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CLASSICAL  November 2007

CLASSICAL November 2007

Subject:

Re: TNR on Classical Music

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 16:43:34 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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James Tobin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> 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."

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

As for the who cares if you don't like it...speaking for myself, in my
exchanges on any level, it seems to me to be similar to the notions of
codependence versus self actualization.  Typing this I am reminded of
something VaughnWilliams said about his Fourth Symphony, "I don't know
if I like it, but it is what I meant."

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?

As a teacher, I found it frustrating when my students would not pay
attention.  I feel the same way when I have am having a conversation and
I sense the other person is not listening to what I say. As I composer,
I hoped people would listen to what I wrote. We cannot change the ways
in which people listen...but then, I wonder, at what point can we say
people are listening, at least on a concious level.

>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.

For me, your scenario is at the heart of what concerns me.  While the
choice of composer might not be the best for me...while I find Wuorinen's
music to be a tough listen, I also find it rhetoric without substance...it
does raise the point of function.  I am reminded of the story of when
Muck performed La Mer with the Boston Symphony, the audience reaction
was quite negative.  Muck responded by programming it again in the same
season.

One is left with the old conundrum of function of the arts.  Have
the "arts" become too expensive so that they are forced into marketing
themselves as popular music for a certain segment of the population.  Or
have the arts always been that way.  Certainly the old days of patronage
would suggest that there is some truth to that notion.  Consider the
days of Palestrina where the church determined the ways in which
"dissonance" should be handled.  Yet, in the days of patronage, were not
the patrons more informed about music?  Many aristocrats played instruments
and composed.  I would wonder if one were to have taken a survey to
ascertain the percentage of the audience who could read music at a concert
in the times of Brahms versus a similar survey taken at a symphony concert
today, how those numbers might compare.

Even in my own lifetime I can recall seeing Stravinsky's Flood on
television.  I sometimes wonder if increasingly, commercial success has
become a marker for "artistic" success.

I realize that such notions can come in cycles and that there is
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...nor
could anyone be expected to grasp the content of the Goldberg Variations
the first time through.

Sometimes I think that if indeed there is a declining interest in
classical music, it might be a result of the attempt to make it more
popular with a larger market? I would suppose that there will always be
some sort of a codependent relationship between expression and "consumer."
Yet I do wonder if the consumer of music is less educated about the
product, and that if they are less educated, why this is so.  That is
not to say that people know less music or know less what has meaning for
them.  I am thinking about it more in terms of understanding the process
of music making and, as Copland suggested, listening to music on its own
terms.  Surely the ease of access to music, you click on the remote and
there it is, versus you play the music yourself or do so with your
friends, has contributed to this lack of education.  Is this evolution
inevitable and will the differentiation between art music and commercial
music reach the point where there is no differentiation between the two.

Is educating the audience to the process of music, music on its own
terms, a good thing, or is it even a reasonable expectation anymore.
For me, not doing so limits what music can accomplish.

Karl

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