There has been (and probably still is) a steady procession of books,
pamphlets, and articles assuring the discomforted newcomer to modern music
that there is really nothing new in music that should baffle the mind or
outrage the ear. We have no more or less resources than did Bach or Mozart,
given a few exceptions. It is the futuristic and (perceived) alien world
that shrivels the dissenters. I remember my poor father getting quite distraught
if exposed to a dozen bars of Arnold Bax years ago. His likely reaction
to Boulez is unthinkable.
Several friends younger than me have loyalty to Beethoven and Brahms
and explosive hatred for the composers today who depart from the well beaten
track. It is a kneejerk reaction much of the time, although to say so in
the wrong company would induce a furore. All this follows a pattern, certainly
from Bach's time, of consistently enlarged resources, both in musical language
and instrumental possibilities, giving composers the means to progress and
occupy new ground.
As we can now see, the 20th century provided composers the means to develop
diverging strands of new 'live' music, and to significantly add the birth
of a music induced by electrical manipulation alone, leading to computer-generated
sounds and the brave new world envisaged from yet further vistas of technology.
This can bring us to a juddering halt, panic-stricken at these massive
resources liberated by progress. Hopefully, comprehension of the natural
development of Man and his knowledge will release the means to use whatever
evolves for making music, alongside our voices and the extraordinary sophistication
and virtuosity we have developed already in the perfection of choral music.
Given a world less damaged by the wiles and deceit of leaders and extreme
factions, we could hope for a musical future of utterly beguiling quality,
all from the creative gifts of musicians. That this dream (similarly in
the minds of others) holds just enough probability to stimulate the best
musicians of the future is why I've allowed my fingers to tap this far --
but no further.
Copyright © 9 January 2001 Basil Ramsey,
Eastwood, Essex, UK
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