Broadening Horizons in Music & Art

There seems to be a theme to today's posts, broadening horizons. Reading the news today I came across an article by Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times about the conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim. While the article is interesting in terms of illuminating who Mr Barenboim is, what Mr Barenboim says about modern musicians was far more poignant.

    “Rubinstein read Cervantes in Spanish, Dostoyevsky in Russian, Voltaire in French,” Mr. Barenboim said. “Music has become specialized today. There used to be a different notion of musical culture. I believe that Furtwängler genuinely felt — maybe he was naïve, but he felt that he personally could save German culture from the Nazis. He wrote about the introduction to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony in relation to the Greek idea of chaos and catharsis. How many musicians think that way today?

    “A century ago the same people who knew Schoenberg’s music knew Kandinsky’s art. There was no separation. Rubinstein used to say that at the turn of the century 25 percent of the audience played the music he was playing, and 70 years later 25 people in the audience owned his records. The responsibility is ours. It’s not the fault of technology. The person who wants to listen actively will get more out of the music than the person who just sits there waiting to be inspired.”

There are some important points to take out of these comments:

  • Musicians should not be so specialized as to ignore other elements of music/art.
  • Inspiration comes from active participation; musicians need to participate in society as much as they do with their music.

    The article also talks about expanding horizons with a tribute to Pierre Boulez in Mr Barenboim's book, 'Mr. Boulez dismissed Bruckner’s music during the 1970s, then a decade later, showing “his greatness and intelligence,” embraced Bruckner.' Boulez, one of the harshest critics of 'tonal/neo-romanitic' music learning to love Bruckner, a late romantic composer, whose complex harmonies are still very tonal, very neo-romantic.

    Yet again we return to needing to embrace more than just a limited view of music. We can't say only classical music is intelligent (pop music is dumb), we can't say only atonal or non-romantic music is new and explorational and the way forward is to blend different styles of music with different elements of art/culture/life. Educational institutions are necessary for the study of music, but they need to ensure they are not contributing to the isolation of music, rather the exploration and inclusion of all aspects of society into it. Should I be accepted into a Masters course somewhere next fall, I fully intent to take with my what I have learned from Scotland/Europe, from my study of non-romantic music, from my time in California, from Wyoming, from conversations with friends and trips to art galaries, time spent on subways or watching sunsets. All of this should be part of my music and my music should, in some way, reflect it all back. The violin concerto I am currently working on has this (IMHO)... so 'watch this space.'

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