Monday, November 15, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse?

"A piece of music is a two-way street," said Joan Tower in a 2001 interview for the "New Music Connoisseur" magazine. "It's a performer and a composer. I accept commissions from people who have that feeling about it."

On a basic level, I have to agree. In my mind at least, music's ultimate purpose is communication, and a composer and performer certainly work together in achieving this goal. At the same time, I detect traces of certain transparent assumptions in Towers' statement. I am beginning to wonder if music is more than a strict, consumer-based model with a manufacturer (composer), distributor (performer), and consumer (audience). Are the roles really so rigidly defined? Do composers really occupy the role of Grand Creator with performers acting as mere mediators and audiences functioning as passive receptors? I think we've all seen pretty clearly, through our recent reading, that such ideas stem from 19th-century philosophies regarding Western classical music--not from universally-applicable realities.

To alter Tower's quote slightly, then, perhaps music is actually a three-way street, and perhaps those streets intersect--or ought to intersect!--at more points than we commonly realize. Shouldn't audiences be expected, for example, to participate as actively in the music-making experience as a composer or performer does? Shouldn't they feel the responsibility to respond both critically and artistically to the musical experience? Shouldn't music be a free-flowing conversation rather than a lecture?

After our many class discussions on the topic, I'm sure that most of us can respond to these questions with a fairly certain "yes." The difficulty, then, is figuring our how to facilitate this type of fluid crossover. What can be done by us, as students, here and now to improve the future of classical music? (I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here!)

1 comment:

Kyle Siddons said...

Erica, this semester I am in the first part of the EEP class we have to take, and I have to say, that the materials we cover in that class may be the key to getting those three roads you talk about to intersect more. We're talking about designing interactive concerts so that audiences can find an entry point with works that may be unfamiliar to them. We need to program the music we want to perform, and then talk with our audiences to help them find their own way into music.