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CLASSICAL  April 2007

CLASSICAL April 2007

Subject:

Re: Communication

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 8 Apr 2007 21:31:56 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (112 lines)

Norman Schwartz (no relation) replies to me:

>>>Nevetheless don't forget most people want to relax to enjoy listening,
>>>period.  After a long day's hard work they are not looking to preserve
>>>the art or to do more work getting out their encyclopedias to read and
>>>study.
>>
>>God forbid someone should actually learn something.
>
>I agree there, He/She should certainly not forbid learning something or
>anything.  However 'all work and no play' might make for the end of CM.
>Learning was work for me as a youngster and is even harder or nearly
>impossible for this old dog and new CM.

Well, nobody likes everything.  I happen to dislike most late 19th-century
German music and bel canto.  Furthermore, I'm not advocating AW&NP.

>>...  Music becomes less necessary to
>>culture and more a mark of self-congratulation or consumer status.
>
>This is true.  However when was the last time you looked in the back
>of one of those programs handed out in a major hall?  Did you happen to
>notice both the corporate and private donors wth out which you would be
>accelerating the loss of CM of any type as the doors would become shut
>tight.

That's what I've heard for the past forty years.  In that time, most
programming has been more conservative than not, and I don't really see
classical music in all that healthy a state.  Indeed, it strikes me as
more precarious, especially since recording labels are even giving up
distributing their old catalogues.  It's the Peter Gelb argument.  When
was the last time you bought a new Sony CD?  I can't remember my last
time.  This is merely slow death.

Of course, the large corporate donations, as you imply, largely depend
on the status of the lucky organization that gets the money.  As classical
music becomes less and less relevant, how much status do you think will
cling to the organization?

>>The Music as Entertainment vs. Music as Necessary is a battle that's
>>raged since before the Middle Ages.  You can find one or the other
>>viewpoint expressed in Boethius and in St. Augustine.  For me, it's not
>>a question of one or the other.  I want to be entertained, engaged, and
>>interested, but I also find that the more music I seek out, that my ideas
>>about the art and about art in general change.  I begin to reflect on
>>points of view other than my own, and inevitably my view alters.
>
>AFAIAC Beethoven vs. Mozart vs. Haydn constitute different points of
>view.  Throwing in Harbison, Wernick, and/or Schuller doesn't enable me
>to reflect on a different point of view in any way.  It merely gives me
>a tremendous headache.

Sorry to hear that.  What about Rosner, Hovhaness, Vaughan Williams,
Malcolm Arnold, Poulenc, Shostakovich, Britten, Walton, Kellogg, Ewazen,
Boulez, Carter, Hawkins, Bennett, Bartok, Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Adams,
Reich, Riley, Piston, Diamond, Simpson, Alwyn, Barber, Antheil, Seeger,
Knussen, Daugherty, Higdon, Scurria, Foss, Ghedini, Klebanov, Gubaidulina,
Paert, Pettersson, Rautavaara, Rouse, Zuckerman, etc.  etc.

I'm not that interested in Wernick or Schuller myself, but fortunately
they're not all there is of new music.  And it's not a question merely
of old vs.  new.  We get not only the same composers, but pretty much
the same pieces.  When was the last time you heard Beethoven's Eroica
Variations or Elegaeischer Gesang live?  When was the last time you
heard Bruckner's Helgoland or quintet?  How about Tchaikovsky's Manfred
or sextet?  How about anything by Berlioz other than the Symphonie
fantastique or the Requiem?  The programming has become so conservative
that not only do people walk out in order to avoid hearing Carl Nielsen,
but they never get a chance to hear less well-known pieces by composers
who supposedly are box-office draws.

Is this really music as a living art?  Is it even healthy?  If all we
get is a charnel house, maybe the doors should be closed.

>>It amazes me that we should limit ourselves so much in what we listen
>>to.  We certainly don't restrict our reading to that extent.  A person
>>who reads only mysteries or only 19th-century novels or Greek tragedies
>>most of us would recognize as a bit limited, with certain disadvantages.
>>A library holding only the works of Shakespeare, like the Folger, has
>>depth but no breadth as a repository of knowledge.  As good as Shakespeare
>>is, he's not the only mind worth knowing.
>
>In order to relate to a piece of art one has to recognize some reflection
>of their personal experience and emotions.  In the other extreme I can
>understand an individual enjoying a sequence of random sounds merely
>because it fulfills the anticipation of sound sequences they are familiar
>with because they were "learned".  Unfortunately nothing in the process
>of any value had been learned.

Well, that assumes that Harbison, Schuller, and Wernick are random sounds.
How about this?  Perhaps the musical experience of the audience has been
so limited that they can't relate, that the music indeed sounds random.
Rilke probably doesn't make much sense to people who never read any poet
beyond Tennyson.  Faulkner probably seems incoherent to a novel-reader
who never got beyond Tom Clancey.  The question is, should composers
dumb themselves down simply to flatter the prejudices of an audience
that doesn't support them anyway?  After all, most composers have absorbed
the lessons (and the expressive purposes) of Schoenberg, Webern, Berg,
Hindemith, Bartok, Debussy, Stravinsky, Sessions (just to name the
influential Icky Moderns), and so on.  Is it their fault the audience
has not?  To put it crudely, do composers owe you a living?  After all,
it takes a huge commitment of time and thought to put musical marks on
paper.  If they don't get even the hope of performance, let alone decent
money, shouldn't they write what they like?  I would.

Steve Schwartz

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