Mystery score

Mystery score

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why We Need the New and Unfamiliar

A friend, a well-known author of both nonfiction and fiction, was musing about the state of publishing and wrote this the other day:
We are both disheartened by the homogeneity of mainstream publishing--the whole vampire phenomenon is symbolic of it--and I suggested that one reason books are no longer an electric topic of discussion among intelligent people is because the mainstream "gatekeepers" have kept out some of the best and most provocative books. Many other reasons too, of course, but the lack of provocative books is front and center.
Substitute "classical music" for books and "concert presenters" or "orchestras" for "publishing" and you'll see why we need to keep the new and the unfamiliar central to concert music. There's a constant demand for new ballet, theater, movies, and pop music, and there's no reason the same can't be true in our field.

2 comments:

Joe Barron said...

I suggested that one reason books are no longer an electric topic of discussion among intelligent people is because the mainstream "gatekeepers" have kept out some of the best and most provocative books.

Interesting insight, but I'm not sure I agree. I think a bigger reason might be that there are simply so many books out there that not everyone's reading the same thing. In our town, they've tried the "One Book, One Philadelphia" deal, trying to get everyone on the same page, so to speak, talking about the same things, but the selections generally are less than exciting.

Henry Holland said...

Well Lisa, I'm afraid there *is* a reason "the same can't be true in our field": classical/opera audiences, in my experience, are easily the most conservative, resistant to change and stuck in a narrow rep of any art form. For a vast majority of people, classical music/opera died with Brahms and Puccini and of *those* people, there's a good chunk that it really ends with Beethoven and Verdi. What blows me away is that most audiences are even resistant to hearing stuff that's been dug up from the 1750 - 1850 period, they want their Top 40 and that's it.

Fine, I don't expect most people to love Birtwistle and Boulez and Pintscher like I do, but it's utterly absurd when some safely tonal and non-threatening like Samuel Barber or a Strauss tone poem has people bitching at the intermission about "that damn modern music".

One of the most laughable aspects is the utter lie that non-tonal music has been shoved down the ears of poor, unsuspecting audiences who just want to hear some nice tunes from Mozart and instead were assaulted by NOISE! noise I tell you! It's been my experience that such music is done in very small chunks, if at all or its shunted off to New Music programs that are easy to avoid if you're so inclined.

After 35 years of going to concerts, I've given up hope that the repertoire is going to expand very much, except for even MORE Mozart and Beethoven and Haydn from the second/third tier of their catalogs.