I'm well aware that chamber music concerts in Seattle are not where you'd go to see a representative sample of America's demography. But as with so many things that seem obvious, when I ask myself "Why not?," I have trouble coming up with a satisfying answer.
Last night I was looking at an audience so white and elderly that were you visiting from another planet, you'd guess that everyone in America is white and elderly--unless you were looking at the musicians themselves.
So, big surprise: Only elderly white people like chamber music. That's so obvious it doesn't bear saying, right? Except that it's not. I cannot think of a single reason why it should be this way.
Mendelssohn's Quartet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 2, was on the program. He composed it when he was a child. If I had no previous cultural knowledge of the kinds of music people tend to like, I would have guessed--wrongly--that no human being alive would listen to that and think, "This is music for old, elite people and I can't see why they like it." Nothing about the music itself suggests why it would be pleasing only to the elderly and affluent. All of my instincts would lead me to predict that the appeal of this music would be universal and that anyone, on first exposure to it, would say, "Hey, that is obviously better than Amy Winehouse."
I get it completely why playing golf, say, would be more appealing to wealthy old people than playing basketball. There are obvious biological and economic reasons for that--recreational golf is fairly physically undemanding but it costs a lot to play it. (I've never played golf: It looks immensely boring to me and I can't afford it.)
But the way that only old white people like Mendelssohn just doesn't make sense. Almost everyone likes looking at animals and almost everyone comes to a similar judgment about them: Tigers are great, slugs, not so much. It would be very odd to discover that only old white people liked looking at tigers, wouldn't it?