Thursday, April 12, 2007


Paul Bailey has also been thoughtfully working through the recent death/non-death of classical/art music memes. Perhaps part of the difficulty is that the word "classical" has, for musicians, at least three usages -- for music of the late 18th and turn of the 19th centuries, especially Viennese classicism; for the western art music repertoire in general or some broader selection thereof; and finally for an attitude or aesthetic, one emphasizing discipline and clarity, and rather more apollonian than dionysian. My own usages tend to the first and last (with classical antiquity thrown in for some added confusion), and I like the possibility of connecting the classical aesthetic and working methods of a Mozart with those of Alvin Lucier.

But the second definition is probably the most prevalent but also the least helpful: it is aessentially a marketing category, the label under which the (evil, of course) institutional empire of conservatories, opera houses, management services, dinosauraurial recording companies, big-time critics, and the like all like to crawl. But I don't think that it's particularly useful to simply surrender the term and look for another marketing concept. "Classical" has simply too rich an association field to abandon to the bad guys, and besides, the way the world is moving, they're the ones who are scrambling as fast as they can for new marketing concepts for their old ways of doing business, so let them scramble into their post-s, neo-s, and cross-overs, and we'll just gather a little more closely around the classical camp fire.

Speaking of classics: here's a PDF of the score and a very rough midi-t0-MP3 of my recent setting of a bit of Virgil's Georgics. This is intended to be the soft and sober ending of a small cantata.

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