« Finis reipublicae | Main | "meaningless" is not the generalissimum under which fall "distracting", "insipid", and "anodyne" »

July 24, 2008


Hm. Well, I do understand your confusion about the first quote. In modern classical music, composers often write pieces about things, in that they begin with a non-musical idea, then transfer that idea somehow (often involving numbers) into some sort of musical scheme, then write their piece based on that.

That way of doing things seems arbitrary to me. People have to do what they have to do to write their music, and that's cool, but I (and most composers I know) generally dislike sitting through presentations where these sorts of idea-transfers are explained. So I was trying to make clear from the beginning that that is not what I do. I don't sit down before writing and come up with numerical schemes; I just write music, let myself worry about the sound and let extra-musical ideas bounce around in my head as they please.

I gave this presentation to two roomfuls of composers and got nods of recognition right away when I said that, but it may be less clear to a more general audience. I may go back and change the beginning.

Regarding your attempts to avoid BS: in real life, great, but would you want artists to, for example, avoid ugliness in their art, or avoid melancholia? I like a lot of art that reflects ugly and sad things about the world--why should art that reflects false or misleading things be any different?

Anyway, thanks for engaging with the essay, despite its imperfections. It's much harder to write clearly about my own music than it is to write about someone else's. Personally, I'm not yet sure what I think about the essay, but I worked hard on it and a lot of people have had nice things to say about it, so for now I'm leaving it up there.

Adding: I don't know who you are. Maybe you listen to a lot of composition talks and still didn't know what I was talking about, in which case I really need to make it clearer.

Sorry, this is the sort of thing I'm close enough to that I can't see there's a problem unless someone tells me so.

This is the point about BS: if you want me to care about your music, announcing some intentions about having fun with the pervasiveness of bullshit in modern life; otherwise, couldn't I just read DeLillo?

If, somehow, Sonny Sharrock were to come back to life and Last Exit to go on tour, and I were to learn that the ugliness of their music was intended to mirror the ugliness of, I don't know, the New York of the mid-80s when they were formed, or something, that might change the way I listened to them, but would be unlikely to awaken an interest in seeing them (I mean, in fact, I would be interested in seeing them, but if I weren't). I assume that Bill Dixon's Darfur album has something to do with Darfur, but nothing about that got me interested in listening to it.

That's cool. I guess you and I are different that way. I'm concerned about the popular perception that modern classical music is something completely separate from the real world, that it's just a bunch of cloistered academics aimlessly playing with numbers. I feel like if composers did a better job explaining why what they do is not that way, more people might like the music.

I personally have had many experiences in which knowing the extra-musical context behind the works of particular musicians has piqued my interest about their music or helped me better understand why I liked it, but if that's not the case with you, that's fine with me.

I love Charlie!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)