Saturday, June 25, 2005
I was reading my daily NYTimes art pages when I came across two articles.
Decline in Listeners Worries Orchestras by Anne Midgette
and A View of Classical Music in America as Lofty and Dead a book review by Greg Sandow.
Ms. Midgette's article discuss a common problem orchestras are facing everywhere - shrinking audiences.
I don't know why people are not attending orchestra concerts, but I stay away from them like the plague. The programming is boring. I refuse to hear another concert of Beethoven's 9th or Schumann's 3rd or Mozart's 40th (even thought it is one of my favorite works). Do you know why? Because there are approximately 8,274,396 recordings of each of those works available at your local Tower Records. I know that approximately 2,645,941 of those Beethoven recordings suck but they are out there and available for anyone to buy and listen to whenever. There are amazing recordings of those works available and you can listen to them anytime you wish. So why then would you go to hear your local city orchestra hack its way through a mediocre performance of Beethoven's 9th?
Perhaps some people enjoy having their ears bleed as the local Symphony slashes its way through Mozart with the gracefulness of Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Perhaps most of the people going to those concerts are there just for the social aspect of going to the symphony. I know that is the case for a lot of subscribers to the University of Southern Mississippi's Symphony Orchestra season.
Most orchestras seem to be stuck on a loop. There are symphony cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak every couple years then a series of concerti, usually piano concerti - Beethoven's Emperor, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff 2nd. It always seems to be the same thing over and over again.
I don't go to orchestra concerts because they are boring and I very rarely hear anything outside of a very narrow repertoire list.
Now Greg Sandow reviewed Mr. Horowitz's book, CLASSICAL MUSIC IN AMERICA-A History of Its Rise and Fall. Now it pisses me off that every few seconds I hear another person like Mr. Horowitz announcing to the world that classical music is dead! It's inescapable. When did it become the favorite past time of music critics to announce on a regular basis that classical music is dead. (I am not complaining about Mr. Sandow, just Mr. Horowitz's book.)
Well I have a newsflash for music critics everywhere - Classical music is dead! It died 200 freaking years ago! 200 years ago! 200 years ago!
Music critics should just let go. It will be okay. Just because classical music has ended that does not mean that art-music was sucked into a black hole never to be seen again leaving all music critics on the unemployment line!
Unfortunately the term did not die with the classical period. (I know it was a term applied later by historians and such. So don't whine about that.)
The music that is being written now by Carter, Reich, Ligeti or any of the Sequenza21 composers is not classical music. It is art-music or new music or whatever term people decide to use. I am sure historians and critics will give a us a term for it in 100 years!
I also have another problem with Horowitz's book. I recently heard a discussion of his book on NPR. The book seems to discuss heavily the influence of Dvorak and herald him as if he was the beginning of American Music.
I hate how so many people feel this way.
Dvorak coming to America is a horribly romanticized story.
It goes as follows:
Dvorak hopped a boat from Bohemia headed to the wild untamed uncultured savage New World. Got a conducting job. Wrote some music. Told Americans that we needed a nationalist music and we should look to black spirituals and native American music for the inspiration. He spent his summer in corn fields in Iowa with three other Bohemian people. Wrote his Symphony No. 9 which some consider the beginning of "American Music." And suddenly....VOILA! American Music LIVES! Because it was apparently a void before Dvorak arrived!
Was everyone asleep or suffering from a stroke when music history class talked about Billings, Beach, Gottschalk, Heinrich, McDowell or countless others! There was already a national American music alive and well.
Just because Dvorak writes a symphony and uses "Three blind mice" it becomes the model of American Music?
That's insane and I don't know why more people do not see it as an insult to our musical heritage!
Composer Everette Minchew (born 1977) is consistently active in the creation, performance, and promotion of contemporary music. Moderately prolific, his catalogue includes small chamber pieces for violin, piano, various wind instruments, harpsichord and electronic music. Current commissions include a string trio and an opera based on an 11th-century crusades tale.
His earliest musical training came at the age of eleven when he began playing alto saxophone; it wasn’t long until he began his first attempts in composition.
He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music History from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied saxophone under world-renowned soloist, Lawrence Gwozdz.
Fearing that traditional university training would hinder his development as a progressive composer, he abandoned the idea of formal lessons in favor of an intense private study of modern masterworks.
Minchew's works are characterized by their intense timbral explorations and brutal dissonance. That is not to say, however, that the compositions are devoid of beauty. In the first of the Two Brief Pieces, for example, the harpsichord chimes stringent yet haunting chords evoking a sense of loss.
Other pieces, like the Figment No. 2 "Juggler's Fancy" play upon the kaleidoscopic interaction between timbres and tones. The rapid alternation of pizzicato, arco bowing, and extreme glissandi remind the listener of Xenakis coupled with a Berio Sequenza. Minchew's Invention "Two-Part Contraption" for piano owes much to Ligeti's etudes and boogie-woogie jazz.
His music has been performed around the United States, and he was the featured composer at the 2005 Intégrales New Music Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
He currently resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with his wife, Cheryl.