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CLASSICAL  November 2007

CLASSICAL November 2007

Subject:

Re: TNR on Classical Music

From:

James Tobin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 28 Nov 2007 11:13:55 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (73 lines)

Karl Miller wrote:

> I guess I don't understand why you would say that not everyone has the
> capacity to think about difficult music.

Perhaps they don't know how to go about it.  Not everyone has musical
training.

> I also wonder about how we listen.  If there are different levels of
> listening, as Copland suggested, the sensuous, narrative and music on
> its own terms, should we, as listeners, as Copland suggested, strive for
> listening on the highest level?

From each according to his/her ability, as a famous person said in another
context.  I don't recall Copland making this such a hierarchical thing
that one should listen only on the "highest" level, though.

> As I composer, I hoped people would listen to what I wrote.

I would be glad of an opportunity to do so.

>We cannot change the ways in which people listen...

I would hope we can, though I was once called an elitist for so much as
suggesting the possibility of musical education.

> indeed an audience, albeit small for the music of Wuorinen, yet it seems
> somewhat sad to me that his music might be rejected because of his musical
> vocabulary, versus its content.  On the other hand, I can't imagine
> anyone would be able to grasp its content on a single listening...

Can you get to the content without having the vocabulary?  When it
has been said that the music of this composer is more honored than
loved, it is not hard to see why many people would not care to bother.
I was not personally troubled by that symphony (no.  7, as I recall--the
list archives seem to be down at the moment).  As I said in the talkback
after the concert, it flowed in phrases, rather than jumped around
pointilistically (a style I can no longer find any personal interest
in), but on the other hand it really didn't do anything for me either.

Here's an example of music I personally did find "difficult." A while
back I set out to review Hans Werner Henze's Piano Concerto No. 2.  This
piece had been performed locally in Milwaukee--I missed the concert--and
a friend had given me a recording which also contained this composer's
Telemanniana for Orchestra, which I happened to find both fascinating--the
sudden tempo and mood changes, particularly-- and just plain beautiful
besides.  The concerto is a much bigger piece: 48 minutes plus, in two
movements, the first running nearly half an hour.  I listened to the
concerto several times through and took notes, but I never felt I could
get my head around this piece.  It never came together for me as a
satisfying whole, or any other kind of whole, for that matter.  So I
just gave it up.  Still like the Telemanniana, though.

Now about your other point here ("I can't imagine anyone would be able
to grasp its content on a single listening..."): if it is difficult
orchestral music we are talking about there aren't a lot of Karl Muck's
about to repeat such works the same season (though once in my lifetime
I did hear a new piece that the audience liked (Floating World) played
again as an encore at the same concert.  So here is where recordings
come in.  Some orchestra with a recording contract or big grants has to
do a recording and enough people have to listen to it and like it for
the work ever to have a chance at being played widely.  And there are
so many works...  The second alternative is for the difficult music to
be written for small groups, which is why I wrote about string quartets
in my post on this subject.

Jim Tobin

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