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Contemporary Music

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Classical music is a genre that has managed to make itself into a museum. I am as guilty as the next person of concentrating on the standard repertoire which concentrates on the 19th Century and thins out increasingly as the 20th century progresses, and my shelves are groaning under the weight of frankly unnecessary new recordings of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler etc.

I do listen to a lot of recent music, avoiding avant-garde meaninglessness and concentrating on composers whose music triggers an emotional and not just intellectual response. But we are just not getting enough of this music performed and promoted - even my most educated friends think that classical music simply stopped somewhere around 1913.

I sometimes think that all classical "fans" owe it to the genre - to ensure its continued survival and for the sake of future generations - to make an effort to support contemporary music.

What was the last piece of music composed in last 15 years that you listened to a recording of?

In my case its this:

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and this

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so basically, nobody else gives a toss for contemporary music? Wow. Our civillization is coming to an end, and Simon Cowell will inherit the earth.

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Moderator

Arvo Part

Poppy Ackroyd

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I mentioned in another thread a while ago that there were only a couple of dozen people at York Late Music’s Rzewski concert last summer, including the composer, who played a new work for four hands with Ian Pace. It’s little short of a miracle that contemporary music festivals like that or Huddersfield even survive. But in answer to your question, my wife gave me a CD for Christmas that has a lost work by Messiaen that Peter Hill found and performs on the recording. The piece could have been part of Catalogue des Oiseaux. The CD also includes some pieces by a few younger and less well-known composers who Messiaen influenced as well as a couple of giants like Stockhausen. I only half-listened to it while working so can't really comment yet on the later stuff. Otherwise, no great discoveries for me recently.

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The last 10 cds I bought were all of music by living composers, most middle-aged now (ish) but some a bit younger. I won't bore you with all the details, but the composers are - Ades; Christopher Wright; Augusta Read Thomas; Kaija Saariaho; Aaron Cassidy; Bryn Harrison; Per Norgard; MacMillan; Poul Ruders; Philip Sawyers; Richard Barrett.

If I'm honest, I get far more out of exploring new music (including the difficult stuff) than listening to YET ANOTHER Beethoven 5 or whatever, much as I love the stuff. I see no point in contemporary music that sounds like it could have been written 100 years earlier, so I'm keen to hear what sounds living composers are coming up with to keep the old chestnut of 'classical music' (whatever that now means) alive and well for this century.

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A good debate on modern classical music started here: http://www.hifiwigwam.com/showthread.php?54247-The-Must-have-list-for-a-Classical-Neophyte-Trying-to-help-expand-the-minds-here&p=1537199&viewfull=1#post1537199

And went on for a page or two, with some suggestions thrown in along the way.

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The last 10 cds I bought were all of music by living composers, most middle-aged now (ish) but some a bit younger. I won't bore you with all the details, but the composers are - Ades; Christopher Wright; Augusta Read Thomas; Kaija Saariaho; Aaron Cassidy; Bryn Harrison; Per Norgard; MacMillan; Poul Ruders; Philip Sawyers; Richard Barrett.

If I'm honest, I get far more out of exploring new music (including the difficult stuff) than listening to YET ANOTHER Beethoven 5 or whatever, much as I love the stuff. I see no point in contemporary music that sounds like it could have been written 100 years earlier, so I'm keen to hear what sounds living composers are coming up with to keep the old chestnut of 'classical music' (whatever that now means) alive and well for this century.

Oh go on, you can bore me with the details. Anything stand out in that lot?:)

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Classical music is a genre that has managed to make itself into a museum. I am as guilty as the next person of concentrating on the standard repertoire which concentrates on the 19th Century and thins out increasingly as the 20th century progresses,

Also guilty, Alan, except that I tend to be even farther back than the 19th century! And I have made the occasional foray into modern music, because I feel that I absolutely have to make the effort. And I am nearly always disappointed. It seem to me that music of the 20th century and later has become music of the intellect that can only be appreciated by folk with some musical education and who can appreciate its subtleties. And that's the problem, I have none. The other week, Mrs Tones and I watched 2001: a space odyssey again, and while the Ligeti pieces fitted in well with the film, there's simply no way that I could ever listen to concert performances of them. On the other hand, The Blue Danube had me groaning along, waving my arms and swaying in my chair.

Perhaps folk who come from rock with its strange noises and tortured guitars to classical are more able to listen to modern classical than are folk like myself who listen to virtually no rock. Pity, I would like to expand my horizons, but they stubbornly refused to be expanded, and Messrs Bach and Beethoven can say more to me in a few minutes than can modern composers in several hours.

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Super Wammer

These days my "classical" music listening has quite a strong British bias to it, but is mostly post-1900 and does include contemporary composers as well! The current crop include Stephen Dodgson, Richard Arnell, James Macmillan, John Pickard, Cecilia MacDowell, Christopher Wright, Arthur Butterworth, Matthew Taylor and David Matthew to name but a few.

Of that bunch I would pick out Arnell, Pickard and Wright particularly.

However, over the last few weeks, I've been having a bit of a J S Bach festival......

k

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I have a vague impression we've had this discussion once before. A live performance of the Ligeti pieces in 2001 would be amazing. Some years ago I heard Aimard premiere some of the Etudes in Geneva (with Ligeti in the audience). Fiendishly difficult piano music, and one of the most thrilling recitals I've ever attended.

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I think this discussion comes up pretty regularly, as do many others, and ends up in the usual circular fashion ie. those that like new music (especially the challenging stuff) and those who don't. Tones has a point that a thorough grounding in music, or regular exposure to it, can help in appreciating some of the complexities, but most think life's too short for the effort involved...

The composers khapahk lists are relatively easy to listen to - not being snobbish here, just that it's 'conventional' musical language, though Pickard's stuff is quite interesting - and I personally like to hear composers pushing the boat out a bit. I can take the 'new complexity' to a degree, but my own bias is towards the 'spectralist' school, hence why I like Ligeti, Saariaho, Murail etc. I like texture over cheap tunes, and 'holy minimalism' is a complete copout IMV. Mind you, Karl Jenkins is laughing all the way to the bank with his tripe, and many of the composers I list aren't exactly rolling in it, so that says summat I suppose...

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I'm not sure I agree with Tones's point. I think anyone who is genuinely open-minded, curious and interested in contemporary culture in general can and will find something to enjoy in contemporary music. I don't think you have to have any particular grounding in music to be surprised, amazed, excited by some contemporary music just because some of it is so surprising, amazing and exciting. Some stuff is of course really hard to listen and challenges even the most die-hard fan, but I'm convinced there are lots of people out there who do not have any formal music education who can get into quite a bit of contemporary music. I'm sure there are quite a few on the Wam like that. Give them a few pointers and they'll be happy to dip into it.

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I thionk a lot of the problem is that people just assume contemporary classical music has nothing to say to them because they assume its all like Stockhausen or Ligeti or Carter or Cage.... and that's a damn shame. There is so much modern music out there that has emotional appeal, not just intellectual, yet is massively superior to the holy minimalist or classic FM/fake film music school.

I blame the likes of Stockhausen and Darmstadt brigade for the problem, they actively alienated the audience and now it cannot be won back. Ligeti's piano music might be fiendishly difficult to play, I don't care - whats it like to listen to? Not rewarding at all IMO, its says nothing to my heart. I like his Atmospheres & Lontano, but thats all.

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