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New music and so-called music ‘lovers’BY: Peter Burwasser 04.27.2010
Is it really true that most music lovers dislike “new music”? As a critic for the past 25 years, I can attest that new music is becoming more accessible, and its audiences are expanding. This is an encouraging development. It means that music lovers are opening their minds to the creative voices of our time.
So you call yourself a music lover?PETER BURWASSER
Tom Purdom’s recent BSR review of three “new music” concerts (Astral Artists, Network for New Music, and new songs by composers Jeremy Gill and C. S Boyle) has provoked an expected and, alas, typical response from reader Andrew Kevorkian, who seems impatient that none of the new music he hears seems to sound like Puccini and Mozart. Purdom’s thoughtful response bears room for additional support.
In the early days, I can recall cringing at the experience of attending concerts where the musicians outnumbered the audience. In recent seasons, there have even been sell-out concerts.
The reason for the trend toward greater devotion to new music is, I think, two-fold; a shift among composers toward more tonal and therefore more accessible work, and a natural hunger for the new.
The listener who does not appreciate this is a lazy consumer of art, and certainly a closed-minded one. The Michael Hersch piece that both Purdom and I reviewed positively for BSR provoked and excited listeners with sounds that derived from contemporary sensibilities and psychological references.
As Purdom points out, the human mind can be stimulated by intensity and contrast, as well as by symmetry and beauty. The open mind is excited by all of it.
Kevorkian’s letter calls out a particular new piece that, I would guess, he accidentally encountered at a Philadelphia Orchestra concert. Our wonderful hometown band doesn’t boast a great track record for presenting new music, despite the enthusiasm of its musicians (most members of Network for New Music play in the Orchestra as well).
The reasons for this would require another article, but suffice it to say: Philadelphia offers better sources for hearing new music, where the material is more thoughtfully chosen and the audience is more receptive. Any of the aforementioned organizations affords a far more hospitable atmosphere for new music, as do venues at local academic musical institutions, including many free concerts at Penn, Temple and Curtis.
True music lovers have a moral obligation to listen to the work of living composers. I realize this sounds like a pompous and self-righteous statement, but consider this essential truth: Music is ephemeral by its very nature. If we stop listening, it dies.♦
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