I was checking out video performances of Christopher Rouse compositions, when I came across the lively exchange excerpted below from the comments section of the above performance of Ogoun Badagris.

I love reading this kind of discussion about new music. Strip away all the jargon and citations, add some internet acronyms and sarcasm, and a lot of the back-and-forth on musical aesthetic issues in scholarly journals boils down to pretty much what these gentlemen are discussing below:

• TheKingBolden
5 months ago
What a useless piece. I’m sure the composer thinks he’s conveying something deep and spiritual, lol.

• bdowns2
5 months ago
Why do you think the composer would think that? Can’t a piece be fun or ephemeral and still be of value? Is “deep and spiritual” the quality that each piece must express (or arouse, or emulate….).

• TheKingBolden
5 months ago
When you know something about the title of the piece, you will begin to get my point. Regarding your question as to whether or not “deep and spiritual” are necessary qualities, it seems like an individual choice.

• jfloyd1879
5 months ago
TheKingBolden, your name should be the King Douchebag. This piece is badass, and you probably think its lame because you dont have the chops to play it. There doesn’t have to be a reason or meaning behind every piece of music, just enjoy it and quit being a buzzkill

• perryma44
4 months ago
@TheKingBolden actualy if you would do research before acting like you know what your talking about, you would know that this piece is about sacrificing a virgin. It is broken into 5 parts of a story and every instrument plays a role. So stfu before you try to talk shit about Rouse

• macoup1
4 months ago
Actually KingBolden do you really know what this piece is about? If you really did you would know that the music is a representation of a ritual in which a virgin is sacrificed. Nice try

11 thoughts on “New Music Criticism on the Mean Streets of the Intertubes”
  1. Re: Tim’s point – I think it’s impossible to tell if what KingBolden’s saying is “new music criticism” or “Christopher Rouse criticism” or just crankiness.

    And that’s where my confusion about the origin of this type of commenter comes from. I simply don’t understand the motivation to post a two-sentence dismissal of a piece in a public forum. While it’s fine for KingBolden to not like the piece, I’m not sure it’s fine for someone to claim publicly that the piece is “useless” and not offer any concrete explanation at all for why that might be so. There’s a criticism there that’s claiming something more than the readily acknowledged subjectivity of saying, “I don’t like this.” At least this piece is lucky enough to have multiple folks jump to its defense.

  2. Very well said, Steve. KingBolden’s putdown is fairly typical, but I am sometimes impressed by the informed defense (how would they know about the different instruments representing different characters unless they’d performed or studied the work?), even in the midst of name-calling.

    Go to just about any John Cage performance/interview on Youtube, and there will be people trashing the man. It impresses me that music like Cage’s, which really isn’t all that new any more, can still gravely offend people.

    I happen to like Ogoun Badagris a lot, and I’ve never heard a recording that’s done it justice (maybe my lame playback system?) You definitely don’t get the experience listening to it compressed on the internet. Heard live, it’s an adrenaline-inducing experience.

  3. Tim’s right; the point of Christian’s post wasn’t so much the Rouse piece, as it was this new form of “fandom / criticism”. Pieces suddenly appear in the webby arena, where instead of “I quite liked the motivic interplay in the opening section” you get “THIS ROCKS!” vs. “THIS SUCKS!”. It may seem pretty midless sometimes, but there is a kind of engaement, passion, even knowledge running through the rough edges, trolls and Russian-brides-for-sale spam.

  4. Is this “new music criticism” or just “Christopher Rouse criticism”? There’s no need to lump the two together, and neither should there be a need to impulsively defend one for the greater cause of the other. It’s perfectly OK for KingBolden not to like this piece (and he may like other new music). My view on this piece as performed here (I don’t know much else by Rouse) isn’t far off KB’s actually: for me it just doesn’t have the depth (call it spiritual) appropriate to the themes evoked by the title or the composer’s own programme note (http://www.christopherrouse.com/ogounpress.html).

    Something shouldn’t be defended impulsively simply because it is new music: that way lies the silencing of all criticism and the death of the genre.

  5. Chris, I’m not saying Rouse isn’t meticulous. But he is making percussion music from within a tradition that has been somewhat halfhearted, short (starting from around the time of Haydn and Mozart), and still still primitive. In other parts of the world people have been continuously working on and passing down percussion music for thousands, or more likely millions, of years. I applaud his efforts, but he is quite seriously millennia behind.

  6. Joseph: Ogoun Badagris is over 30 years old now. Rouse is meticulous about stick information, where to play on the drum head, and other percussion specifics in his scores. I don’t believe that he was trying to write an “authentic” Haitian piece here, merely using the influences and the mythology. The result is a gripping, ferocious work.

    To place this piece in a different context, in 1976, when Rouse composed Ogoun, the idea of a 4-1/2 minute allegro in 6/8 was startingly fresh in a sea of American academic aperiodicity and intellectualism. Give the guy some props.

  7. I wish composers made themselves more aware of the developments in the field of percussion music. This is definitely a case where concert music is light years behind the advanced practitioners like Han Bennink, Milford Graves, and the whole damn country of Brazil.

  8. I always wonder where these negative comment-posters come from. It seems like any piece of new music that goes up on YouTube and gets decent views attracts at least one. Are they browsing for music to bash? If not, how do they wind up there.

    It is heartening to see all the Rouse defenders, though. New music could probably use some more name calling.

    Separately, this piece was new to me – so, thanks for brining it to my attention, Christian.

  9. Along with Ku Ka Ilimoku, this is one of the best percussion pieces written since 1970. Christopher Rouse rules hard.

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