Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Decadence of Contemporary Classical Music

We've all suffered through the token "new composition" that all too often graces the concert-hall program. After enduring the silly sound-effects, colored strobe lights, and wild gesticulations of the performers, we wonder if we're just too stupid to get it. After all, the old fur-clad sophisticate sitting next to us has plenty to say. In reality, this kind of concept piece is anything but cerebral or intellectual -- mostly it's the product of very weak and uncreative minds. What classical music desperately needs is a new Bartok or Stravinsky -- a musical messiah to save us from this wasteland of gimmickry. Most of our current (com)posers lack any type of genius whatsoever, but they want us to believe they're in the same vein as Beethoven and Brahms, and that we're somehow just incapable of understanding them. On the contrary, I understand quite well the meaning of a piece that "uses silence as a quasi-contrapuntal device" -- it means the composer isn't talented enough to write real counterpoint (or even quasi-counterpoint, whatever that might be). Unfortunately, the public lumps together great masterpieces like the Bartok or Shostakovich quartets with this kind of pseudo-music, and calls it all "difficult music that's hard to listen to," or "music that's not pretty." Then, if someone intelligent tries to expose these musical used-car-salesmen for what they really are, they're considered part of the naive public that cringes at the slightest dissonance.