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While I'm rounding up, I should also mention Greg Sandow's insightful series of posts wherein he tries to explain why "listen to it, it's beautiful" is a less-than-compelling selling point for people my age:
The young and the beautiful
Footnote to beautiful
Further beauty footnote
Last gasp of beauty
[xposted at Pulse]
Posted at 07:52 PM in Blogs | Permalink
I am 39 years old, have virtually no formal music education, but do enjoy some Classical music. Alas, sometimes I have fallen into the "beautiful" trap myself when trying to get my friends to listen to something. OTOH, if you do take the tack that "beautiful" has devolved into a mere conjunction, you can fix that by adding something else to the conjunction that pulls it out of neutral range again. Say, "Ralph Vaughn Williams' works are often beautiful and anguished at the same time. Especially in light of how many of them came to life in the shadow and aftermath of WWI." The Lark Ascending certainly has beautiful overtones to it, but the deep sadness is built right in. Even the title tells most of what you need to know. The only way we can soar above our problems is by play-acting the part of the lark. Transcendence and escape from gravity for most humans is impossible, because we're clumsy, violent and foolish. Besides which, we don't have wings. :)
FWIW, I also own smatterings of Dvorak, Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy. Then there's lots of works by The Shanghai Quartet, Kronos Quartet, and Ensemble Q/Quintessence. That touches on another Generation Gap issue with Classical: I think most folks my age would rather hear about the performer as dominant in communicating the feeling of the music, not the writer/composer (assuming for the moment that they're distinct people). Since most of us were introduced to music that seriously interested us by the singer/songwriter route, that's a hard habit to get out of. :o
Oh, and at least some music classified as "World" is really Classical under a different category. (I love string players like Lily Yuan, Yang Wei and Betti Xiang, for example.) That's another block that I think we need to get around: The de facto assumption that Classical Composition = European and American composers only.
Thanks for the interesting series.
03 February 2006 at 04:47 PM
That touches on another Generation Gap issue with Classical: I think most folks my age would rather hear about the performer as dominant in communicating the feeling of the music, not the writer/composer (assuming for the moment that they're distinct people).
Yes, exactly. This is why so many new music ensembles and composers' collectives brand themselves as bands -- Eighth Blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, Bang on a Can, Ethel, etc. (And, ahem, Pulse.)
03 February 2006 at 04:56 PM
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