It’s been a busy few days, so I haven’t had a chance to react to two thing that caught my eye actually only last week (it seems like years ago). Jerry Bowles on the Sequenza front page mentioned a review in the NYTimes, which I had also noticed, in which Bernard Holland commenting on music in a Kronos Quartet concert cited the appeal of the Quartet to “people who like their art with social consciousness, ethnic relevance and a few surprises” and warned that “Twelve-toners and intelectual provacteurs beward: this is not the music for you.” A few days later, on An Overgrown Path, Bob Shingleton, quoted a an article in the Guardian about the music of Morton Lauridsen which end with the observation of Stephen Lawton of Polyphony that ” I do think there might be a shift going on in that people who are serious interested in music don’t always feel that they have to listen to Birtwistle.” One’s (my) immediate reactions are, to the first, to wonder what is that makes the category of twelve-tones and people who like their art with social consciousness, suprises, and, even, ethnic relevance mutually exclusive categories?, and, to the second, when was this time when people who were serious about music felt that they couldn’t listen to anything other than Birtwistle? (I suppose one might be tempted also to ask when such people ever did feel that they had to listen to Birtwistle, necessarily, but I’m at least glad that Mr. Lawton seems to be willing to ascribe serious interest in music to people who want to listen to Birtwistle–and, presumably, to Birtwistle himself).
All this bashing, even indirectly, of modernism and twelve-toners (and incidentally how many twelve-toners are there out there anymore, anyway? Taking pot shots at twelve tone composers these days is like people in Poland in the present day blaming everything that they think’s going wrong with their country on the–practically nonexistent–present day Polish Jews) is pretty much like another recent event in the news, the Fundamentalist Christian Convention recently in Washington which was decrying the War on Christianity. The need for people advocating the predominant style and majority taste to insist on their victimhood at the hands of the evil academic twelve tone composers continually amazes and iritates me.
I don’t have any trouble with people not liking modernism or twelve-tone music, but it bothers me when they have to claim that nobody could possibly like it, or that they’re being somehow oppressed by it.