The world of music at the highest level of blossoming talent seems now
to be as a plane taking off with maximum loading. On board is the cream
of young composers, conductors, singers and instrumentalists, proof that
the latest generation of musicians enshrines all the elements of musical
excellence that history shows as a necessity for a living and developing
In a way the jet age also reflects the lives of musical stars as they
are now hurtled around the world to assuage the global fascination for -
perhaps - the surrounding aura. Sometimes the shine on performers is a touch
brighter than on the music they perform.
Recent, and growing by the minute, is the massive publicity campaigning
led by the record companies and the high-sale musical monthlies that are
akin to the glossies in seductive advertising and sumptious layout. It is
all too easy to absorb this atmosphere in a haze of imposed luxury, allowing
the nut to slip thoughtlessly to the ground whilst we gaze in wonder at
Our severest temptations as thinking and balanced music lovers arise
from this modern scenario. From all quarters music almost pollutes the air.
In writing that sentence I feel as though I have committed a sacrilege
indeed, I have. Yet I am fully aware of the dangers inherent in overkill.
Music is a delicate art, even in its violent manifestations. A composer
builds from single notes, not from mounds of chord clusters. And he alone
knows the skill of erecting elaborate textures which may be quiet and slow
in sound yet explosive in atmosphere.
I regret that we all commit the inexcusable far too often when we should
be listening intently to the sounds that reach our ears instead of putting
our thoughts into neutral. Much of the blame rests with the preponderance
of music a click away night and day when it could be treated reverentially
if we had to fight for the right to listen to it without disturbance.
Alongside my rather sober thoughts, nevertheless, I put the pleasure
of discovering the brilliance of new performers and composers. And I applaud,
for instance, the readiness of the musical press to promote the exceptional
talents (for instance, the young British composer Thomas Ades in a recent
Classic FM magazine [UK]) when their gifts can only too readily benefit
from exposure to a large readership.
Could musicians a century ago have imagined an age when globestraddling
was a daily occurrence, or when small discs carrying a couple of symphonies
could be played back with close perfection endlessly if required, their
amazement would be great. But they may have been surprised that musical
notation is basically the same, even if we have speeded up ways of processing
it. One assumes that present-day orchestral performances of music they knew
would also appeal to them. As for compositional technique and new styles,
it as well for us to remember that The Rite of Spring (1913) is still
capable of bemusing a conservative audience. Such is the visionary power
within a musical genius.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey, November
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