Saturday, 19 March 2011

Donald Mitchell on the lack of melody in contemporary classical music

Some time ago I wrote about the lack of melody in contemporary classical music. Having read the eminent British music writer Donald Mitchell´s outstanding little book "The Language of Modern Music", I feel that there is a need to return to the subject.

Mitchell writes:

"But though one may concede that Schoenberg and Stravinsky, between them, have restored to music the possibility of a unified language, one has to wonder, in 1962, whether this noble achievement does not mark the close of a period rather than herald the birth of a new. For the new in music today is largely based on the attitudes and practices which consciously reject what one had innocently imagined to be the stepping-stones to the future laboriously laid down by Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Melody, in particular, the preservation of which I have suggested was one of the main concerns of composers in the first half of this century, has been abandoned. It is too early, as yet, to attempt any singling out of a feature that may lend unity to the present array - or disarray - of compositional practices. But they are united in little else, it is in their rancourous opposition to the concept of melody (and everything that goes with it) that the leading composers of the new generation share common ground. One wonders nowadays if any aspiring composer would risk his reputation by committing himself to anything as solecistic as a good tune". (bolding by NNoN)
"For if in Haydn´s day there was only music or bad music, in our time there is music,´music´, and non-music; when we hear it - works, that is, that still retain some audible link with tradition - we are hideously at sea when confronted with the extreme manifestations of the avantgarde, not just because we are all fossils, or otherwise moribund, but because we seem to - no, we do - find it well-nigh impossible to make any rational judgement at all; and when the possibility of judgment is removed, whether positive or adverse, confusion pours in to fill the vacuum".

The first edition of Mictchell´s book was published as early as 1963, but not very much has changed since that time. We still have a majority of contemporary composers, who do not want to risk their reputation by committing themselves to a good tune - the essence of enjoyable music.

Thank God, there is still the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and the other greats to listen to!


What Mitchell says about the impossibility of rational judgment also in my opinion applies to much of contemporary art in general.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Art Tatum - a jazz piano magician

I doubt whether anybody else would be able to to play Tiger Rag like Art Tatum dit it:

The same about Tea For Two:

And, finally, Elegy: