The "Provocative" Future
First up is this story about envisioning the future of classical music. Here are the opening paragraphs.
After that big opening, you would expect an exciting article, but it consists of just the usual genuflections to creativity, openness, breaking down hierarchies, erasing traditional limits and so on. Apparently, the future is still celebrating the 1960s! Here's my riposte: when I dropped my cellphone on some rocks recently which caused it to stop working, I went to the service center for a new one. I asked for exactly the same model basic phone because it was perfectly functional and I didn't want to waste any time learning new quirks. I told the service rep: "I hate change!" As it is, the text message function doesn't work quite the same, so I have to fool with it.
When I go to concerts I fervently hope that they are playing the music according to the best traditional standards and I hope that the audience will be sitting in the hall and the performers on the stage and that the lighting will be standard. I came for the music, not for some stage-director's fever dream. You know what I mean? I don't want new and improved chamber music: I want the good, old stuff.
I came by this attitude from using word-processing software. Look, 99.99% of the people that use Word would be perfectly happy using a mid-90s version: Word 5 or Word 6. Those programs could do absolutely everything we need. All the subsequent changes and "upgrades" have done nothing more than bloat the program, make it necessary to buy faster computers with more RAM. Which is exactly why Word and other programs were "improved". Most of the changes are just moving stuff around and making cosmetic changes. Change the grey icons to blue and vice versa. All this stuff about how the arts have to change with the times and be "progressive" is just a bunch of hooey. Music doesn't progress. No-one today is writing better, more "improved" music than Bach did. Or Beethoven. Or Stravinsky.
Keep Your Hands off my Folio!
This is not quite music-related, but it is related to the previous item. Contemporary authors are going to "rework" Shakespeare. Here is the article. Here is a quote:
Publisher Random House hopes it will bring Shakespeare "alive for a contemporary readership", and plans to kick off the programme with prose "retellings" of The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare's late play of jealousy and forgiveness, from Whitbread award-winner Winterson, and The Taming of the Shrew from the Pulitzer-winning American novelistAnne Tyler.Now I know what you are going to say, "this is just what Shakespeare did as his plays are often reworkings of Italian tales from a century before." Yep. But Shakespeare took simple folklike tales and turned them into great literature. I suspect what these authors are going to do is take great literature and turn it into modern folklike tales. Plus, exploit the name of a much more famous author. It's win-win for them and lose-lose for us. Afterwards, the publisher can make more money by releasing a new series of the plays in their original form: The Original Shakespeare. We could call it "period" Shakespeare. You see, we have been down this road many time in the music world. Right now, the trend is for "historically informed" performances. But in the past, there have been lots of examples of "updated" or "modernized" Bach or Mozart. In the music world we have come to our senses and realized that Bach's version of Bach is better than any "improved" version we might come up with. And yes, there is a special circle of hell reserved for Those Who Alter Bach's Bass Lines.
The Myth of Progess
Continuing my theme, here is an article about a new book by John Grey that seriously questions the whole idea of progress. Here is the critique:
Now, what piece of music would be an appropriate end to this post? Ah, I have it. One of the most beautiful and complex pieces of music ever written. Composed in the 15th century by Guillaume Dufay, the motet "Nuper Rosarum":