In a recent Mind the Gap blog, Kyle (whose last name I’m supposed to know but appears nowhere on his blog-as a by line or even in a separate “about” page) argues that writing new music reviews is difficult to do under an editorial word count restriction. I feel his pain. I crafted a response and decided to post it here so as not to offend any of the highly sensitive (mostly male) Composition faculty writing in the old fashioned deconstructed style of the 20th Century. Here goes. Better put on your bullet proof vests!
I write reviews for an audience I hope to encourage to leave their couches and come see the show. When I write new music reviews, which I often do, I have a hard time making a compelling argument for attendance. New music that is composed by conservatory educated musicians sounds cerebral. New music written by people from the garage band persuation often sounds like a hybrid of rock and Stockhausen.
I’ve actually laughed out loud, long and hard, after reading the pretentious program notes some composers feel the need to craft. Don’t composers of this genre realize that the music should speak for itself? The 200 word explanation of the concept is proof to me, as a listener, that there isn’t as much “meat” in the music. I’m particularly bewildered when the program “notes” don’t match the musical “notes” in any way. Sadly, the titles of the pieces and the words used to describe the music in the program are often the only things
a human mind can hold onto and make sense of.
I feel your word count pain. Translating a new music experience for a non-conservatory educated audience is daunting. Trying to provide healthy, thoughtful criticism for the composer or performer is treading on even thinner ice. I sometimes feel like the young composers of atonal and deconstructed works have been told a lie about what their music should sound like. Maybe they’ve sold their souls to Professor Mephistopheles.