Monday, November 16, 2009

Modernist Crap

Did I ever tell you what a fake I am? I have it in my mind that musicians are supposed to be open minded about all kinds of music, are supposed to be free-lovers of all creative uses of sound. I'm not. I openly dislike all modern music. Nope, I don't mean popular recorded mainstream music. I mean most all instumental music composed about 1900 onward. I just don't like it. I'd rather have my temperature taken witha rectal thermometer than listen to endless modern sonatas.

I'd like to enduldge my own ego here and hope that I'm with the majority of people: we just can't follow it. It seems to go everywhere and nowhere. It's like a beatnik poet on open-mic night at a coffee bar: over-indulgent and unrestrained, art for art's own sake. Me? I think that wherever there is art of value, it must always show restraint. The art I most deeply respect, the kind that makes me fall on my face with amazement is the type that leaves little "breadcrumbs" of brilliance as if to say, "Oh yes, Aaron. I am very capable of doing all of it." Yet, in the face of their own immense ability, they surrender it all to the piece; they temper themselves in order to sharpen their communication as an artist.

I'm selling the modernists short, I'm sure. They must somehow be as thrifty in their craft as the rest of us. I just don't get it.

Someone asked me on Wednesday if I planned on attaching myself to a symphony upon completing music school. The thought stopped me in my tracks. Yes, that was always the plan - occupy the principle harpist position with a major symphony/ orchestra/ philharmonic and teach at a neighboring university. Now, it didn't make much sense. It didn't sound fun. You know how many times a symphony plays the classics? Those recognizable melodies that sometimes are made into ringtones?

So as I sit here during the intermission of one of the Utah Symphony Nova Chamber Series concerts, I wonder. Louise, my instructor, is playing today. She loves these modern pieces for their nuance and color. Does that interest come later? Do I get bored with those classics eventually? Or do I resent the fact that I cannot choose the repertoire and plug away at the music as sometimes people plug away at the boring parts of their jobs?

Nope. I have to have Baroque? Why?! Why, why, why?! Why did I have to be a harpist who loves Baroque?! There's like 2% of our repertoire that is Baroque! Plenty has been transcribed, but only a sliver is originally Baroque. And as a principle harpist, I'm not going to be playing any of the transcriptions because the snobby museum-culture that makes up the season ticket-holders just won't allow it. They'll know that only Handel had bollucks enough to write a concerto for the harp, and even then, half of the time the concerto performances harp part was given to the organ. The harp wasn't that important in Baroque music.

But there's a glimmer of hope: The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Field. I heard them perform at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Field in London. I have their CDs. They play Baroque on period instruments. And, they have a harpist. That's my in. Even Baroque composers that I just don't care for, I like to listen to. I could take whatever repertoire they throw at me and love it. No metaphorical rectal thermometers. Brilliant!

So, where does this leave me now? I've created such a narrow window to happiness. I have to work, work, work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but Jack, in this instance, has a chronic illness to deal with and a big doggie to provide for. All work and no play puts food on Jack's table and pays for his monthly subscription to NetFlicks. That's not a bad life for Jack.

--Blogged on the run using my mobile.


redneckzilla said...

This is something that I've been thinking about, actually, for awhile now. Well, not musically. But, that first paragraph specifically: the idea that modern art is so indulgent and reckless. It's without resistance. Everybody talks about how we need to create art, how it's being repressed and discriminated against. I just kind of shrug. This is a great period of artistic freedom in our history and we're just kind of making art about how much it sucks to make art. Or how hard it is to make art.

Where's the struggle? Where's the opposition? I love Shostakovich because he's got some real opposition in his music. I love Mahler because he's struggling with uniting religious and secular texts.

I don't know if I agree with you about stopping right there at the turn of the century, which I'm sure you used to. But I do have to say that I agree with you about today's flagrant art. It's ridiculous indulgences and its ungrateful caprices.

As for your so-called narrow window to happiness. Every musician looking to play professionally has already entered their path to that narrow window of happiness. You will occupy a niche position. I've got a friend who's going to Hartford for oboe performance. The way he described his looking for a job after graduation was "Wait until someone dies in one of the orchestras I'd like to play with".

There's nothing wrong with having your eye on a niche position. In the meantime, you could always be an instructor, either privately or for a university. I don't know though, I'm not you. I'm just saying, I don't find it crazy to want to do what you want to do.

As for my children, I will be very elite, and very dedicated to making them their own people. It's going to be stupid and insanely hard. But it'll happen. I'll have to check out that society though. Maybe they've got a blog I can subscribe to...

SERAPH said...

I think that you need to make a cd for me of you playing the harp. Please? :)