Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Anecdotes and Opinions 2

Click here for the first Anecdotes and Opinions post

"Do people still write classical music?"

This was the question that I saw in one of the comments in the infamous article of Slate that stated a pessimistic view of the future of classical music in America. It was unfortunate to see a question such as this, for many professional and student composers of classical music exist throughout the world, but I assumed that the question was asked by a person who was derisive toward classical music in general.

I then went to a retreat last weekend, where someone asked me this exact question. This person, however, was planning to study music at Berklee College of Music as a drummer; and the question was not that of a derisive tone but that of genuine curiosity.

I then realized that perhaps the reason why this question circulates despite the existence of living composers has to do with a lack of promotion. Classical music in general has been promoted in cities and surburbs by way of having flash mobs of musicians play well-known classical music in various public venues, but, to my knowledge, the musicians have not actively performed contemporary music during those mob sessions. It might be a stretch to play serialist music during those sessions, but what would happen if the musicians played more "audience-friendly" music of Theofanidis or John Adams? Would passersby hate it? Would they find out more about contemporary classical music composers that they did not know existed? Would they like to know more?

Music and Disability

While I was in Michigan, Dame Evelyn Glennie came to the school to promote her album called Sugar Factory, which contained music that was recorded during the filming of the documentary called Touch the Sound in which she was featured. After the viewing of the documentary and her brief performance on a snare drum, the venue opened the stage to the audience for a Q&A session.

A person on a wheelchair took the microphone for his question. His words were mostly unintelligible, but his interpreter has translated the question thus:  "Has there been any progress in terms of writing music specifically for the disabled?" The question had to do with whether composers wrote music that represented the disabled, music that the disabled could perform, and music that the disabled could comprehend and enjoy. I believe that this person viewed that cognitive perception of mentally disabled people are different from that of people who are less disabled (I think I believe that view, also, although I do not know much about music cognition to support my view).

Dame Glennie could not answer this question. She finally came up with an honest answer:  she didn't know whether there has been music that was written to serve the purposes that the questioner laid out.

It would certainly be interesting (and perhaps imperative, also) to find out more about different abilities of performance and cognition and to write music that actively catered to these abilities.

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