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Thursday, February 03, 2005

I was interested to read the postings by both Alex Ross and Kyle Gann about the resurgence of dissonance. I had a number of reactions. The first was that there was something touching about that kind of interest. I'm reminded of a quote I heard recently, attributed to Henry Kissinger, to the effect that he had often wondered about why academic politics were so nasty until he realized that it was because there was so little at stake. I have to say that I haven't noticed the trend which Messers. Ross and Gann wrote about, although that may be because it hasn't got out here to the sticks yet, or that I've just been hanging out with the wrong people, or both. But I was also unaware that minimalism had triumphed over all other styles, anyway. My experience from going to years of student composer concerts is that for a long while more or less anything is fair game for anybody these days: for just about every composer writing something dissonant, there's another one writing some kind of eighteenth century knockoff--or trying to do, anyway. I think this is ultimately the result of so much music of just about every type from just about every period being easily accessible, and it seems to me that that's the good part of the current state of things. The bad part is that so few people are paying any attention, anyway, that worrying about it seems a little beside the point: not so much rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as worrying about whether the pillows on the those deck chairs are monogramed. I'm also not so sure that the mere level of dissonance in a piece, or a style, means that much about what's going on in either.


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