. Interchanging Idioms: Why does Classical Music Festival of "Modern Music" call any music written in the last 50 years NOW music?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why does Classical Music Festival of "Modern Music" call any music written in the last 50 years NOW music?

Music of Now Marathon Begins Composers Now Series is HARDLY music on NOW.


The above article by Steven Smith starts out, "No concert, however epic in duration, could encompass the entirety of the contemporary classical world, which has grown too broad and variegated to sample in one sitting." Ok, I agree. But then the article goes on to highlight some of the pieces performed

Libby Larsen’s 1991 string quartet “Schoenberg, Schenker, Schillinger”

Bernard Rands "Memo 5" written in 1975

Looking through the rest of the program on composers-now.org, there are pieces from the 70's, 80's, 90's and even a few from the early 21st century. This seems incredibly odd to me for a festival to be promoting itself as music now, when only a small percentage of the pieces are from the last decade.


Composers go through periods of music. Beethoven has his early, middle and later period of music. The style of music he wrote in each one is fairly different from the other periods. Modern composers do the same. Elliott Carter's music pre-2000 is very different from what he wrote in the last 10 years. John Adams music of 20 years ago is remarkably different than what he's writing now. The same can be said for Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Jennifer Higdon - all Pulitzer Prize winners. While there are ways to see and/or hear the connection from one period to the next, the music itself is very different.


If a pop radio station played Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982), or TLC's "Baby Baby Baby" (1992) none of their listeners would consider this 'music of today.' Yes, there are radio stations that play these songs, but their not calling saying they are playing current hits. Playing pieces 20+ years ago and suggesting to the audience they are music of today only suggests to the audience classical music is stagnant. There is already a perception classical music is stuffy and out of touch. Festival's like this only further this attitude. While I'm happy these composers found a place to get their music performed, it's unfortunate the festival couldn't find music more contemporary music to play.

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