Oh, for sure:
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Alan Gilbert, just stepping down as music director of the New York Philharmonic, recently gave a lecture on the future of the orchestra. You know what I think: the only problem with orchestras and classical music generally is that we need better audiences! But of course you cannot say that sort of thing in public. What must instead be said is some version of the Received Wisdom: classical music must change and fit into the Brave New World of the 21st Century, by performing in Unconventional Spaces and attracting New, Younger Audiences. Blah, blah, blah. Let's see how Gilbert finesses that:
What orchestras can be for their audiences is changing, and that actually presents a wonderful opportunity for us to grow. The new generation of emerging orchestra musicians and conductors can approach things with an optimism that is unburdened by any sense of historical limitation. Music has an eternal power to move us, and increasingly, schools and professional music groups are embracing the new role that musicians can fill in touching people’s lives both in and out of the concert hall.
What is asked and expected of musicians is constantly evolving. Outstanding musicians in today’s orchestras are only doing their jobs fully when they understand and invest in their expanded portfolio that is demanded by the wider definition of what an orchestra is. I want to see orchestra musicians held up as heroes in their communities – both for their brilliance as musicians, but also for how they use that talent to touch the lives of those around them through music. People must get used to seeing musicians as the crucial agents of change in communities, as teachers, leaders and role-models.Oh dear... One wonders, what with all this touching of people's lives outside the concert hall and being heroes in the community, when will musicians ever have time to actually give a concert, not to mention practice and rehearse? But he says a lot of things in the lecture and it is worth having a look.
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I rarely run across music criticism that is as, well, "full-blooded" as that on offer here at the Music Salon, but occasionally... One such example is a rather unbuttoned take on the contemporary music scene by Simon Heffer from last November titled, "A Raspberry for Emetic Music".
I wonder whether it is a coincidence that when when composers relied on private patronage they wrote music that was, and remains, wonderful, but now all sorts of orchestras and public bodies channel money to them from the pockets of taxpayers, they write music that is, and will remain, crap? I think not. If it hardly matters to a composer whether people come to hear his work, or buy downloads of it in the event it is recorded, because the state-funded cheque turns up whatever, he can indulge himself to the point of exhaustion in writing what Kathleen Ferrier once memorably termed "three farts and a raspberry, orchestrated". These nonentities pose as being of the people, yet write music that only the smallest handful, and those having been in receipt of one of the most elitist educations imaginable, can even pretend to understand. And even many of them would never go as far as saying they "like" it, because much of it is profoundly unlikeable.I think I have said something very like this at times. But if you are going to criticise something so severely, then you ought to at least name names.
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From time to time, one wonders what 20th century music is the most popular. One indicator is this list of the top eight parts rentals from Boosey and Hawkes. These are all works still under copyright (the Mussorgsky because it is the Ravel arrangement), but none of them dates from after 1960:
1. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances From "West Side Story"
2. Bernstein: Overture to "Candide"
3. Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
4. Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
5. Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
6. Britten: Four Sea Interludes
7. Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
8. Copland: Clarinet Concerto
Looking at that list, it is almost certain that it is just within the US. How would European rentals look, one wonders?
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I've been reading Monroe Beardsley's Aesthetics recently with great interest. One point he makes is that there are two basic categories of comments one can make about an artwork. He labels them "external" and "internal" according to whether they are about things external to or internal to the piece. For example, mentioning that Beethoven died in a thunderstorm, or sued his sister in law for custody of his nephew, or complained about Haydn's way of teaching counterpoint is to discuss externals as none of these things are internal to the artworks themselves. Mentioning that Beethoven liked the music of Handel, or worked on themes for months or years in his sketchbooks, or struggled with coming up with definitive metronome markings are, however, internal to the music itself (or could be argued so). All external comments are irrelevant, even if they shed light on the composer's intentions because the composer's intentions are also irrelevant. Now, ask yourself, how much of the liner notes, program notes and reviews you have read recently are actually relevant? 50%? Or maybe more like 5%?
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Not a terribly lengthy miscellanea today. I assemble the various bits over the course of the week, and for part of the week, I didn't have Internet access. Let's end with the popular Appalachian Spring Suite by Copland.