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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, 21 Nov 2007 19:30:07 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (48 lines)

Karl Miller Quotes John Fiske:

>  "An artist does not work for years putting his whole heart,
> soul, and being into his work, merely to furnish people with an
> aesthetico-intellectual anodyne, -to give them music which they can
>  passively enjoy without the exertion of thinking."

I have wrestled with these notions for many years, and have actually
been on both sides of the issue.  Here are just a couple of thoughts.

Some writer once said that hard writing makes easy listening, and
Beethoven said something like that the greatest art is the ability
to conceal the way art (music) is put together.  But Beethoven's late
quartets were, I think, the first musical works about which their composer
said that they might be only for posterity to appreciate.  (Having first
heard them when I was flat on my back with exhaustion from a corneal
abrasion, I never had trouble with them, but of course I was posterity.)
Shostakovich turned to writing quartets when his big works proved not
to have the politically correct tone.  Bartok's quartets I am still
working on, personally, and Schoenberg's I may or may not ever get to.
Funny thing about Schoenberg: when his Gurrelieder finally got a performance
and public approval, he was furiously alienated from the very public
that liked his--to him-- outgrown style.  So, the thing is, composers
can write whatever they want, but people don't have to listen if they
don't want to.  Not everyone has the capacity to THINK about difficult
music.  And the purely sensuous appeal of music is not to be scorned
either, lest that in turn elicit a "who cares if you don't like it
response."

These matters are especially a concern where orchestral music is
concerned because there the aesthetic and the financing considerations
come in the same package.  Some time ago I wrote about a talkback in
Milwaukee following the premiere of a new symphony by Wuorinen, which
the MSO had helped commission.  Someone there indicated that if the
symphony made a habit of playing this kind of music he was out of there;
and of course he was not just speaking for himself in that.  Orchestras
find it hard to resist that kind of response.  Not at all sure that
telling the audience to think more will work, but that does not mean,
as a bitter symphony official said privately on another occasion, that
the only recourse is to play just Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

Jim Tobin

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