The Tokyo Syndrome

The Tokyo Syndrome

On my last trip to Japan, I noticed the Japanese fervor for foreign fashion. Everywhere I went there were more Armani, Versace and Ralph Lauren stores than I have ever seen. I began to wonder why the Japanese have this urge for Western style. I thought their traditional Japanese fashion was beautiful. Likewise, they have their own great indigenous culture: music, theater, and unbelievable architecture and gardens. In some ways, I think Tokyo is the most modern city in the world today. So why do the Japanese feel the need to import all the Western culture? Is it low self esteem? Even with all their accomplishments, they still seem to have a lack of self worth, something that might be called Tokyo Syndrome. After speaking to many Japanese people, I learned they feel that the West is where all the real high fashion comes from. But I do not agree. I think the Japanese have a great and beautiful sense of style that is evident in every aspect of their lives.

When I arrived back in New York, I walked across the street from my apartment and saw one of our great concerts halls. I looked at the program, and I noticed most of the entire season roster came from foreign cultures that are mostly over one hundred years old. Why do we feel the need to import all of our orchestral music from Europe? Do we suffer as well from our own type of Tokyo Syndrome? Are we that embarrassed of our own culture? Aren’t we capable of producing our own American orchestral culture? Or do we lack a sense of self-worth as well in the orchestral world? Is it possible to put a value on and appreciate our own American music, or will new American music be relegated to the ghettos of the concert world?

I notice that jazz musicians have developed their own sound and culture that is identifiable with New York. Rap musicians have done the same and have captured their own urban surroundings in their music. Why can’t we do it in the world of orchestral music? Is it the orchestras? I do not think so. They will play whatever the patrons would like to hear. So then is it us—the listeners?

Has the orchestral world gone into a complete metamorphosis, or are they only catering to a public that has no interest in hearing new and creative things? Concert halls have always been a place for the elite of society to gather and hear music. When New York was young, concertgoers listened to the music that they had heard back in their homelands of Europe. But even then orchestras knew that if you played the same thing year after year you would lose your audience. So why is it that today if you play the same music all the time it is totally acceptable? People have told me that it was the old management guard that introduced this type of orchestral management tone. Perhaps we have been so beaten down as a society that we no longer want to be challenged, but instead go to our concert halls to hear the familiar sounds that comfort us. But whatever the reason for this type of programming, it now must be broken.

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28 thoughts on “The Tokyo Syndrome

  1. JKG

    You are right….
    Once we get past the point where non-talented composers decide what is contemporary, then serious music will be more performed (and taken seriously). You can thank the non-talented professors who teach non-talented techniques for this current debacle. The audience is absolutely right to reject things that have no meaning to them – unfortunately, it has gone on so long, that its doubtful classical music will ever again be taken seriously as an art.

  2. wjmego

    JKG is right. They’re right to reject that which they believe has no value. We greatly enjoy slapping each other on the back for accomplishments which are not only meaningless, but deep down, we know ourselves to be transient, fit only for today. We know that in the passage of time, these works will deservedly be lost, and thankfully so.

    But when someone writes a masterpiece, the public will respond, whether the minute they hear it or later is a topic we can have all kinds of spirited debate about, I suppose.

    So JKG is right to fear that concert music might not be taken seriously, but I believe that if we can write some truly great works, they’ll respond. They’ll clap, then turn around and ask us, ‘What took you guys so long?’

    So stop worrying about what the next guy thinks you should write, stop worrying about what your professors think, and start writing works for history. Start communicating what’s in your innermost heart. Start being true to your own voice. Don’t have a voice? Stop, get up, and go spend the day alone in the woods or the park, away from people, and decide if you can ever manage to develop one. If the answer is yes, then go discover who you are, then come back and show us all who that is….and if the answer is no…then I’m sorry.

  3. rtanaka

    There’s that “low-self esteem” aspect of it lingering around for sure. After WWII most of the Japanese population was disillusioned by the empire which they never quite recovered from as of yet. During the mid-20th century Japan made it a point to import a lot of western culture from American and European sources, which are still going on today. Even linguistically, there is a heavy reliance on foreign words to fill in the gaps of new concepts. Words like “computer”, “server”, internet”, for example — most cultures would probably make an effort to create their own words in their own language, but Japanese languages tend to borrow them directy, even phonetically. Western culture (including classical music) gradually became a symbol of status and prestige amongst families who could afford it, and these have come to shape many of the cultural policies that are in place right now.

    Part of the appeal that the Japanese people find in western culture is, I think, its emphasis on individualism which was pretty non-existent prior to the war. (Kamikaze fighters might seem crazy to a western perspective, but if you consider how strongly they emphasize obedience as a virtue there, it’s not so surprising.)

    You can look at the history of Japanese music, for instance, but you won’t find too much of what we might think of as “composers”, mostly because the music really wasn’t organized to be commodified in such a fashion. They served social functions (within imperial courts and such), maybe you’ll have a few good teachers and a few good styles here and there, but the teachers were performers as much as they were composers so the relationship between them wern’t as distinct.

    In other words, at least in my understanding of it, Japanese history was largely lacking a Romantic movement as in the west, and the post-war boom gave people a chance to be indulge themselves, away from the polite society that they’ve grown accustomed to. Throw in their fetish for technological gadgetry, it might explain the kinds of wacky and perverse stuff (but also a lot of interesting things) that’s been coming out of there. I’ve been living in the States for most of my life, but in my experiences travelling and living in Japan, it’s really a place where ideals and practices collide with each other on a regular basis.

  4. siconesis

    I wouldn’t call it the Tokyo Syndrome, for it is not only Japan who suffers from this state of affairs. It’d be more accurate (although not completely) to call it the U.S. Syndrome, for it’s the capitalist values and customs of this country, along with all its paraphernalia, that have been stuck in the world’s throat.

    Concerning the music imports to the U.S., it’d be fair to call it (now that we’re into the diagnosis of things) the Only-Europe-knows-how-to-make-music Syndrome. And, as before with Japan, the U.S. is not the only sufferer. But if you look closely into the matter, you’ll find that U.S. composers have had a tremendous influence in the world, including Europe, and that Europeans love the “eccentric” music of other places, although their nationalistic arrogance precludes them from thrashing their own artistic poducts.

    Of course these are all generalizations and these problem’s complexities are far subtler. But for the benefit of our informal exchange, I speak in grosso modo.

  5. siconesis

    Almost forgot…
    … to say that I couldn’t agree more about breaking the present music-performance conventions. They’ve been hurting music, and art in general, for a while. It’s not due to “untalented” composers, and I would venture to say that it has nothing to do with the quality or the aesthetics of the works, but with cultural and economic politics.

  6. rtanaka

    Concerning the music imports to the U.S., it’d be fair to call it (now that we’re into the diagnosis of things) the Only-Europe-knows-how-to-make-music Syndrome. And, as before with Japan, the U.S. is not the only sufferer.

    You have a a good point, but one thing that distinguishes Japan from most western countries was its policies of isolationism that kept outside influences mostly at bay for the majority of its history. Being on an island, it wasn’t particularly all that difficult to keep these policies enforced, and any cultural importation prior to the 20th century were done with very careful screening.

    European nations have a longer history of cultural interaction so the ties between the US and Europe tend to be much stronger. Course, during and after WWII everything changed in Japan — the flood-gates were opened, including bizzare connections between the former Axis powers (Germany, Italy) and with the United States. The strangest thing is probably the fact that Japan tends to get along better with their Western friends more than its Eastern ones (China, Korea) so they’re kind of in an uneasy situation where they’re being pulled and pushed by all sides.

    Not really sure if anybody knows how to make sense of it though, I certainly don’t. Though it’s probably a good thing that there’s more cultural interaction now than there ever has been…I don’t think the country’s isolationist policies did them any good, at least in my opinion.

  7. rfk

    Great to see you contribute to, Dave. For those that may not know Dave’s work through his record company, he produces the best sounding recordings EVER!. Chesky Records. A fine composer as well!


  8. pgblu

    Your post has prompted me to visit your website, listen to some of your music, and read the blog entries that you have posted there. I had to do this to get some context for your chatter contribution, and I strongly recommend people who read my response here do the same, since I am not only responding to the column.

    After some looking and listening, I mostly came away with a list of things I feel we have or have had enough of in the discussion about the plight of the American symphony orchestra.

    We have had enough ambitious composers hoping to make a commercial success out of orchestral pieces by converting the orchestra into a gigantic drum ‘n bass apparatus. The modern orchestra (not just in the US) is an incredible, still achingly untapped resource for new, challenging, and exciting musical possibilities. Groove patterns reminiscent of beat boxes and drum machines are a small, and not necessarily very promising feature in this landscape: what you’re basically asking the low-register instruments and the percussion to do is re-create rhythms from pop culture, and what you call “the smell of the street.” But these sound models have been provided by lean, amplified ensembles of two or three people who, in the best of circumstances, live and breathe together in order to play as if they were one super-instrument. It’s called a “rhythm section.” In commercial music, the “rhythm section” is usually actually replaced by a machine, which saves money, is more “precise”, and can be endlessly, consistently duplicated.

    Plus, those rhythm section folks are recreating a texture and archetype where every quarter note has a different nuance (which a machine does not), and the devoted listener treasures these nuances, whereas the orchestra musician is just reading quarter notes. As you yourself say, we need a context. Well, the poor 3rd stand cello player needs a context, too! Tell you what: think big. Form an entire orchestra out of musicians whose primary influences and training have been in popular and vernacular styles. Those people could then play the heck out of your music. I think you can do it, and I wish you well. But I bet you’ll eventually wish you had an amp, and about 1 or 2 bass players. Oh, and a trap set.

    We have enough beat-driven music in the world, frankly. If you want it to always be fresh and vital, just recycle the old stuff and the neglected stuff on a regular basis. Air it out, add an updated track or two and some remastering, and commercial success is surely not far away. I think the diversity of American music must necessarily allow a range of attitudes toward the beat, from a track that causes your whole house to shake 90 times a minute through music with no detectable pulse at all.

    We have also had enough completely baseless generalizations about academic music and the supposed blight on the American landscape that it represents. Are some academics untalented? Sure. Out of touch with the “man on the street”? Definitely. But not all of them. I myself walk down the street several times a day. Seriously, teaching is still the best way to remain constantly in touch with new musical ideas and simultaneously write music without constantly not knowing where your next meal will come from. Few people can thrive creatively in an environment of poverty, and teaching is a logical way of bridging the gap, perhaps inspiring a young generation while you’re at it.

    Finally, we have had enough of the word “We.” We are a rhythm nation… we worship comic book heroes… we ignore brilliant people. In your blog entry from February 15th, you give off the biggest diatribe of pessimism about American culture I have seen (sorry, no prize for that one!). It’s interesting: taken as a whole (as a we), our society is pretty dumb. But individually, people are incredibly bright and interesting and interested. The “trouble” is that everyone is interested in different things. Commercial music has done the very best it can to reduce these differences and find a common denominator, but that is not the job of art. Art celebrates the individual and her tastes, celebrates diversity and the richness of possibilities.

    If in your February diatribe you had replaced “we” with “concert promoters”, then I would agree with you completely. But as P.T. Barnum said, no one has ever lost money by underestimating the stupidity of the general public. If it’s money you’re interested in (as the concert promoters are), dumb it down, make it even dumber, and dumber still. Artists who do so, however, are stabbing the other artists in the back by playing that game. It’s so 1970’s, ’80’s and ’90’s.

    If there’s a place for “we”, it’s in the following sentence: We are a land of diversity. Musical quality has no universals. So what if your music only reaches a niche market? Write what you really feel good about, make it available to the public, and see who bites. That is not elitism, it’s being true to yourself. If you have a good product and can really stand by it, then regardless of style you’ll surely get an encouraging response.

  9. JKG

    Got beat?
    “We have enough beat-driven music in the world…” Speak for yourself, pgblu. What you have to mean by that statement is that YOU have enough beat in YOUR world. Just because something is beat-driven doesn’t mean its not serious, and by the same token, just because something has a beat doesn’t mean its intended for popular consumption. The absence of a beat, also, has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of a work – although it does have relation to whether the work is in “song (not necessarily with a beat) or “dance” (almost always with a beat) form. Didn’t someone teach you that in school?

  10. Colin Holter

    What you have to mean by that statement is that YOU have enough beat in YOUR world.

    Who do you think you are? If he’d meant that, he would have said it. He is a thoughtful fellow. There is enough beat-driven music in the world, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s way more than enough beat-driven orchestra music. If I want to hear a dope beat, I will listen to some Biz Markie, thank you very much.

  11. rtanaka

    If there’s a place for “we”, it’s in the following sentence: We are a land of diversity. Musical quality has no universals. So what if your music only reaches a niche market? Write what you really feel good about, make it available to the public, and see who bites. That is not elitism, it’s being true to yourself. If you have a good product and can really stand by it, then regardless of style you’ll surely get an encouraging response.

    I recently graduated from CalArts, and in the near future I plan to pursue a doctorate in a musicology degree…I definitely still plan to compose, but my interests have definitely changed since I graduated from Illinois in composition/theory. When you get out into the real world you sort of learn the hard way that there really is no demand for music written in modernist styles among the general public. I’ve been trying to hobble a living together performing gigs and such, but mostly through performances and some improvisations. They’ve been primarily of music which there’s something the audience can latch onto though, either through something rhythmic or tonal/modal constructions that give some reference of a pitch structure that people can hear.

    Regardless of the style people are writing in, I think it’s important to at least be aware of this reality, just so they can plan ahead of what they might want to do when they get out there selling their stuff to people. The career courses I took at CalArts weren’t exactly inspirational, but they were very upfront about how things worked in the real world and I do feel a lot more prepared in what I need to do to make a living. If you’re going to look for grant opportunities, for example, there is little to no money for individual artists, but there is still a significant amount still allocated to educational and community oriented projects. I know that composers are typically used to working alone, but given the changes in funding methods over the last few decades the idea of the “triumphant individual composer” has become something of a romanticized ideal. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get any significant funding unless you’re part of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

    I think one of the most important thing I’ve learned while I was there was to think about who and what I was writing for. It’s a lot easier to make compositional decisions (like in what kind of style or idiom to write for, what level of difficulty for audience and performers alike) when you have a specific audience in mind and something fairly specific to say. (Not to mention the ability to articulate this will help in application and grant-writing processes.) People won’t always interpret things the way you might have envisioned, but it does increase its chances of acceptance if you make an effort to be clear of what sorts of issues you’re addressing. My compositional style has changed fairly drastically ever since I started thinking about these things, because I realized that prior to that, I had no idea where my music was going.

    CalArts has a very strong world music and jazz program, and there are also many students who write within pop-mediums here. The world music concerts always draw a very large crowd, mostly because the cultural diplomacy aspect of it seems to intrigue a lot of people. Jazz musicians can play around at bars and clubs (usually more laid back), while pop musicians usually go out and provide beats that people can dance to. I think that understanding the perspective of the audience comes from understanding the social functions that the music provides for the people, because they are very much tied together. Part of the reason I wanted to get into musicology was because I think this aspect often gets overlooked in compositional circles.

    So this sort of goes back to the original topic, but what are the social functions of New Music? Who are we writing for, exactly?

  12. pgblu

    If you re-read my post, you will see that there is no contradiction between us, JKG… I think you sometimes read my posts and hear your old professors talking. When I say we have enough beat-driven music, I didn’t say a beat is bad per se, and I wasn’t just talking about ‘serious’ music (which you and I already have disagreed on the definition of).

    And with snarky comments like “Didn’t you learn that in school?” you really make it hard to discuss stuff with you. Just whom are you trying to please?

  13. siconesis

    JKG, it is clear from the way you address people that you are very fast to judge and to speak. Take your time, digest and question what you want to say; you’ll make more sense and will be able to actually initiate a constructive discussion.

    That being said, beat-driven music is not the same as music with a recognizable or periodic beat. It’s a shame when discussions get stuck in the lower levels of linguistic misuse and misinterpretation. They’re reduced to a confrontation of discourse, not of ideas. That happens when you don’t take the necessary time to think.

  14. sgordon

    P.T. Barnum said, no one has ever lost money by underestimating the stupidity of the general public

    Just to give credit where due, that was H.L. Mencken – though he was speaking about Barnum.

    We have enough beat-driven music in the world

    You know what? We have enough music in the world, for that matter. Maybe we should all just stop making it entirely.

  15. pgblu

    from pgblu
    Thanks for setting me straight, Seth. H.L. Mencken it was. I must have misplaced my copy of 4800 Wisecracks, Witty Remarks and Epigrams.

    Great post, Ryan. Thanks. I hope people who go into music as a higher education pursuit don’t harbor any illusions of fame while producing heady chamber music. One has to figure that they are adults and know the risks of getting into such a specialized, rarefied profession.

    I don’t really know what social function New Music has, anymore than I know what social function New Art has. I suppose New Music asks to be contemplated like an art object, except you can’t really buy it and hang it in your living room, so the artist has to rely on other ways of paying the bills than “selling” their music as if it was a commodity. It’s a wonder anyone composes “Art music” at all. And yet, tens of thousands of people are trying to write the next great string quartet. Perhaps we should invite them all to a social function.


  16. stevetaylor

    gift economy
    Yes, great post Ryan. For me, the question of why I write music used to send me into agonized gazing at my belly button. But a few years ago, I realized I do it simply because I like it – it’s fun, and difficult to do well, like chess or karate or writing. And sometimes it can be much more – the best thing in the world. For its social funcion – writing for players and listeners I consider to be a kind of gift. Even if I get paid for it, I’m making a present for them, and I hope they like it.

  17. wjmego

    Whether is makes you queasy or not, art is a commodity. There’s commissions and auctions of it every day, all around the world. Somebody tell John Adams that there’s no money in writing new music in a modernist language. And also whether any of us like it or not, packaging makes an impact on the consumer. Think about why you choose the products you choose. Some people go for the flashiest wrappers, but sneakier still are the people who go for the plainist, recycled paper, earth friendly looking products (I’ll admit, sometimes I do this myself). Sometimes, we’re just guilty of falling for a different flavor of marketing, one that was targeted for our styles.

    So even if you feel weird about it, if you’re a composer, you’re a small business. You design, create, package, market and hopefully sell a product to a consumer. Made all the more difficult because unlike a painter in the classic sense, we require a go-between, the performer (well, we don’t always need them, but you know what I’m getting at)…

    No, this doesn’t mean pandering, dumbing down, or any of the things that might be immediately jumping into your mind right now. Just as you can tell when a company is pushing a product that sucks at you, hoping you’ll fall for the cool box it comes in, the listener almost always knows when you’re pandering, perhaps they can’t tell you in words how, but they know.

    When your copyright is used, the legal term is exploitation. This work, esp. when used meaning somebody else is doing it, is usually bad. Will any of you in turn argue that exploiting the products of your own labors is a bad thing? If you’re not personally comfortable with it, I understand. That’s why we in fact have publishers, record companies, publicists, agents, and all of the other wonderful things we have in the music business, or at least why they are still around, to a certain extent. You can have others “exploit” you, but on your behalf. And, of course, they’ll take a chunk for themselves, as they should. But hiring them is optional, in the end.

    Art as a commodity doesn’t mean pandering, but just as importantly, it doesn’t mean treating it like widgets. Art isn’t to be churned out like a cheap tennis shoe. If you don’t value your art, guess what? Nobody else will either.

    Make great art with an original voice. Don’t pander, or knowingly imitate, or even deliberately quest to be different. Be You. Then it’s time to go be a business man and work hard to get what it’s worth for it. If you do a good job at both, perhaps you won’t be living in a mansion, but you might find you have “enough”.

  18. pgblu

    Art as a commodity doesn’t make me queasy at all — I just mean you can’t buy my latest string quartet like you can buy a painting. The lucky (industrious, shrewd, gifted) ones like Adams etc. live from the fact that really rich people who care about music as a bearer of culture, e.g., William and Flora Hewlett, have seen to it that he stays in the black. However, the Hewlett foundation doesn’t “own” Naive and Sentimental Music, or whatever else they have underwritten.

    So you also haven’t said anything I disagree with, Will.

    P.S. People can buy my scores if they want to! I’d be happy to say then that they “own” them. It just won’t do them, or me, much good.

  19. rtanaka

    Hi Steve, it’s been a while…I’m doing fairly well right now. Luckily there seems to be an increasing demand for improvisation, so all I have to do right now is find a niche.

    For its social funcion – writing for players and listeners I consider to be a kind of gift. Even if I get paid for it, I’m making a present for them, and I hope they like it.

    This has become very true at least in my experiences recently, and lot of my professors here have also echoed similar thoughts. (One said, if you’re not giving, you’re taking, which I think is true.) Having a good idea is important too, but there’s the whole process of getting something performed which is very collaborative…unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of pieces fall apart during the performance process — it’s actually a lot harder than you might think!

    I guess the main thing is that it’s probably unwise to take anything for granted, performers and audience alike. I met one artist who said she was doing her art to try to convey something to her mother…She didn’t really care much about being original or even styles or aesthetics, just sort of this intense desire to be understood by another person. I guess there was a lot of things in her work that I didn’t really know what was going on, but it had a sense of genuineness that you couldn’t really argue against.

  20. jonrussell20

    a 19th century relic…
    This is an interesting thread, but allow me to get back to the original point for a minute: why should orchestras play contemporary American music at all when the orchestra is fundamentally a 19th-century European ensemble? This is the real “Tokyo syndrome” at play here, our continued obsession with an ensemble that is basically of another time and era. The orchestra of Vivaldi’s time was very different from that of Mozart’s which was very different from that of Mahler’s; in other words, the orchestra naturally evolved over time as music and society evolved. The orchestra we have now, however, is the same one we had in Mahler’s time, it has not evolved in almost a hundred years. Look at the dress of the performers even: when they started wearing tuxedos, the people in the audience also wore tuxedos to concerts. When do you wear tuxedos now? A formal dance, a wedding…or when you play a classical gig! In other words, the orchestra is a sort of 19th century European relic that has been frozen in time. No doubt, most musical cultures have an “orchestra” of some sort, i.e., a large instrumental ensemble. Indeed in early 20th century America, as the orchestra was becoming frozen in history, we quite naturally developed our own, the jazz Big Band. And over time, plenty of American ensembles, from wind ensembles to rock bands to the Philip Glass Ensemle have naturally sprouted up as music and society have naturally evolved. So we need to get over our obsession with the orchestra – if we want to write neo-romantic music, that draws on 19th century Europe, it can still be of great use to us, but if our interests are in other places, anything from modernism to minimalism to vernacular, then get over it, and write for ensembles which are suited for that kind of music! Don’t get me wrong, I grew up playing in orchestras, I love orchestras, I think there is defintely value in continuing high-quality performances of some of the most fantastic music ever written, I hope they continue to exist and thrive. But they simply are not well-suited to the creation of innovative new work, because, unlike in the past, there is nothing innovative or new about their instrumentation and hasn’t been for 100 years.

  21. wjmego

    Nobody really requires that you write for the standard orchestra, whether of Mahler’s or Mozart’s time. Of course, as we all know, the composer was free to add or subtract any instrument they chose. The Wagner horns, the sheer numbers of Mahler, then with the focus of some artists on percussion in the 20th century, I think that by now, our biggest debt to those that came before us (it could be argued) was to change so much, and break so many rules that at this time, there isn’t a lot you could do that would raise many eyebrows, at least not in the major cities. Chamber music, whether you mean a trio or a great deal more, will probably be of a greater profile than it has been, or even is at the moment.

    But what is the interesting question is: Why an “orchestra”? What’s so special about this “19th Century Relic” as you call it? For one, we’re probably just used to it, and like anything we’re familiar with, we can speak in it’s language a little easier than forming our own new language, so I’m sure you’re right in suggesting that simply obedience to the past has something to do with it.

    But when you think about it from scratch, you can easily come up with something almost identical to it! Sure, the otherwise meaningless numbers of strings and winds and such actually don’t mean a thing. Double winds, triple winds, 2222+4331, etc. Those numbers, in and of themselves don’t mean a great deal to us other than those ensembles are already around, ready to play, and thus are easier to access…but to some extent, that has dictated composer’s lives for much longer than any of us has graced the earth, so I would feel a little silly getting worked up about something that Mahler would of sneered at how good we have it.

    So write for this new not-orchestra, certainly Reich and Glass did, not to mention Michael Nyman, by accident at first. The orchestra is just anything you dream of it to be. Kazoos, brake drums, Tuvan throat singers. It’s a canvas, and a palette. But for me personally, I don’t think the sounds and colors the so-called standard orchestra possesses are used up. When the tube of color gets older, it looks worse, with crusted paint around the cap, which is all mottled with burnt umber, but inside there’s still a lot of untapped potential to be had yet, I think.

    I think when any of us get too caught up in labeling and categorizing things into classical, romantic, neo-romantic, modern, etc. You have just thrown away your voice, and at the least, have dismissed off-hand the voice of whomever wrote it. I understand the compulsion to link some composers with each other, and to their times, but is it required? Do we really understand a composer better if we call Beethoven a romantic, or Debussy an impressionist? Brahms a classicist, romantic, or whatever people wish to argue concerning him this week? For me, a composer like Brahms is a passionate love-hate relationship. Some things I find stodgy and poor, while others (for me) don’t seem to fit in ANY pigeonhole like romantic or any of the others. Some of the phrases in the violin sonatas seem to transcend our attempts to pin like butterflies to a temporal board. I personally prefer to not say Bach was baroque and Liebermann modern/neo-romantic or whatever. Johann Sebastian was Bach, and Lowell was Liebermann. And their orchestra was whatever they had at hand, and felt like using.

  22. JKG

    I must not feel too well…
    …it is, in fact, rare when pgblu and I see things eye to eye, although I confess the “warm, fuzzy feeling” may actually only be the puppy nuzzling presently at my feet. The commercialization of art at the hands of a culture with a government capale of producing such an agreement as NAFTA, certainly would only be able to replicate its own emotional and artistic needs according to consumer mores. This is true regardless of style and any beat that goes along with it. Isn’t it telling, however, that the ability of music to transport and add real meaning to people’s lives actually does lie at the heart of most of its marketing. For me to write something I know will be consumed by a public (adoring or otherwise), is for me to assume responsibility for the effect of my art upon the listener, and that I will actually commune with that person(s) vicariously through the world of shared meaning. Far be it from me to impose these goals on others, and thank you very much, pgblu!

  23. pgblu

    Umm.. thank you, too, JKG. The only reason I get so worked up is because I care.

    You’re not imposing those goals on me, we just have a different ideas of how to achieve them.

  24. siconesis

    Isn’t it telling, however, that the ability of music to transport and add real meaning to people’s lives actually does lie at the heart of most of its marketing.

    No, because it doesn’t.

  25. davidcoll

    Can’t agree more.

    The heart of marketing is creating a feeling that:

    without your spending money on something, your life has no real meaning.

    I prefer finding what has meaning to me through friends.


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