Before YouTube or Twitter, composing a symphony was a great way to get your revolution going—the French one inspired Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, and Shostakovich wrote such controversial music that he would wait outside for the Soviet regime to arrest him so his family wouldn't be disturbed. "History is replete with examples of classical music acting not as a passive reflection of the times, but as a force for social change," writes DB Grady at the Atlantic. It can still be so in the 21st century, he argues.
"If classical music has declined in cultural influence, nobody has told the concert hall," writes Grady. Tomorrow, the symphony Seven Songs for Planet Earth by Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas will premiere at the Kennedy Center in DC. Kortekangas wrote the piece, based partly on the poems of Wendell Berry, before the BP spill and Japan's earthquake, but he's been focused on the environment for decades, and those two disasters only make the symphony more relevant, writes Grady. The piece "is a reflection on nature and its fragility, and is a call to action." (Read more classical music stories.)