” based. We know that many classical musicians, brought up in the changed culture of music, are not quite at home in such concerts. But there are some others who are literally itching for an opportunity to perform in such concerts over and over again, and these are the traditional musicians who can rise up to levels of performance expected by the connoisseurs. When we talk of Audience of Classical music, we should attempt to identify them all down the line since classical music is tending to become big business within the country and perhaps more so abroad on grounds or cultural exchange and propagation of art.