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The Rambler :: blog

Monday, October 27, 2003

*****THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER LIVE*****
To read this post and the rest of The Rambler in its current incarnation please click here. Thank you!*****
So, I've been thinking for a few days that having this blog is all very well and all, but what is it actually for? And it seems to me that although there is plenty of excellent blogging around yr popstars, and yr Wire-friendly music (and we all know who I mean - check right), I've yet to see anything consistently tackle that awkward stuff 'modern composition', 'contemporary classical', or whatever you want to call it. I've only seen a handful of 'classical music' blogs, and talkboards, and they're pretty bad. (The one that used to sit on the Guardian's site was like a horrible pastiche.) For some reason, concert music is really poorly served by popular writing; and contemporary concert music even worse.

I don't know for sure why this should be, but I suspect it is to do with the way in which a musical style/genre reaches maturity in relation to its critical support. Jazz is a classic example. Journalistic writing/reviewing of jazz became very sophisticated relatively early on - the same is true for rock, pop, and so on. Perhaps because the two, mutually dependent streams developed at the same pace. However, the drier, strictly academic-analytical work lagged behind, only to be rectified a few decades down the line. < anticipates chorus of protest...> So-called contemporary classical music, on the other hand, was conceived in the midst of an already established critical form, a form that had been comfortable dealing with the core 1650-1900 repertory for many years, but was ill-equipped to deal with rapid new developments. The academic work, on the other hand, in contrast to popular streams, was newly burgeoning, and thus capable of dealing with the new challenges.

This is a loosely conceived theory, but the upshot of it all is that while there is a vast array of excellent academic work on contemporary composition, the world seems almost incapable of talking about it on a popular, accessible, but meaningful level. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but aside from The Wire itself (which has some excellent coverage this month, including a primer on Spectral music. Do check out Grisey - the première of Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil just a few weeks after his death was a formative experience for me. The percussion section includes a giant 'keyboard' of about 20 gongs, which the percussionist has to hurl himself across the stage to play - all at an extremely quiet dynamic. Beautiful.), there is very little else, in print or in blog.*

And there is no reason why this should be. So, following in a grand tradition, expect to see more of me writing the kind of stuff I'd like to be reading.

*Please send any suggestions/oversights to the usual address!


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