Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's All Right to Have Fun Again

Having now written my account of last night’s Composers, Inc. concert, which featured works by six composers, all of whom were in the audience, I realized how much things had changed since my student days.  In that dark past the study of music was serious business.  That seriousness was embodied in the character traits of Arnold Schoenberg and underscored by the hyper-intellectualism coming out of the leading institutions of higher learning, such as Princeton University and Yale University.  It was as if pleasure was a luxury that the cerebral demands of “new music” could not afford.

I suppose the “ice-breaker” for me was John Adams, since my earliest exposure to Philip Glass was just as serious as any encounter I had experienced with the music of Elliott Carter.  I was at a performance of “Grand Pianola Music” at the 92nd Street Y;  and the sheer exuberance of it all made my jaw drop.  When I recovered my presence of mind, I discovered that the conclusion of the music seemed to provoke half of the audience to cheer and the other half to boo.  It was as if Adams had decided to attack a sacred cow with a rubber chicken;  and I was definitely in the camp that took this to be a significant (and highly satisfying) event.

These days it is not embarrassing to say that you had fun listening to the music of living composers.  Last night’s concert warranted that proposition admirably.  With any luck, that sense of fun will prevail.

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