Thursday, March 23, 2006
M Is for Man, Muscle, Music
Congratulations to Capital M for producing and presenting a well-done and provocative concert. This post is critical in nature, but I want to start out by saying that I admire the ambition and clarity of vision espoused by Capital M. I acknowledge that what they’re doing is viable and vital, even though it may not be my cup of tea. I also want to say that it is a rare experience to be so engaged with a concert that I am compelled to respond to it. So at the risk of seeming insincere, I want to make it clear that I respect and support Capital M, as do (clearly) a lot of other people who attended their concert. If you didn’t get to go to Tuesday night’s Capital M concert, you can listen to mp3s of two of the pieces they performed here.
I’m curious about something, though, because I seem to be the only one who was disenchanted by how consistently crunchy, complicated, and unmelodic much of the music was. Unrelentingly busy textures, an almost complete avoidance of gentleness, no proper “songs” (except for Heidemann’s) despite the presence of an agile vocalist... what about this music is accessible? Okay, to be fair, no one seems to have made that claim or used that word, but some are talking about recruiting new audiences and cultivating crossover genres.
I kept joking with other audience members, asking when these guys were going to get in touch with their feminine sides, but as the program moved along, the joke wasn't funny anymore, and I succumbed to the aggressive in-your-face aesthetic that almost every piece represented (or at least, they seemed to be executed that way). Is this what rock-influenced crossover music is about? What about bands like Low and Cat Power, not to mention the other kinds of pop music that don’t fall into the rock category. Even if this were purely a prog-rock initiative, King Crimson, Yes, and Rush... these are bands whose music is/was clearly influenced by melodic thinking, by a variety of textures, and by a clarity of presentation. They managed to be sophisticated without abandoning melody, simplicity, and slowness.
“Loose Canons” by David Claman might have ventured into different territory. I assumed that a piece incorporating eBows and inspired by the music of Ockeghem would have a sensual quality to it. But alas, in the program notes, the composer implies that what attracts him to Ockeghem is that Ockeghem was a “pure cerebralist, almost exclusively preoccupied with intellectual problems.” The eBows were utilized to perform only their most basic function, and the piece meandered through its intellectual problems with seemingly no regard for what it actually sounded like. It was mind-numbing, and doubly disappointing since it got my hopes up in the first two or three minutes.
I’m probably coming across as a traditionalist, complaining that I didn’t walk away remembering a single melody or groove, but I want to know what makes this music any more accessible than Xenakis or Wuorinen? Or is that not the point?