05. May 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Links

From today’s ionarts blog, check out this story!

“So, I have done my part to bring down the age of the average operagoer and bring opera to the next generation. Our thanks are due to the WNO and our tour guide for making this memorable evening possible.”

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Kyle Gann has written today about sophistication and music. Early on in the blog he says:

New music is similarly overgrown with vines: the school-taught classical assumptions about what constitutes musical sophistication.

(You really need to read the blog to understand this sentence completely. It’s a good write up. At least to this musician.)

I guess to some, “endlessly repeating rhythmic patterns”, or a lot of whole notes are “unsophisticated”.

He writes about students who prefer to leave dynamics out. This one has me wondering, though. Do these composers wish us to leave out all dynamic contrast, or are they expecting a performer to insert his or her own dynamics? When I see a contemporary work with no dynamics I play it that way, and some might suggest that the composer is asking for an unexpressive performance. No dynamic contrast at all often suggests a “controlled coldness” to me. I wonder if that’s what these writers intend or if I’m mistaken. Or maybe it’s what Gann suggests; these students have grown up with the (pretty much) one dynamic of rock music.

Mr. Gann also writes about telling a student to change a work written in C major to D-flat major in order for it to be accepted. (D-flat being much more “sophisticated” to some, I’m sure!) That one made me laugh, because I recalled playing the first movement of a concerto that happened to be in C major for a solo ensemble competition back in the dark ages, when I was in high school. The adjudicator said I should have chosen something in a more difficult key. At the time I thought he spoke God’s own truth. Now I just shake my head. Surely Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, which happens to be in C major, is a difficult work! (It also happens to be on nearly every symphony audition repertoire list I’ve seen.)

Does music have to be sophisticated to warrant merit?

Give me music! I don’t care about the key. I don’t care how difficult it is. I’ll take simplicity. I’ll take sophistication. (Can something be simple and sophisticated? I guess not. But somehow … I don’t know … seems like sometimes things can be sophisticatedly simple. But then I’m an oboe player so what the heck do I know?!) You can even leave off dynamics if you wish the piece to lack volume contrasts. I just want music. Music that makes me think or weep or laugh or dance or even get angry. Music that causes some reaction. Music that moves me.