Most of that success is thanks to Sirota, whose enthusiasm is as catching as it is dramatic, a lifelong passion for classical music compacted into an elevator pitch. For her, there's no time for anything less direct. "I've decided to totally give up on journalism and just move straight into propaganda," she explains. Her goal, held true to everything that she does, is "to get classical music out to a larger audience."
"The point of it is to show that these people are fucking awesome."
That's getting harder and harder with each passing year. Gone are the days when Leonard Bernstein was in everyone's living room, and orchestras were held close to the heart of American culture. While this can frustrate fans, composers, and musicians alike, Sirota knows how it happened. Concerts in traditional venues can be alienating, particularly if the audience is left adrift with no information in a sea of unfamiliar performance ritual.
Popular culture has also moved away from the music itself, which Sirota partially attributes to mid-century modernism. "A lot of audiences got kind of alienated from contemporary music. What was coming out was really complex stuff, not really aimed at anyone." This phenomenon is central to a third season episode called "New Music Fight Club," in which Sirota brings the audience back to the knockdown, drag-out battle between the modernist and minimalist composers of the 1970s.
But that moment has passed, and Meet the Composer's mission is to demystify both the music itself and the context in which it is written and performed. New music doesn't necessarily require either the seriousness of a minister or the academic rigor of a historian. Contemporary music is, after all, contemporary. You don't have to start with Bach or Beethoven to follow the video-game logic of Andrew Norman's Play or to feel the whisper of Thorsvaldsdottir's In the Light of Air.
Sirota is very clear on this point: "The living form of an art is always going to be the thing that can be the most attractive. You're listening to somebody your age who more or less grew up watching the same movies as you did."
That said, it seems a bit weird to attach the label "classical music" to every artist featured by Meet the Composer. Sure, Nico Muhly has written operas, but he has also collaborated with everyone from Bjork to Usher. Caroline Shaw, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013, was a producer on Kanye West's The Life of Pablo. Sirota's own ensemble, yMusic, has toured with Ben Folds and Bon Iver. Then there are electronic producers like Matmos and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, definitely composers, but not exactly of classical music.