One of the first comments to an excellent post by Kyle Gann was by someone named Charlie Wilmoth, whose name looked extremely familiar because, as it turns out, he reviews regularly at Dusted. (This is the reason I actually do now have an interest in his music.) He has an essay that promises to explain why one should care about his music, but I'll be damned if it's convinced me; if anything, I'm now a bit confused. The confusion stems from the interaction of this bold lead-off:
My pieces are not "about" things in the sense that many modern classical compositions are "about" things - unlike many composers of contemporary classical music, I begin writing by thinking about sound, and not by thinking about some extra-musical thing and then writing music that mirrors or describes something about that thing. But my music is strongly influenced by the outside world and, even though many of my favorite composers are European, I believe that only an American could make my music.
(Which sounds good! Though having listened to some of the mp3s of his music on his page, I'm a bit skeptical as to the last claim.) with claims like these, the first coming from his homepage and not the essay itself:
Charlie Wilmoth's music combines unusual sounds with jagged, uneven repetitions and jarring juxtapositions that are often inspired by the way humans deal with technology, information, and religion.
The first piece I wrote in which I think I really dealt with this unreasonable-ness in an effective way is a piece for prepared piano called Tether, which I finished in early 2005. The relationship between the music - the piece features a low thwacking sound that just won't go away - and the title is clear enough, but you could also think of the piece in relation to an obsession, or a degree of certainty or inflexibility of thought that borders on pathology. In the first section of the piece, in particular, I was mostly concerned not about whether the repeating sound would return, but when it would return. It is ugly and inevitable.
So in my string quartet, I was interested in getting the listener to believe in something "stupid." Many portions of the piece consist almost entirely of chromatic scales going up and down, which seems to be as stupid as it gets.
So my idea with this large composition I'm working on is to flood the listener's mental space with bullshit. I do not want to provide a clear path through the piece, or give the listener much of an idea what I think is important. (This is a tricky proposition, since I also have to balance that goal against my own taste. I don't want the reader to get the idea that I don't care what the materials are, or in what order they appear.)
But I thought you said… It gets worse if you look at the context of that last quotation.
And none of that actually tells me why I should care. I actually try to avoid bullshit, personally. (Even—if that parenthetical concession is anything to go by—ineffective bullshit.) Writing about the, you know, music might help with that.