Music snots should all catch a cold
I want to make it clear that I am not targeting the Carnegie Mellon Music Department. Or School? CMU Music Shack and Play-back Emporio? Either way, I will be sharing qualms that I have with the modern classical genre as a whole. So thereare any criticisms I share that seem to line up with how certain people do things at Carnegie Mellon, that’s just a coincidence.
The tradition of classical music is one that the whole world, like it or not, is well aware of. Well, Western classical. Well, Western classical if you’re mainly talking about people from Italy or Austria. Either way, it’s ubiquitous. And it’s beautiful! Some pieces written 300 years ago will speak to the human experience for centuries to come. That is why “classical music training” frustrates me so, and in particular, the results of that training when brought into the modern musical landscape.
It seems to me that every other genre has either been born of collaboration or has become deeply intertwined with other branches of music. Jazz became the backbone of R&B. Fiddle music became the soul of early country music. Soul became the brother to country. You get the point. But classical music has not chosen to come to the cookout. No, it has stayed in its ivory tower (an especially apt description when you consider who the majority of classical musicians are), eating saltines.
No, the most modern attempts to make classical music nowadays is marked by what can only be described as sonic masturbation. Each piece is a dissonant attempt to get people to turn it off. Each song is a violent struggle against typical harmony, ordinary melody, or comprehensible timbre. Now, of course, music can be non-obvious. Jazz is one of my favorite genres, and it plays with traditional modes and rhythms like a kid on a playground. But if jazz is the girl building sandcastles, contemporary classical is the creepy boy taking apart bugs, all while complaining that no one understands what he’s “trying to say with his performance.”
I will end my article abruptly with a challenge. If anyone reading this can point to a solid example of contemporary classical that does not seem to be an exercise in frustration, I’ll eat a copy of this paper.