Thursday, 12 October 2017

Circular Zeitgeist warnings

All those numerous atonal / serialist / sonic works, written by (counting from WW II onwards) thousands of composers, have been - if taken seriously, not as music persé but as cultural deeds - warnings of the Zeitgeist of the last century. As musically expressive works the artistic palette, I think, was quickly exhausted by the expressionistic works of Schönberg, Berg and Webern. Warnings against what? Against the descendence of Western civilization into barbarism, sterility, destruction, in short: inhumanity. That serious warnings became fashionable and thus, meaningless as warnings, is part of the thing against which the genuine works warned against - an ironic circle.

But what does one do with warnings? Perpetuate them, turn them into establishments and reward them with subsidies? This latter process reminds me of the shocking play 'The Chinese Wall' (1961) by Max Frisch, in which serious warnings of total Untergang are applauded by the very agent (the emperor) who is part of the forces which form the threat in the first place. But taken seriously, one draws the consequences from the warnings and an alternative route is explored which may eventually open-up new perspectives which are constructive and serve civilization. Is such attitude merely a form of hopeless romanticism, a powerless gesture against evil? But as long as humanity wants to be more than blindly-driven animals, deaf to their own potential, such gestures are the only proof left to demonstrate man's real nature, of which culture is the reflection.

In music as an art form, one such route is the revival of the classical tradition, taken in a broad sense, which is tried nowadays by different composers in the Western world. My own development began with Schönberg, and indeed an understanding of what his work really meant, inevitably led towards the very tradition he tried to supplant with something else, a cultural construct disconnected from nature and from humanity.

Therefore I cannot stop being amazed about the willingness of performers, especially symphony orchestras who thank their existence to humanistic ideas about art and culture, to open their doors to some of the very forces who set out to destroy them.

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