Modern Music

I have a crazy biased opinion when it comes to classical and baroque eras of music. Really. With a few exceptions, if it’s later than Beethoven, the music  just isn’t nearly as good in my humble opinion. It’s just weird.

Do I hate it? No. Not really.

Do I make it a point when something “new” like that comes on to change the channel on the radio? Oh yeah. Definitely.

But have you given it a chance?

To me, 20th century (and now 21st century) music is all a bunch of funky, dissonent-sounding stuff that sounds like nothing more than a bunch of musicians warming up before they’re about to perform real music.

Back in 1776, our founding fathers committed treason. They scared everyone here in the colonies by declaring independence against the (then) world’s most powerful empire. Yeah – people thought that was kind of crazy. They started a war and fortunately, it went their – and our – way.

Jason Gerraughty, an Australian composer, wrote an article last spring about why people don’t take to modern classical music. He talks about how some composers are seen to be “out of their time.”

So perhaps these composers, who are trying something never before tried, who are going against the norm, are merely a new set of founding fathers. The founding fathers were ahead of their time, right? Well – OK, maybe we shouldn’t call them founding fathers of classical music, because I still think of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for that kind of label – if I had to use it – but revolutionaries at least since they are potentially “out of their time.”

Now Mr. Gerraughty wrote his article after reading an article written by Alex Ross, author of the book The Rest Is Noise.

Mr. Ross thinks that those who don’t listen to modern classical are missing out.

(He also makes references to Samuel Beckett, an author I had to read in my French Lit classes back at IU. YUCK! Can’t stand Beckett and, no. Godot is never coming. Just saying.)

Not long ago, my mom and I visited the Columbus Museum of Art to see an exhibit of La Vie Moderne. Imagine Le Chat Noir and a lot of turn of the century plays, art and music. The exhibit was incredible. I loved it. While we were there, we visited the rest of the museum as well and eventually got stuck in front of a Picasso. Mom and I stood in front of it for nearly 15 or so minutes trying to figure it out. Did I like it? No. not really, but did I have fun trying to figure it out? Absolutely!

It was supposedly a portrait of a women, so like a puzzle, we were searching for the various pieces. Did we find them? I can’t say for sure. Was that an arm? Think that’s her head? Are those her… um… well, one at least. For my part, I couldn’t really tell what was what. Mom definitely fared better than I! That’s OK though. We ended up spending a lot of time in front a painting that I didn’t really like, but enjoyed taking the time to figure out. We gave it a chance.

Play that funky music

In the last year or two, I’ve gotten to know a bunch of professional musicians and some people in the music industry. Not too many, mind you, but some people whose thoughts and opinions I’ve really come to respect. They agree with Mr. Ross and think I should start getting to know modern classical music as well.

OK. Challenge accepted.

I’d say it all started the spring of 2013 when I learned that Holly Mulcahy, (the now-concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra) suggested that I come hear the Columbus Symphony Orchestra play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

“Isn’t that funky music that doesn’t resolve and in which I can’t really figure out what the melody is?”

I bought a ticket and while I thought it strange at first, loved the performance with the Ballet Met and now (gasp!) I occasionally listen to it voluntarily.  Granted, it took me a while to figure out that I really enjoyed the performance because I was still in shock for a while. I mean, really – my blog post was titled, Undecided, but positively so? I think!

Then, once I started writing this blog, I was sent an amazing gift (because music is always amazing) from the well-known blogger, Lisa Hirsch, author of the blog Iron Tongue of Midnight. This gift included Alex Ross’s book The Rest is Noise.

Alex Ross

I’ll be honest – the music was all strange to me, but it has invoked a lot of emotions which, to me, demonstrates how effective it can be to the listener. Not sure what each composer’s ultimate goal was, but it definitely affected me.

As for the book, I have a long way to go before it’s finished, but it is so well-written and incredibly interesting. I’m really enjoying it so far. Alex Ross not only knows his stuff, but he’s a talented writer as well.

Baby Boulez

Kids, my nephews included, have Baby Mozart. So why not Baby Boulez? OK, his music might scare a baby a bit more than it relaxes it, so perhaps that should be saved until the kid can at least watch a PG-rated movie!

As you all know, I write about what I like. I write about music. Even though I don’t know post-War of 1812 music as well as the older stuff, I’m making an effort to listen to and expose myself to more types of music…to more new and different things that take me out of my comfort zone. Not all of it sounds like an orchestra just warming up. Take Michael Torke’s music – it’s beautiful and fun and I was surprised to discover how much I liked it.

I don’t expect that I’ll like everything, but that’s OK. I’ll also still always revert to Bach, Byrd, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, sure, but I’m at least trying more. That’s why I buy tickets to the symphony and that’s also why I’ve agreed to start working with a music promo company to write about CDs. Among those I’ll “review” (I put that in quotes, but it’s not an actual review, but just my thoughts on the music itself) will be some new and interesting music.

You’ve already seen what I wrote last week about Time for Three. My next CD review will be Richard Reed Parry’s latest CD. It’s different, but not as hard on the ears as I would have thought. I’m expanding my horizons with both recorded and live performances.

I hope others will join me in this adventure. If the most stubborn of baroque music listeners can try Boulez, Salonen or Messiaen, then anything is possible!



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