Monday, 7 November 2016

Schoenberg, again

Sometimes, even music critics who, in general, support the performance of contemporary music - they do not want to be seen as 'conservative' - begin to feel something of the abnormality that new music needs advocates, champions, performers with a 'mission', as if it is a profoundly different genre altogether. Is this because classical music audiences and performers are by nature conservative, unwilling to expose themselves to something they had not known before? Or is, in general, 'new music' indeed a quite different genre, requiring an audience quite different from the regular classical one?

The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini touches on this question in his recent article:

Does this mean that Tommasini unintentionally exposes a 'conservative' side, quickly covering it up at the end of the article? Or is it a glimmer of awareness of some worrying truth peeping through the carefully cultivated fa├žade of 'established' 20C new music, a beginning of doubt about received wisdom as tirelessly expounded in academia and propaganda, seeing the crumbling walls of the old bulwark?

Tommasini correctly points towards Schoenberg as the moment when 'new music' became a specialized category with a value framework, very different from the musical tradition which was, at the time, still in full development and which could still count upon a wide public interest, and was a firm part of the cultural field. All that has been lost, and a lively tradition has to be recovered from scratch, which will be very difficult to do in the present cultural climate.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor "Arnold Schoenberg"

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