Friday, December 15, 2006

About those Landmarks

Question: How do you choose pieces for your "Landmarks" list?

The list of musical landmarks that's been compiled here was begun without any formally articulated criteria, other than the importance of the individual works to my own musical life. As time's gone by, the outlines of the criteria have become more clear to me, if perhaps murky to all of you. At the very least, it should be clear that the list is unranked, and the order, while sometime suggestive of connections or associations, is capricious, when not accidental. (That said, contrast between successive works may play a role). But some problems with the list have emerged. For example, there are some works of non-western music -- the Solonese Gambir Sawit or the Navajo Blessing Way -- that are extremely important to me, but including them in this list seems to risk some tokenism. If I were to include Etenraku, which is the best-known piece in the Gagaku (Japanese Court Music) repertoire, which I find to have one of the most gorgeous melodies ever conceived, it would be a bit dishonest, because other than it's familiarity, I can scarcely make a claim about a landmark status for the piece within its own repertoire.

What's next on the list? How many pieces will it include?

I always have a notion about the next two or three pieces on the list. At the moment, the Mozart Quintet in g minor, Ashley's Wolfman, Tenney's Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow and an amazing orchestra piece by Carola Bauckholt are bopping about my brain, but I tend to bop a lot of pieces right out of my head and surprise myself with something from left field. It's either a bit like playing chess without knowing the rules or playing hold'em poker without ever looking at your own cards...

The list, in principle, is open ended (I'm optimistic). This blog (and this blogger), isn't (then again, who's optimistic?). Did I answer your question?

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