Whirlwind adventure in the Wonderland of Classical Music
Much of this blog has been dedicated to the quest to define what is new classical music - not that it is an obtainable goal, as music is, and should be, ever changing. This goal is rather like Alice's trip into Wonderland, every turn seems to open completely new unimaginable worlds that don't seem to make sense with what's gone on before. I've talked about composers incorporating jazz and pop (or folk) into their compositions, about the use of new instruments and sounds and about the audience's reaction to new pieces - as I feel the audience is an integral part of music (in firm disagreement with Milton Babbitt). Through all of this exploration I have tried to make sense (for myself) as to what kind of music I should be writing - all the while falling farther and farther down the rabbit hole.
What is new Classical Music? Do I need to embrace the atonal world of serialism, the brain intensity dementions of new complexity or meander through the sonic-scapes of musique accousmatique? Isn't there a potion that will make it all normal again?
Then I came across this (actually, my wife found the article and pointed me toward it). It seems that in 1976, David Del Tredici premiered a piece, "Final Alice." David was (at the time) a proud, prominant member of the avant-gard composers, and yet, "Final Alice" is a blantantly Neo-romantic piece. The piece broke away from the twelve tone serialism and freed future composers to express themselves in new ways, using old tools.
"Final Alice" is a bizarre mix and yet very tonal. "In Memory of a Summer Day" is tonal as well, and yet garnered David a Pulitzer Prize. Even his latest work "Paul Revere's Ride" is tonal with a fugue and a choral. While it has elements that make it a very new work, there are also elements of it that could easily have been written by Benjamin Brittan 50 years ago (echos of Peter Grimes).
As I embark on my own career, presenting a new opera piece in June, I don't want to be Neo-classical, slushy or overly romantic in my music - but I have to admit I am pretty firmly rooted in the tonal world. Yet, I want to say something new - and yet, still feel a strong pull from the tonal world. I am beginning to open doors from rock legends (see previous post), embrace the decorative style of urban artists and lounge in the easy chair of jazz greats. This style may not be wholly new, but rather a collaboration of many elements of my past, as if looking into the glass and seeing myself in a new light. So, I guess I owe a Thanks to David Del Tredici for changing the worlds impression of what Classical Music must be, to what it can be.