Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indie classical - sonic spice

A very interesting article appeared in Capital New York. Entitled Indie classical goes uptown: Judd Greenstein on new music, it presents some concepts about contemporary classical music that I (in my own modest way) am trying to accomplish with "Gamut."

Judd Greenstein is a young composer who's equally comfortable in the classical and pop music worlds, and one of many new talents looking for ways to use current popular music gestures to create classical works of substance. Sound like a retrogression? That was what many thought when Brahms wrote waltzes, using the popular music form of the day to create classical works of substance. And some religious leaders were very uneasy about late medieval church composers using popular chansons (songs) as the basis for their masses -- especially when the original tunes had NSFW lyrics!

The indie classical philosophy, while in line with what composers have traditionally done (like Mozart's German Dances, or Mahler's use of landler), is at odds with the overall aesthetic of contemporary music, which has tried to make a clean break with the past. Unfortunately, in doing so, it seems to have made a break with the audience.

As Greenstein says about building an audience for new music, "“You don’t do it by shocking people. You do it by adding spice to their food gradually, by introducing new flavors, by broadening their palette in a way that feels simultaneously comfortable and exciting because it’s both new and familiar.”

It's how music evolved in the past, and it's also part of the philosophy behind "Gamut." Sure, I program plenty of prickly contemporary music -- but only if I think it's worth your while to hear (at least once). I also play a lot of newly-composed music that's tuneful, appealing, and sometimes just plain fun to listen to. Consider it a little sonic spice.

As I like to say, the two things I don't like are bland music and bland food. Don't worry -- on my show we're not talking Thai hot, just a dose of Tabasco every now and again. And yes, when I get some recordings of Judd Greenstein's music in, "Gamut" listeners will be the first to know it!

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