Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Disservice of the Divide

I’ve said, in a previous post, that I feel new art music would benefit from not calling itself “classical.”  I’d also like to suggest that it should go beyond just dropping the boundaries of that title and actually partner with other music that has existed in different spheres.  Even using the term “art music”, as I just have, may prove problematic.  My main goal in using that word is simply to distinguish music in which the creative process is not shaped by, or dedicated to predicted financial results.  I know that plenty of “classical music” has historically been very guided by this commercial concern.  Still, this is the very loose and general way that I’m using the term “art music” for the purposes of this post.  One major reason I'm writing this post is that there is too much of link between the term "art music" and the music of the western concert music, or "classical," tradition.  Plenty of other music deserves to be called art.  But then again, putting less importance in these terms probably serves my purposes better anyway.

Now, more to the point, the body of contemporary music that gets called “classical” is extremely diverse.  The same is true of the music that doesn’t receive the “classical label.  The truth is that there is plenty of compatibility between much of the material in these two camps.  Certainly there is some music that is squarely in the exclusively commercial realm and some that is only going to appeal to listeners with a very intellectual approach.  But there is also plenty of middle ground and/or overlap.  It seems very feasible, at least to me, that Bjork, for example, could perform in a show that featured contemporary music from composers who have come out of the academic world.  And why couldn’t Steve Reich or Philip Glass’ music sit next to Radiohead, Sigur Ros, or Boards of Canada.

What are the biggest walls separating composers & performers, who have studied in the western classical tradition within a college, from those artists who are known, or are becoming known, on the “popular” or “indie” scene?  Perhaps, in some cases, it is less about aesthetics of the actual material, less about any level of value or substance, and more about background, approach, and stereotype.

For those of us who are approaching our musical careers by building a foundation of academic training, I think it behooves us to really take a good look and see if there are artists out there in whose work we find value, but who are pursuing their careers through different avenues -through the standard avenues of popular music (clubs, touring, record labels, etc).  We should support these artists, take them seriously, and reach out to partner with them, whether by creative collaboration or just performing on the same bill.

What I would most like to do with this post, however, is to introduce an artist whose work I really admire and who is operating, at least so far as I know, in the non-academic and non-classical world.  His name is Morgan Sorne.  His band is called Sorne.

I won’t say too much about the sound of his music.  You can check that out for yourself.  Something interesting to know ahead of time, though, is that all the songs are from the point of view of characters in a story he has developed.  The story is also fleshed out in illustrations and videos he has made.  I find all of the work to be of high quality.  On the bandcamp website you can hear all of his released songs, but his main website is a better way to get a sense of the whole artistic project.  I really recommend looking into his work.  

As a composer I make the music that I hope people will listen to because I believe that when my vision comes to fruition, it can do good for others.  I have a similar feeling about the work of Morgan Sorne, who is ahead of me in the realization of his vision.  I hope that people will listen to Sorne’s music, check out his art, and partake of his gifts.

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