Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yowsa, I'm back!

Spent a week in Denmark recording vocals and overdubbing guitars - it was a wonderful experience. We pushed for a lush, Beach Boys-like vocal sound with beautiful dense harmonies. And I did a lot of guitar parts with a set-up that I think duplicated Andy Summers' 80's rig almost exactly. Yummy!

I read this book by Daniel Barenboim and Edward W. Said recently, "Parallells and Paradoxes" or something to that effect. A good book about music, but entirely classico-centric, like other music doesn't exist. It made me think about the stuff I was going to write about classical music again.

Classical music. So silly. What does the term mean. It includes sacred music from the 16th century, dance music from the 19th century, tafel music from the 18th century and event music from almost any era. And the occasional piece of art music from the last 400 years or so... How can anyone possibly, and with any conscience, put all this music into one category, and then on top have the balls to say: This is Serious music, listen with respect.

The respect that is bestowed upon classical music is what bothers me the most. People have a reverence towards it that makes them take any piece of crap seriously, they sit there and listen to the most appaling drivel that Haydn wrote with his left hand while he was banging some babe - like it is the word of God or something. It just ain't right!

So: Can't we dismantle this meaningless category, and start talking about the actual music, rather than some ancient, feudal, semi-fascist socio-cultural category. Classical music is not art music, for instance. Yes, there's a lot of art music within that framework, from Mozart's Requiem to Beethoven's sonatas to Shostakovich's symphonies to Wagner to Schönberg to... tons, yes. But there's even more that would fall into the category of popular music, dance music, utilitarian music, church music etc.

And today the label is doubly problematic for pretending to be today's art music as well, although most musicians and composers would agree that the "art" these days is happening in jazz, electronica, rock and even pop. Contemporary classical music has disappeared so far up its own arse that it will take a half century for us to be able to appraise what those composers are trying to do. (And those composers that haven't disappeared up their own arses are just rehashing "classical" cliches.) Until then we must enjoy the artistic labours of genres that are actually in touch with reality.

Classical music is basically a survival from the time when the distinction between "high" and "low" culture had some dubious shadow of a meaning. Today it doesn't. The most lasting legacy of the modern and post-modern deconstruction of "culture", is that the social barriers and associations of culture have irrevocably been torn down. A genre that is basically defined by the fact that old people with too much money and too little taste gather in sterile concert halls to applaud sterile performances of any bizarre manifestation of music from the last 4-5 centuries as if it were all the same thing - has no right to life in the 21st century.
Goodbye, classical!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was interested in your comments regarding "classical" music. I'd agree that a great many folks treat it as some kind of sacred temple, etc., etc., but those of us who know differently get a lot from this art. Haydn, for example, was probably the greatest musical prankster, while at the same time a critical figure in the development of music for nearly a century after his death (even if all the benficiaries did not recognize that). On top of that, he also arranged literally hundreds of folksongs for public consumption. The music is what you get out of it. I am very eclectic in musical taste, but get quite a lot out of the (mostly) dead (mostly) white, (mostly) men.

5:05 PM  
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