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<<  -- 3 --  Gordon Rumson    ESSENTIAL COWELL


If there is one place where Cowell's intellect failed him -- and he had a powerful intellect, let there be no question of that -- it was on predicting what would come in the future. Humans are not given the power of prophesy (Gurdjieff said we were future blind) and Cowell, like everyone else, missed the boat. Avant-garde music is a comparative backwater and instead we have the synthetic voices of the latest pop divas groaning simpleminded melodies of limited gamut, expressive (but not erotic) power and pitch selection in a media produced simulacrum of artistic achievement. Honegger did think that by the 21st century people might not be able to differentiate intervals much smaller than a fifth, or some such decayed travesty of auditory acumen, and he was closest.

Music has not gone the way Cowell or others thought it would. Charles Ives is a figure, not a reality and his music is not heard on the radio with regularity. Rather we have ... well, you know who we have.

Personally, I think it rather sad that Cowell's music is not better known. I've heard but a tiny fraction of it. Perhaps the eclectic methodology makes him hard to place, but I think he retains a distinctive voice whether he is using quartal harmonies or imitating Persian music. I would also say that something is missing too. Perhaps because he was self educated, perhaps because he lived in a society that didn't really value avant-garde music making, his music while of very high quality sometimes strikes me as a tiny bit rough-hewn. Maybe that's the American West still in his bones (and he was born when it was truly still wild), but I think the spit and polish is just not there.

Yet I will forgive him this instantly for he was a dedicated musician, aimed high and worked very hard. What more can we ask?

Copyright © 23 May 2002 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada





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