A flash at the heart of the West

I have just seen something lovely and hope-inducing.

It’s a video of a performance of Ravel’s Bolero by the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra – manifesting as a flash mob at a train station. Go see it now; I’ll wait.

What is truly wonderful about this is not the music itself. Oh, the Bolero is pleasant enough, and this performance is competent. What was marvelous was to see classical music crack its way out of the dessicated, ritual-bound environment of the concert hall and reclaim a place in ordinary life. Musicians in jeans and sweaters and running shoes (and one kettledrummer with a silly fishing hat), smiling at children while they played. No boundary from the audience – there were train sounds and crowd noise in the background and that was good, dammit!

And the audience – respectful, but not because the setting told them they were supposed to be. Delight spreading outwards in waves as the onlookers gradually comprehended the hack in progress. Parents pointing things out to their kids. Hassled businesspeople pausing, coffees in hand, to relax into something that wasn’t on the schedule. It was alive in a way that no performance from a lofty stage could ever be.

But there was an even more beautiful level of meaning than that.

These musicians took heritage art, pried it out of its stuffy conventional box, and made it shine again. And the audience understood what they were doing. The 2500-year conversation we call Western civilization is made of moments like this, when we connect with the best of our past and re-purpose it for the present and the future. And that conversation is not over; our capacity for keeping that best, casting off the junk and accretions around it, and using it in fresh ways it is still with us.

Ravel could not even have imagined the cellphones the musicians used for coordination; our capacity to transvaluate old forms – and our willingness to do so – is unparalleled in human history. What I saw in that video is that embracing this process of perpetual reinvention is what being “Western” means. We have developed more than any previous or competing civilization the knack of using our past without being limited by it.

I looked at those musicians and that audience, and what I didn’t see was decadence or exhaustion or self-hating multiculturalism. I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilization!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.

54 thoughts on “A flash at the heart of the West

  1. I don’t think classical music ever had its place in “ordinary life”. Classical music never was a folk art; instead classical music was commissioned, authored, and played by upper-class members for upper-class members in upper-class contexts. This particular performance, and the mindset behind it, is awesome nonetheless.

  2. Classical music is an icon for harmony and discipline of western culture, seriously. I’ve never seen an opponent for such a collective discipline …

  3. “I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilization!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.”

    Indeed. And classical music will survive, just as science will, even though the Old West is dropping it. Because the Chinese are taking it up.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/arts/music/03class1.htm

    And this is not sarcasm. I love classical music and I love that it is taken up so massively on the other side of the globe.

    And if you think classical music is “elitist” in Europe, go watch a performance by the orchestra of Andre Rieu. It is stuck with people you do not expect at a classical concert (not my style of performance, but it is classical music)
    http://www.andrerieu.com/nl/video

  4. As usual, art helps lead civilization. The understanding that flash mobs are another value-neutral tool (rather than being a force for evil that is always to be feared) will be instrumental (heh) in keeping the government in check.

  5. @Patrick Maupin
    “The understanding that flash mobs are another value-neutral tool (rather than being a force for evil that is always to be feared) will be instrumental (heh) in keeping the government in check.”

    Communication and transportation is what drives progress. Better (more) of either will always improve the lives of people. That is why the poor and desperate want mobile phones, and even more, smartphones.
    http://singularityhub.com/2011/08/16/80-android-phone-sells-like-hotcakes-in-kenya-the-world-next/

    There are people that complain that poor women in Africa spend money on pre-paid phone minutes instead of food for their families. But these pundits probably never have been without a phone while being worried sick about a distant parent/child/relative, or desperately in need of good advice.

  6. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

    We need more of this kind of spontaneous nuttiness in our lives.

  7. The movie was cute, but dammit, it’s missing a lot of what I consider necessary to be a flash mob. Namely, it was too… orchestrated. If it were really a flash mob, one musician would’ve phoned two, who would’ve phoned two more, and so on, until there’s about fifty or so, but none of them really know it until they show up. And then if they played it anyway, it would’ve been the problems of performing orchestral music on top of the problem of getting a flash mob to coalesce, because you might have too many violins, too few trumpets, the wrong kind of drum, etc., and now the mob must self-organize and figure out how to improvise the sound they need when the song has already started.

    As it is, this is Copenhagen Phil going a level beyond those a cappella Hallelujah Choruses we’ve seen done in airports, by bringing in external hardware. I suppose these are all going to be called flash mobs regardless of how I feel about it, but I’ll still grumble that these are mobs without the flash.

    They’re still cool, my nomenclature problems aside. Eric hints at why: they’re making these artforms accessible. Garage band music flourishes because kids’ parents can afford things like drum sets and guitars, and kids know how to use them. (The need to express oneself is ever-present, I claim, and so I set it aside as a constant.) Orchestral music is parched because it’s too hard to get woods, brasses, drums, and strings together.

    Copenhagen Phil is helping making this music more accessible, which gets more people to try it themselves. It won’t be done by a four-piece band; that’s not the point of a mob. A string quartet in a subway has been done, and is good, but we’re talking big stuff here. Somewhere out there, someone is planning a one-up on Bolero (a good piece for a flash mob, incidentally) in another airport. More of them are likely talking about church hymns – that’s where the big choirs are. And someone’s probably writing music expressly for flash mobs.

    YouTube’s helping, too. Hearing about this on the nightly news wouldn’t have been nearly as immediate, and only a few hundred people get to experience a flash mob first hand, still.

    @Winter: That sounds kinda silly. These pundits might have had a phone and nothing in the cupboard. I’ve been without both food and phone, and I know which one I’d get first. (It’s possible I might secure a phone if I know I can use it to quickly secure a food supply, but that point isn’t being made here.)

  8. @Paul Brinkley
    “I’ve been without both food and phone, and I know which one I’d get first.”

    Certainly. But I have been in situations where I would skip a meal just to be able to make a phone call.

  9. Give a Kenyan woman a sack of millet, and she eats for a week.
    Teach a Kenyan woman to use a smart phone and coordinate grocery shopping with her friends…

    Kenya has a population of 40 million. 350,000 smart phones – even with the communal use pattern of Kenya – isn’t quite to the point of a minor contaminant in the bucket, let alone a drop.

    The figures on “Lives on 2 dollars a day” are also misleading. That assumes that the relative purchasing power for Kenyan goods purchased in Kenya are the same as for goods purchased here…and anyone who’s compared the cost of buying, say, good cheese where I live (Wisconsin) and good cheese where Eric lives (Pennsylvania) knows that relative scarcity matters.

    Back on topic: Flash mob classical is awe inspiring.

  10. So…

    In a future I’d like to live in, and which is close enough that I can see over the picket fences separating me from it…

    I’d've liked to have seen the London Philharmonic have done this in a public space where it’s visible to the rioters.

    As a statement of intent. A counter-argument, as it were, to the nihilists, who, having no investment in the furtherance of society, having lived off of ‘kindness’ of the political class and discovered that the comparative ease of their lives was no kindness at all, but a sugar pill to make the theft of their future sweeter in the here and now…

    “This is your culture too.”

  11. >The movie was cute, but dammit, it’s missing a lot of what I consider necessary to be a flash mob. Namely, it was too… orchestrated.

    Oh, I grant you it was almost certainly preplanned. Still, it is actually quite difficult to coordinate movement of that many people in singletons or small groups not in eyeshot of each other without a tactical radio net, so cellphones really were a critical enabling technology here. Unless you think everyone was mustered in some very large space just out of sight of the performance venue?

  12. >I don’t think classical music ever had its place in “ordinary life”.

    Ah, there you’d be wrong. Before the gramophone, classical music performance (though not composition) was in fact a folk art, routinely done in private homes by amateurs as a social activity. Of course you seldom got anything like full orchestras, but art songs, piano concerti, violin concerti, string quartets and many other smaller forms were by no means entirely creatures of the concert hall.

  13. >I don’t think classical music ever had its place in “ordinary life”.

    Opera was and is folk music in Italy. A humble township I know has amateur choirs and orchestras that perform classical music. The municipal music and art center gives extensive courses in all kinds of classical music performance for children and adults. It even has a full blown youth orchestra.

    In Europe, classical music really is still alive. Albeit becoming less trendy.

  14. “I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilization!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.”

    Breathtakingly beautiful: the video, and your insightful, eloquent thoughts. I need fuel like this. You’ve provided fuel for my day.

    Thank you.

  15. Violinist Joshua Bell took his Strad and busked in the Washington Metro.

    Church choirs sing classical music — that’s a lot of people! — and sing-along Messiahs draw thousands to major concert halls. Self-selected, yes, but not exclusively upper-crust by any means.

  16. Coincidentally, Copenhagen also has a brand new concert hall that was designed by the Pritzker-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel and that turned out to be the most expensive in the world by some estimations. Perhaps less coincidentally, it houses Danish National Symphony Orchestra, not the Copenhagen Phil.

  17. One interesting thing I’d like to ask about is the intellectual heirs of “classical” music. What most people think of as “classical” is really: old, symphonic, music, frequently in the Romantic rather than Classical style. Does anybody know where that style has gone? There are people who are composing in a similar style these days (Yanni comes explicitly to mind), and a few others, but nothing that comes to mind I’d view as exceptional or groundbreaking (with my limited background in music theory). Is this really dead, or is it lurking just behind the scenes where I can’t see it?

    Winter above mentioned that the Chinese are taking up classical music. This is all fine and good, but it shows people attempting to master the performance of a work which already exists. I do not mean to diminish that level of dedication and accomplishment, but there is a far cry from being able to perform that type of music, and being able to compose that type of music. In some ways, picking up classical music wholesale strikes me as a strange form of cargo-cult culture: We can be as good/better than you if we master (incredibly great) art-forms that you’ve long since abandoned. Fascinating and possibly satisfying, much like my friends picking up garage ironsmithing or bullet casting, but not really useful or innovative.

  18. >Does anybody know where that style has gone?

    Film and movie scores, mainly.

    My favorite piece of recent classical music is a particular section of Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean score. It combines kettledrums in 5/4 time, somewhat reminscent of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps with a wood flute being played microtonally.

    I second Tom DeGisi’s recommendation of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 is a setting of a well-known Christmas carol that combines high-Romantic orchestration and electric guitars played with savage elegance.

    Another standout from a few years back was the soundtrack for an otherwise forgettable movie called Hidalgo made as a Viggo Mortensen vehicle. Lovely classical music mixed with North African hand drums and what I think might have been griot singing.

    If you notice a pattern here of co-opting modern instruments to achieve a wider tonal range, good. I have a personal fondness for polyrhythmic hand drumming. But more generally, this is what “classical” sounds like as a living genre willing to experiment rather than a dead set of museum pieces!

  19. Nice find! Hopefully I can get the orchestra I’m in to consider something similar!

  20. If you notice a pattern here of co-opting modern instruments to achieve a wider tonal range, good.

    Not just wider tonal range, but a completely different “feel” to the music. I’ve always wondered what Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, or even someone more modern like Gershwin would have come up with if they’d have had access to modern music synthesizers, electric guitars, sampling techniques, music composition and production software, etc. Sadly such musical genius in our modern day appears to be exceedingly rare, but maybe that’s just a bit of survivor bias. ;)

    I have a personal fondness for polyrhythmic hand drumming.

    Hardly surprising.

  21. >[Eric's personal fondness for ]polyrhythmic hand drumming is] hardly surprising.

    Hm. That’s interesting. What else about me prepared you to be unsurprised about this, Morgan? I’m not sure how I would have got there about someone else.

  22. Pingback: Daily Pundit » And now for something completely different…

  23. I can’t wait to listen to it. But I’m not entirely surprised. There’s been so much anger, so much gloom-and-doom; a touch of beauty is something people can use right now.

  24. esr,

    > polyrhythmic hand drumming

    > What else about me prepared you to be unsurprised about this, Morgan?

    It does seem to go well with sword fighting, Vikings, paganism, fantasy role play and Perl one-liners somehow. Isn’t polyrhythmic hand drumming like improvisational hacking on a drum?

    Yours,
    Tom

  25. “I don’t think classical music ever had its place in “ordinary life”. Classical music never was a folk art; instead classical music was commissioned, authored, and played by upper-class members for upper-class members in upper-class contexts.”

    Uh no….My father was a symphonic musician in his younger days (first clarinetist of the Detroit and Cleveland orchestras back in the ’20s and ’30s). He passed on his love of the music to my brother and myself, though we were nowhere near rich. Musicians spread their art to everyone. J. S. Bach (the greatest musician of all time) wrote church music enjoyed by congregations where he lived and worked.

    Of course the Chinese perform and enjoy classical music. People see and hear a good thing and they pick up on it. That’s why the Japanese do it too. (And both play jazz.) Good cultural things spread, naturally.

    Just don’t be too quick to pump your fist in the air and say, “That’s mine!”. You didn’t create it. You don’t own it. It belongs to all who enjoy it.

  26. LS,

    > Just don’t be too quick to pump your fist in the air and say, “That’s mine!”. You didn’t create it. You don’t own it. It belongs to all who enjoy it.

    It’s like sports. Cheering for your favorite boxer even if, like me, you have a glass chin, err, nose. I got knocked cold once from an elbow to the nose in a basketball game. I have never been hoarse from cheering at a concert. But it’s happened more than once as a spectator at a sporting event.

    Yours,
    Tom

  27. Back from work…

    Still, it is actually quite difficult to coordinate movement of that many people in singletons or small groups not in eyeshot of each other without a tactical radio net, so cellphones really were a critical enabling technology here. Unless you think everyone was mustered in some very large space just out of sight of the performance venue?

    At first, I was inclined to agree with the main point here. But after a few hours’ mulling, I’m thinking that yes, the most straightforward way to implement this is to scout the venue, plot starting points for each musician, rehearse in a mockup of the venue to ensure everyone has their cue, and then, on mob day, gather outside, then scatter and find spots, and then start it up with the conductor and his first drummer. The “bystanders” taking video could even tip each other off with hand signals when they saw the musicians were in position.

    The cellphones are used for the video (unless there were digital handhelds? no matter), and for gathering the group outside the station the same way you’d gather ten of your friends outside an amusement park or a restaurant.

    This explanation may appear pedestrian and disappointing, but I still like it, because it’s in line with Occam, it’s still a pretty performance if that’s how it went down, and it’s still interpretable as the opening salvo in a great musical arms race as various orchestras and choirs take what they see here and one-up each other in ever more elaborate surprise performances.

    On a down note, another thing I realized was irking me about this was that it’s still exclusive. If I was waiting on a connecting flight in Nashville, and saw someone start playing the William Tell Overture on his cello near the gate, and two more people appeared out of nowhere and started accompanying with their cellos, and I just happened to have a violin with me and I knew the part, I would not be welcome to jump in on cue and play my violin when the second part began. It’s still their show; their violinist will be along shortly, and I’m just a listener, and an interloper if I try to play anyway, even if I’m impeccable.

    That said, that’s a function of our time. Someday, it might be possible to strike up Tchaikovsky on a handheld synthesizer (a smartphone!), and have others spontaneously join in. Maybe on real instruments if they have them, for the extra shock. It’s nowhere near the realm of impossibility, IMO.

  28. Oh, and another thing.

    Tom DeGisi and Eric both say classical music made its way into movie and TV scores. This, I agree with; the likes of Gershwin, Prokofiev, Copland, and others led the way into Schifrin and Stalling and later Bernstein, Elfman, Horner, Silvestri, Williams, and Zimmer.

    And now video games are sporting some classical chops. The name I most remember is Matt Uelmen, the composer for Diablo 2. Koji Kondo’s theme to The Legend of Zelda has orchestral adaptations you can find on YouTube. There are others, but I’m short on time again.

  29. >On a down note, another thing I realized was irking me about this was that it’s still exclusive.

    I think that’s a better point than your original one, actually.

  30. What a lovely video and many thanks for sharing. I have beautiful memories of Copenhagen and the central station in particular from my time there in 1997.

  31. It seems that I lost stuff in my last comment. I am not sure if I submitted it. If so, please delete the last comment.

    > Good cultural things spread, naturally.

    We have a universal sense of beauty as part of our evolutionary history. Not much of a surprise.

    > Of course the Chinese perform and enjoy classical music. People see and hear a good thing and they pick up on it. That’s why the Japanese do it too. (And both play jazz.)

    I am reminded of the really good jazz music in the anime Cowboy Bebop. Never understood a lick of the lyric, as they are in Japanese. However, I am not a music geek so it’s the only example that I know of. Practically anything by Yoko Kanno is good stuff, though. Collected her songs related to the various anime I watch before realizing it.

  32. >But I have been in situations where I would skip a meal just to be able to make a phone call.

    But if you would make a phone call rather than feed your children, which is what your original comment said, then you should be spayed or neutered.

    >>Does anybody know where that style has gone?

    >Film and movie scores, mainly.

    This reminds me of what Heinlein wrote in Expanded Universe about how fine art looks like the work of retarded monkeys while commercial art keeps getting better.

  33. “I don’t think classical music ever had its place in ‘ordinary life’.”

    If I recall correctly, Mozart performed his music in Prague, then had people whistling his arias in the streets afterwards.

  34. @William B Swift
    “But if you would make a phone call rather than feed your children, which is what your original comment said, then you should be spayed or neutered.”

    Just from the top of my head:
    Phone calls to
    - doctor, nurse, hospital
    - School
    - Work
    - Bank to withdraw money, they do that with mobile phones
    - Distant relatives (sick mother, spouse, sibling)
    - Children away from home

    People die, get lost, or get homeless for being unable to make a phone call.

  35. A wonderful video.

    For what it’s worth – the comments posted over at YouTube indicate the video is actually a little more “meta” than it appears – as it is comprised of 2 separate events, staged on the same day.

  36. “On a down note, another thing I realized was irking me about this was that it’s still exclusive.”

    OTOH, the Instant Hallelujah Chorus almost certainly has people singing along that were not in on the planning. So long as they can actually sing on key, those added voices make those performances into a collaboration between the organized choir and the audience. And that’s pretty damned cool.

    I’m pretty sure I could remember the bass part for the Hallelujah Chorus well enough that most spectators wouldn’t know whether I was part of the choir, decades after the last time I looked at the sheet music.

  37. @Eric: I think I like my latter point better than my former, too… but I still like the former as well. Both of these aspects of flash mobs – its ability to be inclusive, and its chaos – feed the serendipitous delight people experience when they see it. Flash mobs are a statement of how far people can cut down on the amount of rehearsing and practice and still produce something great. The participants have to know the basics of the art, and the particular song; from there, it’s open source development of entertainment.

    @Monster: that’s something I was thinking, too. The barrier to entry of singing is much lower than that of symphonic music. Some of us can always carry a tune, but none of us can always carry a tuba.

  38. For TV soundtracks try Bear McCreary’s soundtracks to the remake of Battlestar Galactica. I don’t watch much TV these days, but

    For an example Youtube: Saturn 5 Launch Slow Motion – Baltar’s Dream. I hope I’ve found the right link.

    Knight Foundation’s Random Acts of Culture website has a number of comments from people asking how to organize similar events in other cities. There doesn’t seem to be much response.

    Flash jams sound like a great idea.

  39. “Sadly such musical genius in our modern day appears to be exceedingly rare, but maybe that’s just a bit of survivor bias. ;)”

    Yes, but genius is *always* rare. It wouldn’t be genius if it were common.

    We listen to Mozart and Beethoven, not Salieri and Spohr. The mediocrities fall by the wayside over the centuries. Survivor bias explains the popularity of oldies stations; they don’t play anything that didn’t make it up the charts.

    As for soundtrack music….hey, it pays the rent. There are ‘serious composers’ that put on a show of disdaining such commercial claptrap. They are the musical equivalent of mathematicians that proudly claim that their work has no applications whatsoever. (Think G. H. Hardy; then they found some applications later….) I remember Ligeti making loud complaints when his ‘Atmospheres’ was used in the soundtrack of ’2001′.

  40. @Paul Brinkley
    “That said, that’s a function of our time. Someday, it might be possible to strike up Tchaikovsky on a handheld synthesizer (a smartphone!), and have others spontaneously join in. Maybe on real instruments if they have them, for the extra shock. It’s nowhere near the realm of impossibility, IMO.”

    Maybe on some instruments like these:
    http://www.timsoo.com/?page_id=836
    http://www.invisibleinstruments.com/

    Tim got hung up on the effort necessary to do this on an iPhone…I suspect it would be easier on Android.

  41. Well well. It appears there may indeed be an App For That.

    That’s within epsilon of what I was thinking of. The extra Wiimote is unfortunate, but it gets around a lot of problems I had envisioned, and isn’t too onerous to carry around. About the only instrument I figured was doable with just a smartphone, was a harmonica.

  42. Classical music, like many other “high” art forms, got bored with traditional structures and values, and dove right into the weird end of the pool. Some of this was pure evolution: much late-19th-century hyper-Romantic music is unstructured and only wealky melodic and tonal. (Much of Debussy, for instance.) There’s also a place in music for deliberate harshness and dissonance.

    But just after 1900 one starts to see a lot of “music” that is all unstructured harshness and dissonance. Scriabin, Webern, Schoenberg, to name a few. Some critics seem to like this, and maybe there’s some kind of esoteric musicality in it that I can’t perceive. (I freely admit that my tastes are limited.)

    Since then, new classical music is produced by people with academic posts, or on commission from orchestras and their patrons, and an increasing proportion is really “music theory” dressed up. There’s a passage in From Bauhaus to Our House where Tome Wolfe described the typical “all-contemporary” classical concert.

    “They only took place in university concert halls. Here, on the campus, the program begins with Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, followed by one of Stockhausen’s early compositions, Punkte, then Babbitt’s Ensembles for Synthesizer, a little Easley Blackwood and Jean Barraqué for a change of pace, then the committed plunge into a random-note or, as they say, ‘stochastic’ piece for piano, brass, Moog synthesizer, and computer by Iannis Xenakis. The program winds up with James P. Johnson’s You Gotta Be Modernistic. Joplin and Johnson. of course, are as cozy and familiar as a lullaby, but they are essential to the program. The same thirty-five or forty souls, all of them faculty members and graduate students, make up the audience at every contemporary music event. The unspeakable fear is that not even they will show up unless promised a piece of candy at the beginning and a piece of candy at the end.”

    The bizarre thing is that composers who are quite capable of producing accessible, melodic, harmonious music seem to prefer making the other stuff if allowed. Leonard Bernstein was a great example – his scores for West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town are splendid, but his just about anything he did on commission for an orchestra is repulsive.

  43. Kiba wrote:”Practically anything by Yoko Kanno is good stuff, though”

    +1

    Does anyone know when classical music began to be called classical?

    I’m sure it wasn’t called so in its own time.

  44. Sort of the inverse of the classical music flash mob at a train station –you might call this a flash at a classical concert…

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-concert-dress-20110820,0,6849185.story

    Here it is supposed to be about the music itself. However the marvelous thing (as I see it) is a classical musician cracking out of “the the dessicated, ritual-bound environment of the concert hall”, in the concert hall itself.

    It has been rather controversial, but then I’m sort of annoyed at hearing comments like “Funeral music?” or “Church music?” when my cell phone rings –Fur Elise or Moonlight Sonata. So possibly if more performers took the tack that Yuja Wang did, then maybe more people would at least be more aware that it’s just good music, not something restricted to churches or funerals (or concert halls).

    Asking that they grasp the actual context of either of those pieces I use for my cell ringtone may be a harder goal to achieve, but I see both the flash mob playing Bolero, and Yuja Wang bringing a little flash to the concert hall as being steps in the right direction.

    It is great music, written for people to enjoy –that’s enjoy listening to and to be enjoyed by the person/persons performing it. And I confess that I just can’t see why a woman should not express herself in her dress in any manner she see’s fit. Especially if it is a good fit.

    And yes I’m aware there are a few small puns in this post, if you find them enjoy or ignore –it’s just a function of the language… they are not there to detract from the point that a bit of flash in a concert hall, or a classical music playing flash mob in a train station, either way, brings good music into the world, or the world into good music, and that is a good thing.

  45. >Here it is supposed to be about the music itself. However the marvelous thing (as I see it) is a classical musician cracking out of “the the dessicated, ritual-bound environment of the concert hall”, in the concert hall itself.

    You are very right. Good for her, say I. And good for classical music.

  46. But just after 1900 one starts to see a lot of “music” that is all unstructured harshness and dissonance. Scriabin, Webern, Schoenberg, to name a few. Some critics seem to like this, and maybe there’s some kind of esoteric musicality in it that I can’t perceive. (I freely admit that my tastes are limited.)

    These guys are exploring the boundaries of musicality and what constitutes “music” in the first place. Sure it will never go over well in Peoria. But the problem with American music is that music that can’t be productized will not be made. Most of the most innovative rock music of the past few decades, for instance, has come from the UK or continental Europe, where the government more actively promotes (and funds) the development of the arts.

    To stay relevant, music has to evolve. In order to evolve, musicians have to push boundaries. It means a few guys are going to wind up pickling the shark, but so be it. Nothing was ever achieved without taking risks.

  47. Sadly, you probably need to get permission before you instigate a flash jam.

    Not just in a mall, which is really private property even though it’s a public space, but anywhere.

  48. Pingback: Ravel’s Bolero at Copenhagen Central Station | Vivat! Crescat! Floreat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <pre lang="" line="" escaped="" highlight="">