The unwritten obligation
A musical question with no clear answer
As over the last decade or so I've heard less fury from conservatively-minded
musicians about scandalous new music from young and irresponsible composers,
we must have entered a new phase of development in which either the vehemence
of the conservatives has quietened down or their ears have caught up with what
is sometimes called 'progress'. I do not think that a tidy answer will do. Much
more likely that we all are susceptible to conditioning in this matter as with all
areas of development.
But over the years I have often been startled by the rantings of experienced
musicians confronted by music they loathe, usually through its radical deviation
from the comfort of familiar language. My father led the way, at first to my
utter confusion, but latterly by my resignation to simple facts. Listening to
Handel and then Bartók was -- to him -- an attempt to straddle two planets
light years apart. Music inhabited one and unbridled din the other.
As the immediacy of this quarrelsome situation has lessened in a world of
much confrontational music, I still hear music which suggests a boxing ring,
with the average music lover as the losing opponent. Everything depends
on intrinsic quality -- a condition that is as elusive as a five-legged tiger.
There are those who believe that the onus is on the creator, to stimulate
whilst avoiding an impassable barrier, and yet generate material that builds
with quality. Thank goodness that the world continues to discover talent
that has the potential, and sometimes enough support to draw attention. Surprising
the number of listeners who fail to recognise the unwritten obligation of us all
to actively support the promise of new talent.
Copyright © 2 September 2003 Basil Ramsey,
Eastwood, Essex, UK