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CLASSICAL  March 2007

CLASSICAL March 2007

Subject:

Re: Communication

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 14:26:47 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (111 lines)

Judith L. Zaimont wrote:

>Gentlemen: Please don't say classical music is dying!
>
>This is -- as a body -- the only music that speaks to me.  It goes
>beyond the routine in every way, deeper, more stirring to the soul and
>to the intellect.  It (mostly) doesn't have a damnably irking, repeated
>drumcell.  It's not forever 'in your face' -- it's more subtle than that.
>And, among its chief glories: its bandwidth keeps changing even within
>movments or sections; it does not present a steady-state cell that invites
>listeners to go ahead and tune out for awhile because you can tune back
>in and not have missed much....
>
>In every way, classical music invites close, attentive listening.
>
>And because I'm a composer, its evolution is what I'm devoting my life
>to.  At least in this little Arizona house, classical music flourishes!

Wonderful thoughts, beautifully expressed.  But alas, from my perspective,
if classical music is not dying, it is not as well served as it has been.
I remember growing up in the suburbs of New York City and being able to
hear broadcasts of most of the major US orchestras.  We had classical
music on WQXR, WRVR, WBAI, WNCN, WKCR, etc.  Up until three years ago
we had a local station here in Austin Texas that was serious about
classical music.  It is now classical muzak.  We used to have informed
writing about classical music in our newspapers.  Even now, the New York
Times writers acknowledge that they must write to level far below that
once enjoyed by a Harold Schoeberg, or Paul Bowles, or Virgil Thomson.

I look at the repertoire of the major orchestras from the days of my
youth, back in the 1960, and 70s.  I heard a composers like Walton,
conduct concerts devoted entirely to their own music.  When we hear new
music by a major performing ensemble it is more often something vapid
from the pen of a Torke. I find many of our soloists to be of the cookie
cutter variety of note perfect "perfectionism." I remember when the City
Opera offered Ginastera's Don Rodrigo as its opener for the new hall.
It was real music full of depth, strength, and great character, not fluff
like Tan Dun.

The chart topping classical album is currently Yo Yo Ma "Appassionato."
No.2 is Sting doing Dowland!

Looking back at the New York Times, as I write this, I chose a month
from 1965, October to be exact.  During that month the Philadelphia
Orchestra did an all Bartok program including the 1st piano Concerto (a
thorny work for sure).  Kabi Laretei offered Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis,
the Boston Symphony offered music of Bartok, Sydeman, the Detroit Symphony,
music of Rorem ;The Contemporary chamber Ensemble, music of Carter, Berio
and Ives...

In that same month Lenny wrote an article in the Times telling us that
the Symphony as a form  was dead and had been dying since the beginning
of the 20th Century.  Not that I agree with him, nor did I agree with
him at the time I read that article 40 years ago, but that tonic dominant
relationship, which was the basis of the form, had passed.  For me his
thesis was not as important as the content...that such thought about
classical music was what we might find in a newspaper.

I am encouraged when, as the result of some recent postings, I have
explored the classical radio station in San Paolo.  It seems to offer a
well balanced approach to programming.  The BBC still offers new music
of substance, same for Bavarian Radio and other internet stations.

I look at the salaries of some of our highest paid musicians and find
the salaries absurd, even those in some of our major orchestras.  So,
they must play wall to wall standards in the hopes of making those
payrolls...and yet I wonder, how long can that last...and what does
it say about the true art of classical music.

There are some pockets of hope, but I cannot help but wonder about the
future since, by the standards that I use for measure, classical music
is not being served very well in the US and only marginally better in
other countries.  I remember (I am probably one of those old F**Ts, but
not one who would program my radio show with the standards) when the BBC
offered a series of the music of Gerhard and Schoenberg.  Yes, there
still is some relatively daring programming...the BBC recently offered
Ginastera as composer of the week (yes they played our CDs and Barbara
Nissman, who recorded them was the featured guest-just getting in a small
plug there)...so there are some bright spots.

But I would ask, where are our great young composers?  There are some
who work seriously and write fine music, but they are often placed on
the sidelines with an occasional performance by a major ensemble.  Are
Torke, Paulus, Adams, Glass, Tan Dun great art?  Not for me.

Is it dying...well for me, it just isn't what it once was.  I can remember
awaiting, with great anticipation, a new piece from the pens of composers
like Harris, Schuman, Copland, Tippett, Shostakovich, Britten, Mennin,
Diamond, Barber...I still hold out for a new work by a Benjamin Lees,
and perhaps a few others, but who is there?  I should add that I have
found great imagination in Judith's work, especially that work done by
the Philadelphia Orchestra...as I recall it was a Symphony.  But look
to what we hold up as our major composers these days...for me it is not
encouraging, not so much that there aren't good composers, but that we
keep playing new works of little substance.

Sorry for going on, but not unlike another set of recent posts, I
passionately believe that classical music, at its best, is one of the
finest expressions of our species and as such, it needs to be treated
with the greatest respect and nurtured.  I guess I don't see us nurturing
great expression as much as I can remember from even the times of my
youth, some 40+ years ago.

Karl

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