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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000020.txt from 2005/08

From: "Forest Aten" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] The Future of art Music
Date: Thu, 04 Aug 2005 09:50:21 -0400

Here we go...again....

> Most performers display a lack of interest in music being written by
> living composers.

I do not find this to be true in the area that I live and work....

>Unfortunately, the trends of composition in the
> middle and late 20th century contributed greatly to this problem.
> However, performers should realize that there are many composers
> writing art music that is accessible to both performers and listeners
> as it is based on the traditions established prior to the mid- 20th
> century.

Is this any different than at other times in history? And who's to say it's
unfortunate? Move on Sy....move on...

>John Winsor, in his book "Breaking the Sound Barrier: An
> Argument for Mainstream Literary Music", makes a wonderful case
> explaining why music went astray in the mid-20th century.

Astray? How so....go for it...I won't buy the book so give me the short
answer about why composers went astray in the mid-20th century? Which
composers exactly "went astray"? Who is it that committed this crime against
the less intellectually gifted music lovers?

>I feel his
> book is a "must read" for any educator, performer or composer. A way
> for performers to show their audiences that music composition is an art
> that is still alive and vital is to include a recent composition
> composed in a "mainstream literary music" style on every program. may pay the bills to do it this way...but it isn't necessarily a
way to "show" anything about the nature of "art" in music.

> Many of today's composers emphasize intellectualism and innovation over
> perceivable craft.

How about innovation AND craft (perceivable to 'Joe Blow' or not)....

>There is nothing wrong with innovation except that
> it has become an end within itself. Intellectualism and innovation are
> rewarded through composition contest prizes and grants that are judged
> by other composers, therefore perpetuating a style of music that is no
> longer accessible to both performers and audiences.

Some performers and some audiences, wouldn't you say? (even some composers

>I would like to
> quote from the final chapter of my book "A Composer's Guide to
> Understanding Music with Activities for Listeners, Interpreters, and
> Composers" regarding composing trends. "Throughout musical history, the
> balance between the classic (of the mind) and romantic (of the heart)
> modes of thinking has alternated. The center of the pendulum can be
> thought of as equal treatment intellectualism and emotionalism. The
> pendulum swings that occurred prior to the twentieth century have not
> eliminated the other mode of thought. They have just changed the
> emphasis. During the early to mid-twentieth century, the swing towards
> classicism went to extremes by over emphasizing the intellectualism and
> rejected anything associated with emotionalism. The composer, Igor
> Stravinsky, stated that "music is powerless to express anything at
> all". He later retracted that statement, but it clearly illustrates the
> rejection of emotionalism in music. The intellectualism that dominated
> much of twentieth century music, and still exists today, has been a
> contributing factor to alienating audiences and performers from new
> music. The majority of the relationships between unity and variety are
> mostly perceivable through in-depth score study, rather than by active
> or passive listening."

I'm not convinced that this is true at all....just listen carefully to some
of the complex/contemporary scores being performed behind one
seems to be too troubled in the movie audience and I can't remember the last
time one of my daughters ran home and ordered a score to study (from a
movie). They often return home to tell me if the music in a movie supports
or distracts from the show....and this without a referral to the score.
I'd say that Stravinsky's music is rather standard fare to most ears
'today', wouldn't you? What does that tell us?

> Educators, performers and composers must work together to ensure the
> future of art music. I welcome your feedback regarding my comments and
> invite you to visit my web site at to
> learn about the programs that Co-op Press has established to encourage
> partnerships between composer, performer and audience.

I agree about the partnership business...but I'm not selling out to 17th,
18th century part writing....I'd find another partner before I go that way.
I won't be excluding the great works of the 20th century. right up to today.
Composition is a creative art form in-itself. Starting some kind of movement
discouraging the creative process (as in trying to establish some kind of
control because you perceive a decline in the popularity/commercial status
of currently composed music) is just wrong. Many composers write music for
other reasons than to just make a buck. I think that this may be part of
what might define "art music" in the first place...don't you Sy?

> Dr. Sy Brandon
> Professor Emeritus
> Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Perhaps this post is a pitch for your 'brand' of music?....and a plug for
your web site?
Composers are the ones Sy....the primary ones to move things forward. They
always have been....Some good, some bad.....those that are good often live
on through their composition. The others...who knows?

Forest Aten

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