Tuesday, March 07, 2006

greatest living composer or alienating ogre?

It is odd, even spooky, the ways things intersect at times.

Just last night I was listening to Elliot Carter's "Variations for Orchestra", a wonderful work, and thinking about how much I experienced it as a work suffused with light.

Today I come across an interesting article on Carter's music. It's actually a discussion about Carter's music and, more generally, contemporary music. Key graf:

"It's sometimes easier for a person who's musically naive to open up to new music. Another part of it is that any music that's in flux is going to be difficult for listeners who are used to themes that are repeated or modified in ways that are recognizable. What Carter does is create textures that are ongoing for a certain amount of time, and there is never the kind of repetition that can be called thematic. That makes it hard. So if you're listening for that, you're going against the grain of the music, and that makes the music cognitively dissonant." (bold emphasis mine) Read the rest here.

This reminds of me of some provocative thoughts over on "Music in a Suburban Scene" (a fine blog that I enjoy reading): "If the listener can not recognize something in the music, if the pattern can not be deciphered auditorily (since the medium of music is sound, not images), then it is failing to give the listener much intellectual material to work with, aside from pure sonic material."(bold mine) Read the rest here.

Repetition. Patterns. Representation. These are the terms that I keep coming back to in thinking about music. Why? Because I don't think there is anyway to make sense of aesthetic experience (musical or otherwise) without first grappling with the hard-nosed problems of epistemology. Struggling with the way in which aesthetic experience is represented and displaced in the machinations of understanding and judgment.

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