This post from Kyle Gann. He puts into different words, and thus a useful perspective, some of the aspects of contemporary music that I have issues with. The technical detail, especially this:

I keep hearing new operas that, to my ears, all keep making the same mistake. Namely: it sounds like the composer writes the instrumental accompaniment first, and then lays the vocal line over it. The vocal lines, draped on as an afterthought in this way, lack memorability. They tend to be shapeless, often even fragmentary. They seem to follow the harmony, rather than the harmony illuminating the vocal line. I feel that the purpose of an opera, or any piece of music with a text that needs to be understood, is to amplify the words and vastly increase their power, make them vivid.

. . . to me captures the problems and the solutions exactly. I automatically tilt to the more metaphysical, which is the easy flight to safety and how it is the opposite of what composers should be doing, in my opinion. Artists starve, indeed, but they have the freedom and opportunity to be heterodox, and artists who both starve and conform seem to me to be lost. In the case of John Coolidge Adams himself, he became a nonconformist when he revived Romantic aesthetics and that has made him the artistic, social and commercial success he is today. That’s the lesson to be learned from his work, not how the notes are laid out on the page.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

One thought on “Worthwhile”

Comments are closed.