Karl Miller, agent provocateur, writes of Romantic composers -- those
composers in whom expression takes precedence over form -- and goes on
I know I'm weird, but I find at least some of Babbitt very expressive.
How about Philomel?
What makes a Romantic composer Romantic -- the broader question. Since
Haydn and Mozart, it's hard for me to find *any* composer unconcerned
with expression or feeling -- maybe Xenakis, and that's just because his
music repels me so much that I haven't taken the time to know it. I've
always considered that we are still in a very Romantic Age. If you think
us dominated by Reason, just look at the new movies, or, for that matter,
the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debate. When was the last time
you heard an argument of any complexity or length in the public arena?
I suppose I get an "objective" vibe in Stravinsky, Virgil Thomson,
but certainly not in Schoenberg, Berg, or Webern, no matter what their
architectural mastery. It seems to me Brahms and Mahler are Romantics,
even in the face of their architectural brilliance.
So what's a Romantic? It seems to me a Romantic is someone coming
along around the mid-Eighteenth Century, who has a certain attitude
toward Nature, the Artist, and the function of art. Most Romantics in
any art are not content with the "pure" art itself: painting a picture
merely to put to use bravura technique. Art for the Romantic "transcends"
life. It is also pretty much inner-directed. That is, the classicist
seeks to depict the world "out there." The Romantic, on the other hand,
takes his psychic temperature in order to reveal the world. A Romantic,
it seems to me, concerns himself, therefore, with expressing himself in
an individual way. The lack of an artistic lingua franca is the result.
Doesn't this describe Modernism and its aftermath?