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Winds of change

Some post-survey thoughts by Basil Ramsey

Our two recent surveys about 20th century composers are yet to be analysed and conclusions drawn, even if that should be possible with any degree of accuracy. The underlying purpose is to help us individually to consider these important questions, which overviewed may help us to establish perspective and reduce the tendency for passing snap judgements which conveniently suit our momentary feelings.

I request readers to think of other aspects of music which have changed during this century. Are there aspects that failed to change and have suffered badly as a result? Are there aspects that have changed and prosper? Are there aspects that are stuck in a time warp?

I find these questions worthy of consideration simply to recharge our minds with new ideas, which in themselves force us to reconsider the old and to evaluate. It becomes an all-embracing exercise and the winds of change blow away that which is weak and outdated.

If there was little activity in the musical world today a pessimistic attitude might justly arise. The facts speak otherwise, and even if they were less cheerful than I suggest, I would still resist the assertion that serious music is in a mess.

In terms of creative talent alone, a strong contingent of young musicians is proving its worth worldwide, and they individually desire to contribute thoughtfully to the sum total of serious music One outstanding example fills my thoughts at present as I prepare a record review: James Macmillan, a Scottish composer nearing 40, has received the acclaim of much of the critical fraternity in the UK. A fervent Catholic, his entire creative life is imbued with a spirituality that confronts living in this day and age with a passion for the truth and quiet dignity in the face of so much horror. His music proclaims this, even when it cries with anguish for the slaughter of innocence.

Macmillan is a considerable composer amongst many similar talents worldwide, and your interest is vital for the respect we should pay to those contributing music of our time to our time. It was this thought that led to the recent survey of 20th century composers, and one we shall repeatedly use in talking of the music of our time.

Copyright © Basil Ramsey, June 2nd 1999