<< -- 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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