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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000017.txt from 2005/08

From: Retired Prof 55 <>
Subj: [kl] The Future of art Music
Date: Thu, 04 Aug 2005 07:52:04 -0400

As a composer, performer, and educator, I am constantly concerned with=20=

the future of art music. A recent newspaper article about the=20
Pittsburgh Symphony budget deficit is the impetus for this posting. The=20=

article mentioned a deficit of $500,000 or more for the 2004-05 season=20=

and attributed the deficit to lower than expected ticket sales for the=20=

classical subscription series. Ticket sales for the classical=20
subscription series have grown only 2% over the past 22 years while=20
ticket sales for the pops concerts have grown 8%. In my opinion, this=20
is reflective of three national trends that I feel need to be addressed.

Because of outside influences, music education in our schools has been=20=

watered down. In an effort to be more inclusive, classroom music, music=20=

ensembles, and college music courses for the general student have=20
indirectly equated vernacular music and art music. There is nothing=20
wrong with being inclusive, but I feel it is the music teacher=92s=20
responsibility to point out the similarities and differences between=20
vernacular music and art music. Each offers its own rewards, but art=20
music involves more understanding of musical elements and their=20
relationships, and therefore functions on a higher intellectual plane.=20=

I feel it is the educator=92s responsibility to help the student grow in=20=

the intellectual understanding of music and not succumb to pressure=20
from administration, parents and students by allowing vernacular music=20=

to be equated with art music.

Most performers display a lack of interest in music being written by=20
living composers. Unfortunately, the trends of composition in the=20
middle and late 20th century contributed greatly to this problem.=20
However, performers should realize that there are many composers=20
writing art music that is accessible to both performers and listeners=20
as it is based on the traditions established prior to the mid- 20th=20
century. John Winsor, in his book "Breaking the Sound Barrier: An=20
Argument for Mainstream Literary Music", makes a wonderful case=20
explaining why music went astray in the mid-20th century. I feel his=20
book is a "must read" for any educator, performer or composer. A way=20
for performers to show their audiences that music composition is an art=20=

that is still alive and vital is to include a recent composition=20
composed in a "mainstream literary music" style on every program.

Many of today=92s composers emphasize intellectualism and innovation =
perceivable craft. There is nothing wrong with innovation except that=20
it has become an end within itself. Intellectualism and innovation are=20=

rewarded through composition contest prizes and grants that are judged=20=

by other composers, therefore perpetuating a style of music that is no=20=

longer accessible to both performers and audiences. I would like to=20
quote from the final chapter of my book "A Composer=92s Guide to=20
Understanding Music with Activities for Listeners, Interpreters, and=20
Composers" regarding composing trends. "Throughout musical history, the=20=

balance between the classic (of the mind) and romantic (of the heart)=20
modes of thinking has alternated. The center of the pendulum can be=20
thought of as equal treatment intellectualism and emotionalism. The=20
pendulum swings that occurred prior to the twentieth century have not=20
eliminated the other mode of thought. They have just changed the=20
emphasis. During the early to mid-twentieth century, the swing towards=20=

classicism went to extremes by over emphasizing the intellectualism and=20=

rejected anything associated with emotionalism. The composer, Igor=20
Stravinsky, stated that "music is powerless to express anything at=20
all". He later retracted that statement, but it clearly illustrates the=20=

rejection of emotionalism in music. The intellectualism that dominated=20=

much of twentieth century music, and still exists today, has been a=20
contributing factor to alienating audiences and performers from new=20
music. The majority of the relationships between unity and variety are=20=

mostly perceivable through in-depth score study, rather than by active=20=

or passive listening."

Educators, performers and composers must work together to ensure the=20
future of art music. I welcome your feedback regarding my comments and=20=

invite you to visit my web site at to=20
learn about the programs that Co-op Press has established to encourage=20=

partnerships between composer, performer and audience.

Dr. Sy Brandon
Professor Emeritus
Millersville University of Pennsylvania

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