Tuesday, September 19, 2006

eventually the problem with modern music

I guess we have all learned from Daniel that Beta blogger is made of evil and is not to be trusted. Unless of course it will bring us closer to perfection once we all have it, some sort of communist utopia of sorts....or not.

We have a brand new crop of first years here that are all asking what classes to take and are beginning an exciting four years. I've been working for the Masters cooking all sorts of foods. We've been increadibly productive and non argumentitive, so I declare it a success!

What I don't declare a success was our trip to the Velvet Lounge. For those of you who know anything about the south side of chicago the Velvet lounge is located four blocks east of the redline stop at Cermak/China town. This is not a terrible neighborhood, but also not one that I would choose to take first years who have never been in an intense urban environment. That said I also object to the students at this institution who never explore the southside and will only go to the northside when going out in the evening, but even for someone who has lived here for now three years I spent my time very aware while walking. My group had no real trouble some people talked to us, but that's just what happen anywhere. However some groups were really harassed by some individuals and apparently the polic told one of the groups that they shouldn't be walking there after dark. Oh the neighborhoods your stopped in because you're white.

Normally we take trips at this time to some sort of Blues club where we dance and play pool and can talk while enjoying really loud blues. I mean Blues is the music of chicago. This was a Jazz Jam session, in a small club where everyone just sat and listened. Here I will have to admit that I am not a jazz person, I get it, and I like some of it, but even Coltrain can be too obtuse for me. And Jamming? bah I just don't like it. Go ahead call me a troglidite if you like...I don't mind, I'm aloud to not like something though.

The problem I have with a lot of modern music (I do not mean the pop scene) is that individuals feel the need to push boundries, do things that no one has done before.
Well certainly, this is the western way, there is no way around this, but we are pushing our way into incomprehesibility. There are certain cases where an inability to understand something ceases to be the fault of the listener and becomes the fault of the musician/composer. Obscurity does not necesarily make one more valid. Being difficult to understand does not increase the importance of your work. You are not a more complex and evocative individual if you write in a context that no one can comprehend.

Of course one cannot emulate past masters though. IT's already been done, it's trite and there is no way that we can rival those who have done so well in the past. Thus we are stuck in some sort of conundrum where we must strive to change and become greater, yet we must stay with in the bounds of what is comprehensible...

Perhaps 100 years from now I will be seen as backwards, and the work of certain composers will be seen as the necessary genius to push us into a new age of music. One can not predict history before it happens.


Ethan Stanislawski said...

It's funny you say that modern music pushes boundaries too much. While this may be true for classical music, I feel that over the past fifteen years non-classical music hasn't pushed a fraction of the boundaries that were being pushed in the 60s 70s, or even the 80s. Of course, I'm speaking from an alternative rock/punk perspective, but there are many people who agree. I've heard theorists that argue that while modern technology greatly expands access to art, it sort of flattens the playing field. As a result, there's a lot of good art, but no more great art.

Anyway, the fact that I have discovered Emily's blog is slightly more exciting.


Embly said...

ah Ethan I do mention that I am not talking about non-classical music (I'm including Jazz in classical at this particular moment for better or for worse, because it is no longer the up-and-coming thing) "The problem I have with a lot of modern music (I do not mean the pop scene)..."

Campbell Vertesi said...

You know who's fault it is? Wagner. He and all that writing about how he was progenitor of a new tradition... he made everyone all historically aware, and now everybody's gotta be new and breaking from old tradition.

What's interesting is the death of the tradition of radical innovation. Really modern, bleeding edge composition is back to trying to establish a tradition, responding to what's out there in other genres, but fundamentally, making music without a need to be radical.

If it makes you feel better, have a look at the music that's survived outside the ivory tower. Try to envision what will be played a hundred years from now. I'll give you a hint - none of that "modern" crap. Certainly, plenty of Stravinski and Strauss, Britten, Sondheim, Shostakovich... but Cage? Not a chance, except as a footnote. Not much 12 tone music, either.

Remember that in Berlioz' time, the Conservatoire de Paris was ignoring his best work in favor of such "luminaries" as Guillion, Paris, Guiraud, and Ross-Despréaux... none of whom you have ever heard. There is no reason to expect anything different from the 20th century. The composers who lead in academia but not outside will fall by the wayside.

(i hope)