Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MTT - Composing classical music's future

We had talked previously in class about Michael Tilson Thomas and his work with the San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony. I found this article "Composing classical music's future" from the Scotsman Newspaper. The article is about MTT's appearance with the SFS at the Edinburgh International Festival this past August and many of the comments speak to our discussion:

"MY MUSICAL life is driven by the consideration of four questions," says Michael Tilson Thomas (who is universally known as MTT). "What is happening, expressed in terms of melody, harmony and form? Why is it happening? As musicians or audiences, what does this mean to you? And what do you propose to do about it?"

"What concerns me is that people are growing up not experiencing classical music, or its interpretation - that is the zeitgeist," he says. "Keeping Score is an attempt to address this."
The $23 million (£11.4 million), five-year project has kicked off with explorations of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Copland's Appalachian Spring. Each programme comprises radio and TV shows, DVDs, public performances and schools events. An interactive website allows users to follow timelines and open the scores and explore themes and motifs highlighted under a moving cursor as the music unfolds.

"In our society it's a goal to try to meet in the middle," he asserts. "In music, that's a terrible idea - extremes are better, but everyone has to know where they are. There is a fear/embarrassment threshold to recognise and cross."

For some music lovers, interaction with an orchestra might still mean little more than paying for a ticket and turning up. But beyond the passive experience of sitting through a concert, a world of engagement in the music, via technology, awaits. Punters can take it or leave it, but for orchestras the marginalisation of classical music and concern for public access to it is introducing systemic change. "In the old days," says MTT, "orchestras didn't envisage that music education on this scale would be part of their future. But that future is here, and I'm impatient for this work to go forward."

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