Friday, August 21, 2009

Further Excerpts from the Minority Report

(1) "... nothing wrong with failure.  Experimental music is all about accepting the risk of failure.  And I'm not just talking John Cage-experimental.  You want to know an experimental musician who failed?  Wagner failed, that's who.  Wagner failed bigtime. He wrote music dramas that are unsingable and unstageable.  You don't believe me?  Name one production in which the singing and staging get all-round praise.  I'm talking praise from card-carrying Wagnerites.  When the vocal and orchestral writing demands voices that don't exist, and probably, without some form of amplification, will never be able to exist and the staging requires old-fashioned stage magic that no one believes in anymore, you've got a big recipe for failure... ...being a Wagnerite, even a Perfect Wagnerite, means not just the ordinary operatic suspension of disbelief, it means the perpetual suspension of complete satisfaction, the Tristan chord extended forever, having to be satisfied with small tidbits and morsels because no performance will ever succeed as a whole, voices, orchestra, acting, staging.."

(2) "...unable to write a piece of significant length.  Not every piece needs to be as long as the Hammerklavier or the second Feldman quartet or The Well-Tuned Piano.  And we certainly don't need programs filled with twenty-to-thirty minute pieces.   The Debussy Prélude is ten minutes long, the faun's orgasm included.  Ten minutes.  Ionization isn't seven minutes long and it's still a "sock in the jaw". The great dirty secret of the 10-minute-plus and the 20-minute-plus piece is not that they are automatically more significant, it's that, once you get past the 10-minute mark, the piece earns you more points with GEMA or ASCAP, and it happens again at 20-minutes.  We need more shorter pieces.  Serious music needs to reclaim the three-minute piece from pop music. Make the world safe again for the three-minute piece full of depth and wonder..."

(3) "...and the he started in on some business about 'Can the artist really draw?' He said that making the music I made was a sign that I couldn't write purdy, tonal music, "real music," in a traditional, classical style. Of course I can.  I'm a musician.  I've played purdy, tonal music in traditional styles all my goddamned life and I went to conservatory and learned to imitate dozens of styles of purdy, tonal music.  I wrote hundreds of counterpoint exercises and four-voiced chorales and then the canons and fugues and minuets and sonata movements and then I graduated to grading thousands of harmony and counterpoint exercises.  If that's drawing then, yeah, I can draw, but maybe I want to paint, and print and sculpt... ...the belief that no music that goes beyond the technical and stylistic of some arbitray point in the past is hopelessly pessimistic, necrophilia... and that ain't purdy..."


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