Musings of an Obscure Composer

The Nagual Composer's periodic musings on the milieu of "New Music," and other topics that cross his mind.

Friday, February 26, 2010

If I were a praying man, I'd implore the muses ...

How is that some parts of the musical world have come to value a piece of music based solely on whether it is deemed to sufficiently advance some technical aspect of what is assumed to be an inevitable musical progress  There is progress in computer processing speed because there is an objective standard by which to measure progress.  Our society believes that there is PROGRESS in life, but the quality of inner life is not subject to accurate and objective measurement.  The ghost of the 1950’s technocratic view of music has joined with popular cultures lust for the next new thing.  One can hear it comments after improve concerts.  The improve concerts I attend seem to sound much like the sort of silly “free improve” people perpetrated more 30 years when I was a student.  Why is new so important?  New Music is unlikely to join the realm of mass-marketed culture – or at least it is likely to be highly unsuccessful if does try to join mass consumer culture.  The new no longer shocks, it merely comforts by the sameness of its recurrence.  There is not avant-garde.  It would be a fun and glamorous thing if there were, but the revolution before last eliminated all the rules.
Do I imagine it or, too often, is the measure of whether music is “serious,” or should be taken seriously, whether it is sufficiently grim, or contains the requisite level of dissonance or chromaticism.  I am not against dissonant music.  Dissonance is useful tool to express many things.  It is  a tool not an end.  Audiences can close their minds to difficult music that has something important, or something painful, to say.  That is no reason that the composer who feels compelled to say something difficult should not say it.  Neither is at a reason to indulge in the complex or the agonized.
Is it possible for that uses simple means and works with the utmost clarity to be profound.  I think it is.  It is no easier to say something profound with a simple language than it is with a complex musical language.   Writing music is so damned hard.  The craft of composition alone is daunting.  There are no guarantees that one will accomplish anything.  I only can hope that I will not confuse craft with methodology, or complexity or a grim demeanor with profundity.


  1. Quite the blogger. Hope all is well and swell

  2. Yikes. Composing IS damn hard. I gave up--what a quitter! Well, I'm still expressing myself via art, just a different medium. Anyway, my mind also rattles with the points you raise. Art that is not forging into brand new territory can still be "fresh," it seems to me. I've witnessed art that wants to be called "the new artistic frontier" yet it turns out to be hackneyed.